Manila, Philippines–The international board of directors and executive staff of the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) traveled to Manila on August 18-24 to experience ministry in the Philippines, to expand partnerships, and to hold the fall board meeting.
The trip boasted a rigorous schedule which included three days of immersion experiences and three days of meetings as a board. Included in the immersion experiences were site visits to:
- Meet with representatives of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) and leaders of the indigenous people (IP) and the Moro people (Muslims) communities who are fighting to end the bombing of indigenous schools and the perpetuation of Islamophobia. Representatives shared their stories in a round table setting and fielded questions from the GCORR group.
- The University of the Philippines (UP) campus to meet with the Lumad (indigenous) students and community leaders who are receiving safe sanctuary from UP until martial law is lifted in December of 2017 in the Mindanao region.
- Learn about congregational vitality from the perspective of the Aeta indigenous community at their church, Camachile UMC, in the remote mountainous region of Pampanga, north of Manila. Camachile has sponsored seven mission points and the pastors from each of those congregations gathered to greet the GCORR delegation.
- Immanuel Bible School, a training institution for indigenous young people who want to serve God through the local church.
- Worship with the Knox and Central UMC congregations.
- Union Theological Seminary (UTS) to meet with the president Dr. Eleazar Fernandez, faculty, and students. UTS is a past recipient of the agency’s CORR Action Fund grant for its intercultural competency project which included a student cross-cultural immersion, cultural competency training for Sunday School teachers, and developing a country-wide Vacation Bible School curriculum currently being used by seven denominations in the Philippines.
Board member Framer Mella, a member of the Davao Episcopal Area and one of the planners of the immersion experience shared, “My experience with our Aeta people in Tarlac and Pampanga and with our Lumad people in Kampuhan in UP Diliman inspired me to be more intentional, more courageous, and more faithful to do the ministry to which God called me. Thank you GCORR for providing me this opportunity to be more engaged with my people.”
During the meeting, the board reflected on the immersion experience and discussed a plan for expanding the agency’s ministry in partnership with each of the Central Conferences. Other actions included approving the 2018 budget and requesting a review of agency branding as part of a long-range sustainability study. General Secretary Erin Hawkins addressed the board noting, “The spiral of hate and violence that has touched Charlottesville, Mindanao, and many other parts of the church and world makes GCORR’s work to raise up a new generation of bridge-building leaders who are interculturally competent, who champion equity in structures and policies, and who have the courage to foster vital conversations that make a difference all the more necessary.”
GCORR board vice president Stephen Handy remarked, “Our experience in Manila invited the GCORR board to intentionally open our hearts and eyes to embrace our Filipino sisters and brothers who are contributing substantially to the vitality of the global UMC. Their stories of faithfulness helped broaden our understanding of God. Without their presence, stories, and contribution at the Lord’s table, the table would be absent of harmony and hope, joy and justice, and the inclusiveness that binds us together in the unity of Jesus Christ.”