Analysis and Response to the Crisis of the UCCP
UCCP is in a virtual state of siege. A silent creeping “palace coup” has installed an administration that combines a
corporatist system of management and a militarist command structure. NEC officials, past and present, are complicit to it.
The traditional church government prescribed in the UCCP Constitution & By-Laws has been effectively sidelined. Formal constitutional and legal processes, including national elections, are disregarded or maintained but only in form.
This is the reality behind the approval of the Gaisano lease and the Vistaland joint venture and the recently concluded national elections at the General Assembly.
The cases filed at the NCDCR (Capulong & Mendoza vs. Marigza, Millan, et. al on the cancellation of the Vistaland deal and the UCCP Davao City vs. NEC on the nullification of the amendments to the CBL) and the election protest are but manifestations of an on-going resistance to the coup. The Administration forces are on full alert to suppress all opposition movements and actions.
We stand on a moral and spiritual high ground in an arena which is essentially moral, theological and spiritual – that’s indisputable. But they are correct in their estimation that there is a political aspect in this. In a political confrontation, might not right, rules. Thus, we need to take stock of what we have in the political equation.
While they control the strategic heights of the system, opportunities to gain advantage on the ground are open to us. On the ground are the local churches and their members, most of them suffering from years of exploitation and neglect, both by Government and the Church. Theologically and politically, this is our mission field … and field of struggle.
A solid mass of informed, enthusiastic and organized local churches can be galvanized to redirect the Church towards a recovery of her historic Reformed faith and restoration of her traditional church order as it is so declared in the UCCP Constitution and By-Laws sans its subsequent amendments.
But not only our heritage of faith is at stake but also the mission properties that the Church has inherited from the Protestant missions. Bethany Hospital was wiped out of the map and soon forgotten. The mission lot in Malate dedicated to theological and Christian education will be lost to a high-rise condominium.
The unamended Constitution is a document derived from Basis of Union and to the founding Constitution of 1949. Thereafter, it suffered from amendments that (1) created the National Executive Council and later made the Board of Trustees consistent with the corporate powers of a business corporation; (2) effectively abolished local church autonomy while strengthening the hands of Bishops over Conference Ministers and the latter over Church Workers.
The main task before us is to spread the truth among members in the local churches, motivate, organize and guide them towards concrete actions to achieve our goals. This is the mission of the 4-R’s movement and its organizational expression, the Fellowship (Balaang Bobong sa Dios?).
Our Identity as a Church
Who are we and what do we aim to achieve? We are UCCP members engaged in a huge undertaking to reform UCCP to restore its authenticity and relevance following the 4 R’s Principles: Reclaim – Restore – Rebuild – Revive.
RECLAIM – The past years, even before the 2018 GA, UCCP has shown signs of drifting away from the principles that brought together 5 Protestant Churches into an organic union. This trend was formally declared in the recent NCDCR opinion that the Basis of Union has been effectively abrogated upon the approval and adoption of the UCCP Constitution.
This is a betrayal of a trust. It is essential to the life of the Church to remain theologically and institutionally connected to its roots and historic traditions.
RESTORE – Local church autonomy is the foundational principle of the life, ministry and mission of the Church. However, a creeping hierarchical church order is gradually eroding the rights and prerogatives of local churches and has been institutionalized by the amendments to the CBL and approved at the 2018 GA.
The restoration of this principle is imperative for the re-empowerment of local churches to realize their theologically-based and constitutionally-mandated functions and duties.
REBUILD – UCCP’s original church order has suffered violence and disfigurement by administration particularly over the last two quadrennia. Rebuilding the structures and processes of the Church based on its historic traditions would provide the institutional environment required for her recovery.
REVIVE – Given the right institutional environment a concerted, organized and orderly push at the local church level would lead the UCCP on the way to a truthful and more revitalized life, ministry and mission.
A Fellowship Concept
Balaang Bobong Sa Dios, “Sacred Household of God”: A Fellowship of local churches committed to the goals of the 4-R’s Movement.
The Fellowship is not an alternative UCCP Conference nor an autonomous segment of it but an inter-conferential sharing fellowship of local churches and congregations. Their programs and activities are expressions of the principle of local church autonomy in conformity to the UCCP CBL.
- “Paglab-as sa Pakigsaad” – Theological, Liturgical, Spiritual Renewal: lay leaders’ theological education, church leadership and creative liturgy based on UCCP’s traditional teachings, practices and mission programs. (Chap. 24: Joshua’s Shechem convocation.)
- “Bahin ni Levi” – Program for the material support in the form of monthly subsidy of church workers in the Fellowship through a church tithe (not individual) to be administered by a committee of lay deacons. (Hebrew law of tithing.)
- “Parasan sa Dios” – Local church property development, esp. livelihood projects and enterprise. The aim is to raise the members’ standard of living and support for the Church and community. Start-up support may come from state or private agency funding (Jesus feeding of the 5,000.)
Where do we start? We start with who we are as UCCP, which is a Refomed evangelical church. Her basic organizational principle of fellowship is local autonomy. So we start the 4-R’s movement in the local churches in fellowship with one another.
The goal is to make the Fellowship a transforming presence in UCCP in all aspects of her life, ministry and mission. So, the so-called wider judicatories are not our direct targets of engagement, but change at the top would be the consequence of the transformation of the local churches through the Fellowship.
New Testament Model: the beginning, growth and expansion of the church – the word church, ekklesia, means those who are called out of the world to form a community for a special vocation (1 Pet. 2:9). Within the koinonia of the church is a circle of members called apostles, those who are sent forth to spread the gospel to every corner of the world (Matt. 28:18-20).
The apostolic circle was the core and center of gravity of the early church without which the church would have been assimilated into the ancient religions of the Empire or crushed by her persecutors. Hence, the formation of the apostolic core of the church was conceived as part of the divine plan for the realization of her vocation.
Through Pagmata, UCCP may retrace this history towards the formation of the Fellowship. Some UCCP members are being called out from her general membership to lead a movement and form a fellowship within the koinonia of the Church, who are dedicated to reform UCCP to restore her authentic identify and calling.
Eventually, the boundary between the Church and the Fellowship would become porous and transparent but without losing the distinction – analogical to a sanctified world and the kingdom of God.
The Fellowship will continue to be a movement within the UCCP animating her common life, her work and her mission in the world as a church of Jesus Christ. In a real sense, the Fellowship follows the priesthood identity and role of the church within a wayward UCCP.
As a Fellowship, everything that we do in life is anchored in God and Jesus is our anchor. Our worship, common life and witness in the world are meant to reflect life in the kingdom of God. This is our being.
Social advocacy is part of Christian discipleship (Luke 4:12-18), but not its be-all and end-all. The same is true with worship and the common life. Neither one alone should consume life in the Fellowship but the three nourishing one another (John 10:10: “I came that you may have life, abundant life.”)
The principle of “from small to big, from few to many.”
Contacts – contact persons in local church from Pagmata data base.
Core Groups – 3-5 contact persons to form a core group in the local church.
Local Church Chapter – 3-5 core groups comprising 25% of members to form a Local Church Chapter.
Provincial Chapter – Local Church Chapters comprising 25% of local churches to form a Provincial Chapter.
REGIONAL FELLOWSHIP – 3-5 Provincial Chapters.
Methodology (not necessarily in the order presented)
Background investigation (BI) of prospective core group members.
Study-Reflection of 4-R’s documents in core group discussions.
Planning and evaluation
General orientation-seminar open to all local church members.
Invitation to join the local fellowship.
Sharing and fellowship gatherings.
Regular Fellowship meetings with Bible Study, prayer, sharing news and concerns.
Local and Provincial observance of significant dates, personal, church, national.
Reproduction and sharing of reading/study materials.
Humanitarian, socio-economic and livelihood projects.
Inter-church visitation & lakbay-aral.
OPERATIONAL SYSTEM – Connecting the parts to the whole: The HUB
- Sharing of information & resources
- Concerted actions
Inside the HUB
- Resource Generation
- Events Coordination
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