Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bishop Tangonan's Motion for Reconsideration to the Judicial Council .

13 June 2011

F. Belton Joyner, Jr.
Secretary, The Judicial Council
The United Methodist Church
1821 Hillandale Road, Suite 1B, PMB 334
Durham, North Carolina  27705

Dear Secretary Joyner,

I received a copy of Judicial Council Memorandum 1183 dated 29 April 2011, to which I am seeking for reconsideration. I am sending this e-mail letter with attached sets of evidentiary documents (Batch 1-7). Please advise me if I need to send all the copies by courier service or email would be enough.

With reference to the “Concurring Opinion” of JC Memorandum 1183, specifically,

“we have some concern about the six suspensions of Bishop Lito Tangonan.   We do not have a complete record of all of the matters in regard to those suspensions, but, from the information we have requested and received, it is not clear that fair process has been adequately provided...we would expect to have a more complete record to determine if there has been a failure of fair process” 

I respectfully submit herewith a compilation of official records we have on file regarding the series of Resolutions of complaints and suspensions promulgated by the Philippines Central Conference – College of Bishops (PCC-COB) and The United Methodist Church - Council of Bishops (UMC-COB) and a letter-advice terminating payment of my salary by The General Board on Finance and Administration (UMC-GCFA) during the period, 5 December 2009 to 23 April 2011.

Of the nine (9) complaints filed against me, only two were seriously pursued by the PCC-COB through the investigation stage. Both complaints were dismissed by the Philippines Central Conference – Committee on Investigation (PCC-COI), the first complaint, on 16 June 2010 and the second, on 3 February 2011.

The succeeding complaints were not seriously pursued by the PCC-COB as evidently, the information claimed by the complainants issued from the first and second complaints and would only constitute double jeopardy. The PCC-COB however, relentlessly implemented the corresponding orders of suspensions one after the other and each for a period of sixty days. Clearly, the PCC-COB’s intention is to exclude me from the College of Bishops and restrain me from performing my Episcopal duties and prematurely end my term of office as duly elected Bishop of the Philippines Central Conference of The United Methodist Church assigned to the Manila Episcopal Area. The Philippines Central Conference – Committee on Episcopacy (PCC-COE) rendered their official Reports to the Philippines Central Conference – Coordinating Council (PCC-COCO) of August 2010 and February 2011 claiming that the PCC-COB violated the UMC Book of Discipline requirement on CONSULTATION (¶413) regarding processing of complaints against a Bishop and promulgation of order of suspension (¶413 &¶413.3a).

The report of the PCC-COE on the lack of consultation before the PCC-COB issued and implemented their orders of suspension against me should raise serious concern. “Consultation” is a mandatory requirement in the procedure for suspension of a member of the College of Bishop. A perusal of all the records reveals that indeed no such consultation was ever made. As a matter of practice, the PCC-COB simply send text messages to the members of the PCC-COE, and claimed that these constitutes “consultation”. In the first suspension, which was issued against me on December 5, 2010, the so called “consultation” was held in full view of the delegates to the special session of the Coordinating Council of the PCC. The members of the PCC-COE were summoned before the Presidium and were informed of its decision to suspend me. The order of suspension was issued on the same date.

Obviously, these do not constitute “consultation” as contemplated in the Book of Discipline. “Consultation” is a requirement, not only in the procedure of suspending Bishops, but also in all other processes under the Book of Discipline. One process which requires “consultation” (among several other processes) is the determination of the Church assignment of workers. Judicial Decision No. 1174 dated October 30, 2011, citing previous decisions, this Honorable Court held:

“In Decision 101, the Judicial Council confirmed this principle as set forth in the1952 Discipline of The Methodist Church, by ruling that ‘while the authority in appointing preachers to their charges rests upon the Presiding Bishop, it does not relieve the District Superintendent of the responsibility of consulting with the preacher . . . .’ ‘Consultation’ in that Decision was defined as the exchange of ideas between the District Superintendent and the Pastor, not necessarily agreement. The consultation process is to occur before the appointment decision is made, and its length or brevity may be determined by different situations.

“Decision 501 stated that the consultation is to take place prior to the appointment decision and parties involved are to be informed prior to any public announcement. Neither a time sequence for consulting the pastor or the committee, nor the length of time needed for the consultation process is specified. The bishops are required to inquire annually of their Episcopal colleagues about the implementation of the consultation process.
Paragraph 433.1 indicates the process of consultation shall be mandatory in every annual conference. Paragraph 433.3 states when a change in appointment has been determined, the district superintendent should meet together or separately with the pastor and the committee on pastor-parish relations where the pastor is serving, for the purpose of sharing the basis for the change and the process used in making the new appointment.

“In the record provided there is disagreement as to whether the district superintendent consulted with the pastor and the Staff-Parish Relations Committee as outlined in the Discipline ¶ 431. The record is not clear as to whether the consultation process was followed in the manner specified in the Discipline. The Judicial Council is not a fact finding body. Notification of an appointment is not consultation.” (Emphasis supplied)

There are two essential points in the above-cited decision. To qualify as a “consultation”, there should be an exchange of ideas, and that such consultation should be held before a decision is made. In short, the ideas exchanged during the consultation should be considered in arriving at a decision. In this case, the PCC-COB simply “informed” the PCC-COE of their decision to suspend me. There was no exchange of ideas as interpreted by this Honorable Court, and that decisions were already arrived at even before the PCC-COB communicated with the members of the PCC-COE. This is a blatant violation of my rights under our constitution and under the Book of Discipline.

The PCC-COB would request the UMC-COB to approve each order of suspension they promulgate and would also ask the UMC-COB to designate an Interim Bishop for the Manila Episcopal Area.  The UMC-COB granted all such requests by the PCC-COB in violation of ¶623 of the UMC Book of Discipline (2008) and Judicial Council Decisions 475 and 1149. Again, it must be pointed out that the appointment of the Interim Bishop is made without “consultation” with the members of the Cabinet, PCC-COE and the annual conference COE as mandated by the Book of Discipline.

The conflict in Carmen, Nueva Ecija (subject of Judicial Decisions/Memorandum 1152, 1162, and 1183;) and similar conflicts in other annual conferences in the Manila Episcopal Area all resulted from the suspensions, designation of the Interim Bishop and his subsequent abusive acts and manipulation of schedule of annual conferences and fixing of District Superintendents’ and Pastors’ appointments, hence –

Although we agree that Wesleyan University Philippines was the legitimate site of the February 2010 regular session of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference, we are disturbed by the asymmetrical way in which that decision was made. The context of a deeply divided annual conference has led all parties to work in new and difficult ways. The Judicial Council has no authority to engage in the resolution of those divisions, but only to rule on the bishop’s decision of law. In a matter as convoluted as this circumstance, there are many peripheral issues that could be addressed, but to do so is beyond the jurisdiction of the Judicial Council.
(Concurring Opinion, JC Decision 1152, May 22, 2010)

We have some concern about the six suspensions of Bishop Lito Tangonan.   We do not have a complete record of all of the matters in regard to those suspensions, but, from the information we have requested and received, it is not clear that fair process has been adequately provided.  It may be that our concern over an incomplete record in this regard is misplaced, but when a bishop of The United Methodist Church is suspended six times since December 2009, and several attempts have been made to obtain reconsideration of our decisions in regard to the various matters surrounding this very troubling situation, we would expect to have a more complete record to determine if there has been a failure of fair process. 
(Concurring Opinion, JC Memorandum 1183, 29 April 2011)

With all due respect with its concurring opinion, it is evident that this Honorable Court is likewise of the opinion that there were irregularities in the issuance of the several orders of suspension. With this opinion, it is incumbent upon this Honorable Court to rectify these errors. In ¶ 2701 of the 2008 Book of Discipline, the purpose of the fair process provision is to have a “just resolution of judicial complaints, in the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized”. This is then the opportune time for the rectification of these errors so as to achieved “God’s justice, reconciliation and healing”.

While “ours is a government of laws...” still we remain a nation under God. I believe not one among us will be held guiltless as we allow one innocent man to suffer just because the letter of the law does not allow us to go beyond its fine print to consider the real world time and space and scene of his alleged “crime” and the character and integrity of his accuser and those of the witnesses –

No one brings suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, conceiving mischief and begetting iniquity...

Their feet run to evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways.
The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths...

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene...
 (Isaiah 59)

Let us again consider Martin Luther King’s admonition: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As such, I move for a reconsideration of the assailed Decision.

May your honest expression of concern and search for truth lead us all to justice, reconciliation, healing and God’s enduring peace which “passeth all understanding.”

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Lito Cabacungan Tangonan
Manila Episcopal Area


  1. Any update about this? (

  2. The initial issue was "suspension" to allow the case filed against the accused for a fair trial in the duly recognized courts of the UMC. But it seems that the accused has determined that the suspension also meant that the College of Bishop has declared him guilty as charged already. This is a ridiculous decision on the part of the accused. The suspension was handed down by the College of Bishop, so a formal and due process (investigation) could be done. The decision of the accused is an unfortunate part of the history of Methodism in the Philippines.