Filipino bishops back church unity

The Philippines Central Conference College of Bishops has signed a resolution "intensely" opposing dissolution of The United Methodist Church.

The bishops' resolution recommended restructuring that would allow for regional autonomy to deal with divisive issues.

"From the beginning of the church in the New Testament, division and schism in the church are to be avoided and unity must be achieved and maintained," the resolution reads.

Meeting Aug. 31 at United Methodist headquarters in Manila, the bishops agreed to submit the petition to General Conference.

Bishop Rodolfo Alfonso "Rudy" Juan, president of the Filipino College of Bishops, said the Philippines Central Conference is totally against dissolution of The United Methodist Church.

"We servant-bishops encourage our Filipino constituency to continually promote unity in our denomination," he said.

The petition was signed by Juan, Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco (who participated via conference call) and retired Bishops Emerito P. Nacpil, Daniel C. Arichea, Solito K. Toquero and Jose C. Gamboa Jr.

The resolution's recommendation for restructuring The United Methodist Church into regional conferences is similar to a plan laid out by The Connectional Table in regards to a new U.S. structure.

"With our proposal for restructuring into regional conferences, we can exercise some form of autonomy to meet contextual realities in our specific regions. We then will have a regional Book of Discipline," Juan said. 

The resolution states that The United Methodist Church "will remain as one global church in which regional, central, annual and local conferences are organic parts, but have the authority to decide their witness, mission and ministry, thus, preserving locality and connectionality."

Regional autonomy will allow United Methodists from central conferences — the seven church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines — to deal with the divisive issues, Juan said.

"It is our prayer that with some form of regional autonomy, we can find a workable solution and remain a united global denomination," he said.

The resolution also called for the Council of Bishops to be retained for general and local oversight of The United Methodist Church.

Bishops in Africa also recently resolved not to support any proposed legislation or plans that may result in a split or dissolution of the church.

Retired Bishop Soriano, who had a prior commitment and could not attend the Filipino Council of Bishops meeting, talked to UM News by phone about the resolution. He said that being disciples of Christ is having one mission. 

"I believe the church would be more effective if it is united in doing the mission. However, if it becomes unavoidable, I will accept it. History tells us that while schism is inevitable, the splinters continue to do the mission."

Gladys P. Mangiduyos, communicator from the Philippines.

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