(ref. Rev George Buenaventura's Email)
THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Philippines Central Conference
College of Bishops
UMC Headquarters, 900 U.N. Avenue
Ermita, Manila, 1000 Philippines
A Pastoral Statement
To : The UMC Community in the Philippines
From : The College of Bishops
Date : May 16, 2011
There are some recent developments in our church about which we want to inform you and to suggest to you how we might regard and handle them.
First, on May 7, 2011, some members and pastors of our church have decided to withdraw officially their membership in The United Methodist Church and organize themselves into a separate church which they name “The Philippines Methodist Church”. This was done in Carmen United Methodist Church in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija and was attended by some 200 people – lay and pastors and Bishop Lito Tangonan.
This is a sad event in the history of our church. This is the third time that there is schism in the Methodist community in the Philippines. We deeply wish that it should never have happened.
However, for whatever reasons these people are formally breaking membership relation with us, we must acknowledge that they have the right to do so. Membership in our church is voluntary, and withdrawal of that membership is equally voluntary. Such a choice is an expression of the right to religious freedom.
Should they wish to restore their membership with us later on, we must welcome them.
Second, it appears that these people have proclaimed officially that the first bishop of their schismatically organized group is Bishop Lito Tangonan. By all indications in terms of his participation in the preparation of the Carmen event, the proclamation of the schismatic group, and the structuring of the schismatic church, Bishop Tangonan appears to have accepted this offer. Given his active participation in establishing the schismatic group, he could not deny the offer, and he did not. The only reasonable
conclusion is that he now heads the schismatic church. This means that Bishop Tangonan has renounced his membership in the United Methodist Church, has vacated the office of Bishop of the United Methodist Church, and terminated his membership in both the College of Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference and the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church.
This is also a very sad event in the history of our church. We regret it very deeply.
However, Bishop Tangonan has the right to make this choice. We must respect both the right and the choice in which it was exercised.
It is only proper that in our respect of his right and of his choice, we shall no longer, from hereon, regard Bishop Tangonan as a bonafide member of our church and a bishop in our church.
Thirdly, The pastors and district superintendents who have joined in organizing the “Philippines Methodist Church” in exercise of their right and by the choice they have made are to be treated officially as having formally terminated their membership and ministry in The United Methodist Church.
The restoration of their membership and ministry – while welcome – may, however, depend on some conditions being met in accordance with the Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
Fourthly, the organizing of the Philippines Methodist Church as a schismatic group may entail questions of claims to properties. These questions may become legal issues that may entail court litigation and action. We shall do our best in protecting the interests and properties of The United Methodist Church.
Fifthly, we have no information that whole local churches or congregations are withdrawing from being a part of The United Methodist Church connection.
It may be that only members of local churches are seceding, not whole local churches. If this is the case, then the local church from which some of its members are withdrawing their membership remains and continues to be a local church of the entire UMC connection. Moreover, local churches are parts of annual conferences which are legally incorporated. And so their legal status is unimpaired by some of their members terminating their membership. If a whole local church and its entire membership decide to terminate their connectional and incorporate status, this may require an action of approval by the annual conference of which it is a member.
Finally, if a local church or some local churches decide to terminate their connectional and corporate status and the annual conference agrees, that does not impair the connectional and corporate status of the annual conference concerned. It retains legal authority over its properties, since properties of local churches are held in trust of The United Methodist Church – and are therefore connectionally held – and at the same time held corporately by the annual conference.
In conclusion, schism in the church is always a sad and troublesome affair. They have immediate and long-term consequences. In view of this, let us not make the situation become any worse than it is. Let us refrain from hurting words and harmful deeds. Let us act in good faith always speaking the truth in love. And with every opportunity that comes, let us together work toward preserving and promoting the unity of the church.
God bless you all!
(Sgd.) Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan
(Sgd.) Bishop Leo A. Soriano
(Sgd.) Bishop Emerito P. Nacpil
(Sgd.) Bishop Jose A. Gamboa, Jr.
(Sgd.) Bishop Daniel C. Arichea, Jr.
(Sgd.) Bishop Benjamin A. Justo