In response to recent controversies, a group of United Methodist lay leaders in the Philippines have recently declared their support for traditional biblical values on the definition of marriage.
Overall, United Methodists in the Philippines tend to be more traditionalist on such issues than American United Methodists, but much less overwhelmingly traditionalist than our denomination’s members in Africa.
At the United Methodist Church’s February 2019 special General Conference, Filipino delegates in particular faced strong pressures to abandon traditional standards and support the misleadingly named “One Church Plan” (OCP). This proposal would have authorized partnered gay pastors and same-sex union ceremonies in our denomination, and liberalized how the United Methodist Church currently defines marriage as only a union of one man and one woman. Such pressures reportedly included Filipino delegates being told that they had better support liberalizing church standards for the sake of American financial support, as well as liberal Filipino bishops along with American bishops coming to directly lobby Filipino delegates between votes.
Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco of the Manila Episcopal Area was known as an OCP supporter, and even did a short video in which he offered some rather confusing spin about the OCP somehow being helpful for the Philippines, while downplaying the severely negative effects the OCP would have had for Filipino United Methodism.
However, now the laypeople in the Cavite Annual Conference, one of those administered by Bishop Francisco, are rising up with a different, much clearer perspective.
A grassroots movement has produced a statement, which says that it has been endorsed by the lay leaders of every congregation in that annual conference.
Their statement affirms the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, affirms the longstanding standard in our denomination’s Social Principles that homosexual practice is “incompatible with Christian teaching” (which the OCP would have deleted), affirms the sacred worth of ALL people, and decries hate and violence.
The statement also repeatedly promotes the unity of United Methodism, opposing “any move to dissolve the Church or promote the fragmentation of our denomination.” It is possible that American readers of these parts of the statement may hear them differently than the original Filipino audience. A perhaps key context is that in the aftermath of the February 2019 General Conference, some liberal Filipino United Methodist leaders have reportedly promoted the fragmentation of United Methodism, in the form of Filipino United Methodism leaving our denomination to become an autonomous new denomination. This is evidently NOT wanted by these lay leaders within Bishop Francisco’s region.
The full statement is below:
(Edited for minor typographical errors)
The United Methodist Church
Manila Episcopal Area
Philippines Annual Conference Cavite
Statement to Remain Traditional and Work on the Unity of the United Methodist Church
The Special Session of the General Conference has been adjourned and declared the victory of [the] Traditional Plan and further confirmed by Judicial Council that the TP was constitutional together with some of its petitions. We are reminded of the instruction of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Christians in Ephesus: “Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).
As United Methodists, we have an obligation to bear a faithful Christian witness to Jesus Christ, the living reality at the center of the Church’s life and witness. To fulfill this obligation, we reflect critically on our biblical and theological inheritance, striving to express faithfully the witness we make in our own time.
Now, we as servant leaders of God and of the church, we will “affirm our unity in Christ, and take faithful steps to live more fully into what it means to be [a] worldwide church in mission for the transformation of the world ” (Our Mission in the World”, par. 125, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016).
Therefore, we, the church lay leaders declare the following:
- We affirm the sanctity of marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman.
- We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of [this] sacred gift.
- We condemn the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with United Methodist Christian teaching.
- We affirm our unity with Christ in the midst of our differences.
- We promise to sincerely uphold the unity of The United Methodist Church.
- We strongly deplore any move to dissolve the Church or promote the fragmentation of our denomination.
- We strongly deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or person[s] based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, and gender.
- We affirm that every person is [of] sacred worth, and every human being has a place at the Table of the Lord.
- We selflessly commit ourselves to continue to impart the Word of God with all people.
- We prayerfully call upon all the clergy and laity to remain faithful to our beloved United Methodist Church.
“With God’s grace, we joyfully live out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (A Companion Litany to our Covenant for the Worldwide United Methodist Church, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016). By the power of the Holy Spirit, we continue to be “One with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at His heavenly banquet”
Ratified by every local church lay leader of the United Methodist Church, Philippines Annual Conference Cavite.
[handwritten signatures follow]