Philippine Methodists Draw Closer to Autonomy

The 600,000 United Methodist Church(UMC)-related members in the Philippines are moving closer to setting up an autonomous Methodist Church, according to the United Methodist News Service (UMNS).

Last month, the Philippines Central Conference met in Manila for their annual gathering. During the meeting, the delegates re-elected three Episcopal leaders to their current posts. The three leaders, Bishop Benjamin Justo of Baguio, Bishop Solito Toquero of Manila, and Bishop Leo Soriano of Davao, each preside over several of the 19 annual (regional) conferences in the island nation. (UMNS).

While all three bishops support an autonomous, affiliated relationship with the UMC, the Philippines is still under the jurisdiction of the US’s UMC.

According to Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., of Denver, who presided at the Philippines Central Conference on behalf of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, the “sentiment for autonomy was very strong.”

The UMNS said the autonomy issue has been “under consideration for many years,” but the Central Conference “took no definitive action on the autonomy issue.”

“However, a procedure was laid out that clearly moves in that direction and plans made for the conference to meet in 2006 to consider the issue,” UMNS reported.

The process of becoming autonomous is presented in the UMC’s Book of Discipline. This year, 16 of 19 of the Philippines’ annual conferences presented petitions for autonomy for the central conference. According to Brown, “Nine were accepted and seven were ruled out of order on technical grounds. Two new annual conferences were created this year in Manila.”