Manila, Philippines–Bishops and their designees from the three episcopal areas in the Philippines met with General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) on August 14, 15, and 16 to discuss the bridge-building work of intercultural competency in the context of the global United Methodist Church.
The matter of support for and ministry with indigenous people became a focal point as participants considered diversity in the Philippines. Participants discussed the realities of indigenous communities and the need for the church in the Philippines to develop more indigenous leaders as well as to create systems that give indigenous communities equitable access to representation, resources, and decision-making as they carry out ministry.
While each episcopal area has distinctive indigenous groups, or Lumads, with differing needs, it is clear that these groups are often relegated to the fringes of society and the church. There was consensus about the need for greater accountability on the part of the church to reach out, include, and support the diverse, cultural, linguistic, and regional groups in the Philippines.
Bishop Rodolfo Juan of the Davao Episcopal Area stated that the roundtable conversations were awesome and fruitful. He said, “We brought together three episcopal areas with different voices from the Central Conference ministry. I wish to thank Bishop Bledsoe, General Secretary Erin Hawkins, and the GCORR staff for coming to meet with us.”
Bishop Ciriaco Francisco of the Manila Episcopal Area shared, “We are blessed with our holy conversation and I must say thank you so much for inviting us and having this conversation. I know more about GCORR now. GCORR is building relationships. Building relationships is essential to building community. We have differences in languages but we were able to build community here. We are one in Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Pedro Torio of the Baguio Episcopal Area said that the roundtable with GCORR strengthened the ongoing principles, priorities, and projects within his conference. He said, “The GCORR roundtable has been a mutually challenging and affirming experience.”
Bishop Earl Bledsoe of the Northwest Texas-New Mexico Episcopal Area and president of the GCORR board of directors summed up the three days of meetings in two words: inspiring and educational. He said, “It is gratifying that GCORR was able to share our ministry model that incorporates intercultural competency, vital conversations, and institutional equity. It is even more gratifying that those gathered representing the Philippines Central Conference were able to respond to the model and share their values.