By: Noel Duhaylungsod
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Greetings of love and peace.
We have been earnestly following the current issue on property development as forwarded and discussed in ‘Pagmata UCCP’ and earlier, in the UCCP wall.
From what we have gathered, and on examination of the UCCP Constitution and By-laws, there are no clear institutional guideposts for resolving issues that the Church is facing to date.
Seeking remedies from the national leadership seems futile, given that its decisions and actions are what instigated this barrage of exchanges and eventually led to the creation of the Pagmata UCCP wall.
The National Commission on Discipline and Conflict Resolution (NCDCR) is also inherently not a body to resolve this because the institutional matters concerning the issue at hand are in the periphery of the Commission’s scope and responsibility.
The Faith and Order Commission (FOC) would have been the logical Church body to address theological and ethical concerns of the issue, but said Commission is contesting the leadership actions as well. In other words, what we seem to see is an ‘institutional or constitutional crisis’ of the UCCP.
Right now, we also see that there are no efforts from the leadership to enable resolution of the conflict despite the fact that the issue has resulted in divisiveness and, to a certain extent, personal attacks. The whole issue has reached alarming level, both to individual members and the Church as an institution and ecclesial body.
The seriousness and magnitude of impact led us to forward this ‘purposive action survey’ underpinned by what we believe is participatory democratic process that the UCCP has zealously and historically held as its institutional mantra. The results of the survey will hopefully establish an empirical number of members that contest (or agree) with the actions made by the national leadership as regards Church properties and corporative business.
While the bulk of the discussion and threads in the Pagmata wall tend to question, if not criticize, the legitimacy of the leadership actions, we are hoping that an empirical picture will provide solid basis for and compel leaders to face the issues raised, open the Church for examination, and provide the documents that it has entered into with corporate business.
The process will engage us into a more directed, collective discussion and agreement on what action to take which is the running thought in many of the threads that followed in the Pagmata wall. We are also cognizant of other possible options, but this survey immediately serves as a reminder that UCCP members collectively make up the Church.
More than any other time, the collective membership is now in a vantage point to the process of settlement given the current situation of the church polity where leaders are perceived as biased to a select group and do not respond to the membership call, appear to have set aside policies and procedures and accordingly, denigrate theology and doctrine. Our Church governance is not an Episcopacy and standing for truth is part of us as a Reformed Church and Uniting Church of Jesus Christ.
We are conducting the survey through the FB account ‘Pagmata UCCP’. Indeed, social media has become a powerful means for communication and relationships to have wider reach. However, just like communication forms of the previous eras (oral, print, broadcast), it can also be toxic (evidently, FB is). Be that as it may, we aim for elevating the debate to a more rational manner of resolving the differences and disagreements in the spirit of unity and consensus.
We have summed up the issue into four aspects which we encourage the participants to reflect on thoroughly. Please take note that the summary was gleaned from the exchanges on the issue, including the respective responses made by our General Secretary and the National Treasurer and some discussions within our NESTCON Laguna 2 District.
Your responses (such as ok, okay, like, go, oks, etc., or not agree, don’t like, nope, etc.) and feedbacks on each of the four aspects will be counted as constituting the thoughts of the immediate body of UCCP members with access to the FB account, currently more than a thousand.
We discourage comments that are personal and beyond the scope of the survey. Thereafter, the survey results will be disseminated also through the FB account alongside proposed actions that need to be taken.
Thank you for your participation.
Noel and Levy Duhaylungsod
(Luisiana Evangelical Church, NESTCON)
(Note to the Pagmata UCCP administrator: I am not techno-savvy in this medium and will therefore request you (or an IT specialist from within our own UCCP ranks) to design the attached survey form in a manner that will facilitate consolidation of responses to enable us to write and present the results with haste.)
The four items below are what we have identified as core concerns as summed up from the reactions and feedbacks related to the issue on property development which has been the focus of the discussion in the Pag-mata UCCP wall (and earlier, in the UCCP) including thoughts circulating among those in the NESTCON Laguna 2 District.
The summary for each item is a product of content analysis and synthesis of said exchanges, discussions and review of the UCCP Constitution and By-Laws. Please take time to read each concern before indicating your reply/feedback. In particular, item 3.0 on Process requires some thorough reading to fully understand how the decision of the national leadership was arrived at. It might help for you to also review the exchanges and documents to validate our reading. Please indicate whether you agree or not on each of the concerns:
- On broad-base and bottom-up democracy: The Local Church, the locus of mission, should participate in conceptualizing, planning, and deciding to sell or lease Church real properties, or to enter in joint business ventures. As the seat of ministry, functional Councils (Conference, Jurisdiction, National), Executive bodies, and Commissions are organized because Local Churches decided so and never the other way around. Therefore, it is wrong for the Church leadership to set aside the Local Church in very important Church undertakings.
2.0 On theology: The UCCP Statement of Faith stipulates our fundamental doctrine and speaks nothing about corporative business as a form of service and worship. The One Management Board of the established UCCP corporations are mainly composed of bishops and pastors; thus, in effect, they have become business women and men succumbing to the ‘profit-interest’ ethics characteristic of business corporations, even as it promises ‘good life’ to Church Workers from income of the business ventures. Hence, it is false when the leadership sees the corporative business venture with Gaisano Corporation, the corporatization of Shalom, the establishment of a Holdings Corporation, and now a pending transaction with Vista Land Corporation as consistent with the UCCP Statement of Faith. Meantime, UCCP sakadas, urban poor, indigenous peoples, farm workers, and others in the margins, could not even dream of that same ‘good life’ generated from corporate business. Most of us, says a Bl’aan Pastor, wish peaceful, climate-proofed, fulfilling and joyful life grown out from love and sharing of the faith community. He had to hike through hills and rivers for nine hours to reach a waiting UCCP Congregation of about 200 worshippers who, in all likelihood, have missed breakfast and even dinner to some. The bishop who rejected the offer of a car loan from the leadership has a good reason.
3.0 On process: The Constitution and By-Laws (Section 24) prescribes that project ideas are prepared or appraised, approved, and recommended by the Commission on Stewardship and Resource Development (CSRD) for consideration of national bodies [National Council (NC) or the General Assembly]. As regards the holding company, the decision of national leadership was arrived at through this process: CSRD passing a proposal to create a UCCP Holdings, Inc. (yet, same body [CSRD] is mandated with such role and functions and therefore, relegated its responsibility with such decision); the NEC action approving the CSRD proposal and implemented, in effect, bypassing provisions in the Constitution and By-Laws. Similarly, the NEC leased the UCCP property at Leyte with Gaisano and incorporated Shalom without the recommendation of the CSRD. These actions were made on an erroneous assumption of amendment of Section 24.
Altogether, therefore, the actions cannot legitimize the NEC claim of correctness because such are entirely contradictory to the provision for an amendment process in the Constitution, rendering the decisions null and void, and without effect.
Moreover, since authority emanates from the Local Churches, leaders are duty-bound to involve the Local Churches in the process most especially on matters with major implications on theology, faith and discipline, and Church order.
4.0 On properties as collateral: Real properties are owned by the entire Church, thus will require agreement by the owners. It is wrong for Church Leadership alone to use the Church real properties as collateral in any expressed form in corporate business.