Bishop sees no crisis
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2019 - 12:00am

In fairness to the UCCP national leadership, I am putting out the response of Bishop Jessie Suarez to my article on the crisis gripping the organization. It is my hope that the conflict be resolved as soon as possible.

Dear Doms: 

Warm Christian greetings. 

I am sending this letter on behalf of the UCCP Council of Bishops of which I am an active member, in reaction to the article published last, June 18, 2019 in your Philippine Star column, titled “UCCP in Crisis”. 

 While said article is generally fair and balanced, we strongly feel the need to elucidate some points in the interest of truth. Firstly, we find the title of the article conclusive and may not be utterly accurate. That there is a small group of resentful individuals within the church does not necessarily mean the church is already in crisis. Disagreements befall every organization on a number of reasons. They evolve and grow at times but will not flourish for long when faced squarely. 

Yes, there is an ongoing dispute on the issue of property development which is now in the hands of  the UCCP National Commission on Discipline and Conflict Resolution (NCDCR). But the Commission is yet to make its final verdict. In due course, the issue will be resolved through the prudent judgment of the NCDCR, being the highest judicial body of the church. We want to make it very clear though that notwithstanding the ongoing disagreement, the UCCP is very much intact and strong as ever. The group of Dr. Everett Mendoza and Dr. Noriel Capulong called PAGMATA is composed only of a few disgruntled individuals.

Last May 25 they were only able to mobilize an insignificant crowd of around 150 people mostly oldies, while the official anniversary event on the same day held at Union Theological Seminary in Dasmarinas, Cavite was attended by over 4,000 delegates from all over the country. Such number is exclusive of those who gathered for the same in the jurisdictions and conferences. In all those events, church workers and members have reaffirmed their unequivocal and resounding support of the duly elected UCCP national leadership. The message during the 71st anniversary celebration delivered by Bishop Erme R. Camba lucidly captures the crux of the occasion. The official 71st Anniversary Statement issued by the Council of Bishops which is resoundingly endorsed by the awe-inspiring majority of local churches, church workers and conferences throughout the country goes to show that the UCCP is very much strong and ONE. The UCCP IS NOT, NEVER WAS, AND WILL NEVER BE DIVIDED. Our unity is not anchored on the temporal matters of this world but on Christ alone, the Son of the Living God. No amount of reproaches can rift us from the love of God.

On the issue about the rehabilitation of Bethany Hospital in Tacloban which was harshly damaged by super typhoon Yolanda, Bishop Jaime Moriles, formerly assigned as Bishop of the East Visayas Jurisdictional Area where Bethany Hospital is a part of narrates the whole truth surrounding the arguments about the property in Tacloban City where Bethany Hospital is situated.

On the issue of organizing separate corporations to handle and manage the investments of church properties, it is not true that such was initiated by the current or the immediate past national leadership. AS early as 1990 the General Assembly already made an action to wit:

“That should the feasibility study on the establishment of church-related stock but non-profit foundation or stock, but profit organization/corporation be found viable, the 4th Quadrennial General Assembly mandates the Executive Committee and appropriate body to establish and organize the same.”

Yet again, the General Assembly  held in Baguio City in 2002 acted:

GA7-2002-39: VOTED: To approve the recommendations of the Policy Discussion Group on Stewardship and Resource Development as amended:

1. The Church shall establish a non-stock investment and management company that may be incorporated as a foundation duly owned by UCCP. It shall serve as the principal or holding company that will manage investments and income generating ventures to support the total lifework and ministry of the Church.

2. All real properties of the Church (used, under-utilized, unutilized and idle) shall be utilized to pursue its mission and witness programs.

It is very clear as such that the idea of putting up a holding company was already thought of and acted upon by previous General Assemblies, but it took us to quadrennium 2014-2018 to implement it although up until now, said holding company has not been officially established yet. Obviously, the national leadership is deceptively maligned and falsely accused of gearing the church toward corporatization by creating holding companies which in truth and in fact was thought of by previous assemblies.

Mendoza and Capulong have no monopoly of correct theological viewpoints.  As leaders of the church we firmly believe that utilizing God-given resources for the long-term benefit of the church’s ministry is never an act in the direction of lure of corporate wealth. It’s a lesson we learn from the Parable of the Three Servants/parable of talents? Lest even its lesson is now revised by Mendoza et al?  The keynote message I delivered during the special national council meeting held on Dec. 4, 2017 at UCCP Shalom center presents that the predicament offers us an opportunity to develop our God-given resources to reach our long-term goals and objectives especially for our deprived churches and church workers, without compromising other equally pressing issues and concerns of the times. This is Kairos. So we better seize the moment.

The UCCP may now be facing an enormous challenge that speciously shakes the foundation of its unity. But our beloved church, the UCCP, was built on a solid ROCK that can never be torn apart by any human force. It will continue to be a Church of Jesus Christ and will live even “beyond the lifetime of this generation”. All through the 71 years of its existence, the UCCP has gone through myriad of threats and challenges and we have risen above all those tempests with God’s guidance and help. We can do it again this time around as we reiterate our shared faith in JESUS CHRIST, our only Lord and Savior, the Son of the Living GOD!

 Thank you very much for the opportunity to clarify some important issues. —Bishop Jessie S. Suarez, UCCP Bishop Emeritus

JESSIE S. SUAREZ
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