Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An open Letter to the people of The United Methodist Church of the Manila Area, Philippines

July 20, 2011

Dear friends in Christ:

The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church has followed with heavy hearts the struggle within the Manila Area over the last year. We have been in constant prayer for all of you and have sought throughout this time to find a just resolution to the divisions that have occurred.

Bishops in the United Methodist Church, upon election, agree to uphold and abide by The Book of Discipline of the church in all matters. Your former bishop, Lito Tangonan, has continually violated the principles and expectations of a person who is elected to this office. While repeatedly claiming that actions taken by the Philippine College of Bishops were illegal, even though The Book of Discipline and Judicial Council decisions confirmed their actions, he continued to attempt to function as a bishop in clear violation of his suspension. Efforts on the part of the whole Council of Bishops to mediate and achieve a resolution were met with resistance and noncooperation on the part of Lito Tangonan.

The actions of your former bishop, Lito Tangonan, related to the formation of the Methodist Church of the Philippines have now led to a withdrawal of membership in and service in The United Methodist Church. We know that he was present at the May 7, 2011, gathering at Carmen United Methodist Church, in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, that established this independent church. We also know and have evidence that he has presided at a session of the Methodist Church of the Philippines, and has appointed pastors to these dissident churches. Therefore, his involvement with this schismatic church, in accordance with Judicial Council Decision 696, means that he can no longer be treated as a bishop of The United Methodist Church. His participation and leadership in this break-away church is tantamount to withdrawing without notice. In essence, he has forfeited his membership and position as a bishop.

In response to this unfortunate sequence of events, the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops, acting on behalf of the Council of Bishops has declared that the position of Bishop of the Manila Area of The United Methodist Church has been vacated by Lito Tangonan’s actions. In accordance with Paragraph 407 of The Book of Discipline, Bishop Daniel Arichea has now been assigned to serve as interim bishop of the Manila Area until the election of a new bishop is held at the regular session of the Philippine Central Conference in 2012.

All of this reflects the disciplinary reasons for the current situation in your Area. The bishops of the United Methodist Church encourage you to be faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. With you, we seek the unity of Christ’s Church. Such unity is often difficult to affirm in the midst of human differences. However, your spiritual history gives evident testimony of your zeal for bringing others to Christ, and we are assured that this will continue to be the mark of your own discipleship. Whatever disagreements may exist among those in the church, let us together struggle to fulfill the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “for he (Christ Jesus) is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

John Wesley, in his Sermon on the catholic spirit, called for unity among the people called Methodist by quoting King David’s words in II Kings 10:15, “If your heart is as my heart, then take my hand.” These words are a summons to all of us in the United Methodist Church to let our hearts and hands be together, even when our minds may be divided over issues in the life of the church.

We trust that the United Methodist people in the Manila Area, in the care of the bishop appointed over you, may find the way forward that will strengthen the mission of Christ and the witness of the United Methodist Church.

Copies e-mailed to:

Philippine College of Bishops
Judicial Council
Council of Bishops

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