“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11.11-12 RSV)
The Council of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines expresses grave concern over the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which is now approved by both Houses of Congress. At a time when the country is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and when the call for everybody to work together to address this health crisis is paramount, we believe that this legislative measure should take a back seat and go through a more thorough deliberation at a more appropriate atmosphere or be debunked altogether.
We support legislative measures to strengthen the prevention of any effort to cause loss of lives, bodily injury or destruction of property for political, ideological or religious purposes. But, we are very much concerned with the use of such measures to constrict our democratic space and inhibit in any way the exercise of our constitutional rights. We believe that a vibrant democracy allows for dissent, criticism or opposition of proposed or actual public policies, programs and actions so that as a nation we will all find the best way to move forward in ensuring the peace, justice and prosperity of our people. We re-iterate the apostolate of the church as peacemaker and peacekeeper, upon which this call rests.
We are especially concerned with the weakening of systems of checks and balances desirable in any legislative measure to prevent abuse especially since in our long struggle to craft a better democratic society, these systems have often been challenged by mere suspicions and tagging of personalities, organizations and institutions. We should instead be finding ways to strengthen such systems.
As we express this concern, we pray that the Holy Spirit which descended upon us on Pentecost guide our legislators and government officials as they work to address the overwhelming challenges we face at this time.
05 June 2020
Quezon City, Philippines
THE MOST REV. JOEL A. PACHAO THE RT. REV. REX R.B. REYES, JR.
Prime Bishop & Chair, Council of Bishops Bishop of Central Philippines and
A blessed evening to you all. Tonight I am coming to you from St. Luke’s Chapel of the Cathedral of the Resurrection In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We gather tonight, not as we were used to, by physically coming together. But we come together in spirit to celebrate a most wonderful night. As one preacher said, “It is the night of Easter. It is unique among all others because it is the night of victory, liberation and freedom, healing and the climax of the history of salvation” (Njoku Chukwuemka, CCSp).
The journey to this night began on Ash Wednesday. On that day ashes were imposed on our forehead, with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These words take us back to creation itself when “…the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7 NRSV).
Fast forward several weeks later and we found ourselves beginning our Holy Week celebrations with Palm Sunday. In the service we recalled the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. On any given Palm Sunday most of us would have participated in a re-enactment of this event with a procession into the church waving palm branches and singing hosannas, the way the crowd in Jerusalem did on that first Palm Sunday two thousand years ago.
On Maunday Thursday we recalled and celebrated the institution of the Lord’s Supper. “Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood..” (Luke 22:19-20 NRSV). We remembered Jesus washing his disciples’ feet to set for them and for us an example of humility and service. And here Jesus gave his disciples, and us, the new commandment, the ‘mandar’ to love one another as he loved us. His love for us is now to be the new measure of how we should love others.
Yesterday, Good Friday, we felt the pain of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and of Peter’s denial, his humiliation by the high priest and trial before Pilate. We felt the agony of his crucifixion and death. We entered into the gloom and darkness of death. To his disciples and other followers his death on the cross was a humiliating end, a tragic end. Entering the darkened church earlier this night gives us the same feeling that we have entered into a dark tomb.
But then comes a flicker of light – then another, and another as, from the Paschal Candle individual candles are lit until the darkness is overcome and the church is illumined with the brightness of “the light of Christ”. What we thought as the gloomy and dark end of our journey on Good Friday ends in joy and light of this resurrection night.
And with the light of Christ overcoming darkness the Exultet is sung proclaiming that “…darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King”. We proclaim that “This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt…This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life. This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the dead”
Again, Njoku Chukwuemka says, “By his resurrection this Easter night Jesus makes a very important statement. That is the fact that, he is the Lord of the living and the dead and that he has the power to liberate us. We have died with him through our Lenten observance. Let us also rise with him through the power of the Holy Spirit. The same spirit that resurrected him is capable of resurrecting our fallen and weak bodies” (cf Romans 8:11).
We just heard that the enhanced community quarantine for Luzon is extended until the end of the month. I am sure other LGUs in other parts of the country will follow suit. The loneliness of isolation and restricted movement continues. The suffering of millions of our people – the poor, the disadvantaged, the informal sector, the daily wage workers, the farmers – is prolonged. Our medical workers and other frontliners continue to risk their lives. The fear of death and death itself cast a very dark shadow on the land and on the people. Nevertheless, let us continue to cooperate and observe the guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine. It is the least we can do to help fight the spread of this deadly virus.
This is the night that gives us the strength to conquer despair. This is the night that gives us the strength to go on serving one another after the example of Him who came not to be served but to serve. This is the night that inspires us to love others, no longer as we love ourselves, but as He loved us and gave himself for us. And this Easter night gives us the assurance that the darkness of fear, despair and death will be “vanquished by our eternal King”. And so “we make our song. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Last Friday, 1st May 2020, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines celebrated its 30th year as an autonomous and independent Province (national Church) of the Anglican Communion. This was done in silent prayers in keeping with the spirit of the times as the world continues to battle a dreadful virus that has now claimed the lives of 252,429 persons worldwide. In fact on that day, the ECP effected the deferment of the first phase of a salary adjustment among its employees implemented only in January this year. The suspension of a salary increase that employees have been receiving for four months already seemed to be a sad and almost weird way of celebrating a 30-year milestone. The truth, however, is that it demonstrates the resilience and relatively high-level capacity of the ECP in dealing with institutional challenges and obstacles.
The deferment of the salary adjustment is the result of actual and projected financial losses in national revenues arising from the waiver of commercial rental incomes as well as the temporary closure of directly-managed business operations as a consequence of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in most parts of country. In the dioceses, similar losses are also expected in addition to the substantial reduction of pledges and offerings as a result of the cancellation of worship services. It is feared that if the pandemic drags on for a much longer time, then it would not just be a deferment of salary adjustment but it is possible that actual salaries will be reduced and payment deferred simply because of dried up resources.
This financial setback however is nothing new to the ECP. Over the past 30 years, the institution has gone through worse and has actually come out of every challenge very much better than what it previously had been.
Flashback to 1st May 1990. A big celebration was held at the National Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John for the inauguration of the ECP as the 28th Province of the Anglican Communion, signifying its autonomy from its then mother Church – the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. On that day, after nine decades, the ECP achieved the gift of self-governance and the full freedom to pursue the liturgical expression of its peoples’ faith and become truly a Church for Filipinos.
In the midst of the day-long celebration, however, was the most unpleasant fact that 60% of its annual budget continued to be subsidized by the mother Church. How can a child declare itself to be independent as a mature adult when more than half of his/her daily subsistence would still be provided by his/her parents? In hindsight, one can say that it was a highly irrational course of action. However, at that time, nobody raised the issue since full financial autonomy was a fantasy that nobody in his /her right mind could ever conceive to become a reality, considering the sheer enormity of the amount of annual grant (summing up to more than a million dollars), the economic challenges gripping the majority of members and the still, at that time, pervasive thinking of many Filipinos who look up to America as the source of salvation and consider the church as a rich institution from which material benefits could be derived. What the ECP had was a commitment that at some future time it would be able to address this gray area. However, two years went by and the ECP could not come up with a viable plan on how to achieve this. Finally, in 1993, it committed to what was then referred to as a 15-Year Stepped Reduction Plan, under which the annual subsidy from the mother Church would be gradually reduced until it reaches zero level at the end of the 15th year or in 2007.
While the 15-year stepped reduction plan was welcomed as a doable phase out of the annual subsidy, it resulted in a painful withdrawal that plunged the Church into a recurrent financial crisis. Autonomy was followed by years of annual budget deficits and so certain program activities had to be shelved, a special retirement program was instituted among the lay catechists and evangelists and offered to other lay employees, and salary rates frozen and its payment delayed for as long as eight months in a number of dioceses.
By 2004, the ECP was only three years away from 2007 when subsidy was supposed to reach the agreed zero level. In March of 2004, there was a meeting of the Church leadership to look at where the Church was in terms of its financial position. The subsidy has been greatly reduced from 60% in 1990 to 14% the year before in a remarkable display of hard work and bold decisions. In actual figures, 14% was equivalent to almost P10 million, which was still a huge amount. 2003 incurred the highest budget deficit so far, at P6 million. At that meeting, it was expressed that every unit of the Church has almost exhausted every possible means of income-generation and had reached the end of the road in terms of local sourcing. Thus, there was a general feeling that there was no way it could fill in what remained of the subsidy. In such situation, nobody in the meeting could resist the temptation to go back to the mother Church to seek extension of three (3) years or until 2010 for the subsidy to be finally concluded. The discussions then focused on what would be the best strategy to be able to convince the mother Church for such extension. But something remarkable happened at that meeting because instead of an extension, the final resolution arrived at was the complete opposite. The ECP would instead advance the end of subsidy by two years – from 2007 to 2004 or that very moment of the meeting. This meant that by 1st January 2005, the ECP would be fully reliant upon its local financial capacities.
Expectedly, the pre-termination was immediately met by strong opposition from the majority of the Church membership. If it had incurred the highest deficit of Php 6 million even with a subsidy of Php 10 million in 2003, what more if such subsidy was completely done away with. Even from a simple mathematical computation, the deficit would balloon to Php 16 million. All conceivable grim scenarios were expressed as to what would happen in 2005. But what subsequently transpired was almost miraculous.
For by end of 2005, all the fears of incurring huge deficits, serious inability to pay salaries in full, suspension of expansion work, etc. turned out to be unfounded. What in fact happened was that, for the first time in more than 15 years, the ECP ended the fiscal year with a budget surplus of Php 3 million. Despite millions of pesos in annual subsidy, deficits were incurred every year for more than 15 years but when such subsidy was concluded and done away with, a substantial surplus was realized. Indeed, that was a miracule.
Filipinos have an almost fanatical fondness for the game of basketball. In this game, the most exciting part happens at the last two minutes when miracles are sometimes supposed to happen and when the best that the team can offer is often displayed. For the ECP, the year 2005 was the last two minutes. The excitement had reached feverish proportions as everybody played as a team and delivered beautifully so that at the final sound of the buzzer, it actually won the game!
The ECP finally realized a very simple lesson that had eluded it for more than a hundred years – that it is only when one stops looking at others that he/she begins to fully look into himself/herself and fully appreciate what he/she has and what he/she can do with this. It was asset-based church development (ABCD) in actual practice.
With this momentum, the ECP then went on to craft Vision 2018 and embarked on a 10-year journey to be “a dynamic and vibrant Church of caring, witnessing and mission-oriented parishes”. Since that Vision carried with it the challenge for congregations to become parishes, there was again a widely expressed hesitance, if not outright resistance, among many members and leaders who sincerely believed that it was an un-realistic aspirational focus. At that time, there were only 32 full-fledge parishes established by the ECP since its foundation in this country in 1901 or within a period of 106 years. How then can it be said that in 10 years’ time, it is going to enable all congregations to attain parish-hood. Indeed, it was unthinkable for many congregations to become self-governing and self-supporting parishes and some senior clergy at that time would emphatically opine that these congregations can only become parishes at the second coming of the Lord.
But initial hesitance soon gave way to a collective desire to earnestly work on the vision and by December 2018 the ECP leadership was hugely and pleasantly amazed by how much its people have actually achieved. The number of full-fledge parishes grew to a total of 101, which was more than three times what it had in 2008 when it started with the Vision. In sum, for the 10-year period from 2008 to 2018, the ECP accomplished more than twice what it has accomplished in 106 years.
Beyond financial self-support, however, is the fact that the movement towards parish-hood has given birth to a particularly distinct sense of vibrancy and dynamism that may not have come about through other non-financial programs. Some of the manifestation of this are, as follows:
Firstly, the parish-hood thrust has enhanced the development of local leadership. By their election into vestries that manage parishes in partnership with their respective rectors, lay people have been given tremendous opportunities to exercise local leadership. The institutional challenges of parish-hood demanded a kind of leadership that was unique to such challenges and vestries have initiated and developed these lay persons into this role. Traditionally, vestries and mission councils were the domain of senior citizens but the 10 years of Vision 2018 have seen the broadening of the leadership demographic with the onboarding into the local leadership of young adults who, traditionally, constituted the least active sector. Again, this was because of the demands of parish-hood and young adults ideally fitted into the role owing to their energy, resources and capacity for fresh ideas.
Secondly, the challenge of parish-hood has given rise to various initiatives and creativities in doing mission work. At the National Summit in November 2018 held to assess accomplishments under Vision 2018, reports of various works done and photos of beautiful churches built by no less than the congregations on their own means and resources were presented. More than 30 church buildings were built on such local means and these were not the make-shift chapels built of temporary materials but solid permanent structures costing more than a million pesos each, a phenomenon that was quite rare in the past. Indeed, the period has seen an explosion of dynamism and vibrancy in the entire church and there are many stories of these happening on the ground and that for want of space could not be detailed here.
Thirdly, the parish-hood movement has deepened peoples’ faith engagements in ways that are quite unique and exciting. It is said that what accounts for substantial giving in evangelical groups is usually the evangelical charisma of the preacher whose words are accordingly able to touch the hearts of their followers who then are compellingly motivated to give all of what they are. In the case of the ECP’s parish-hood movement, however, it is completely the other way around. There are many members who go to church on Sundays only to congregate outside and enter the church when it’s time for communion. With the active campaign for increased giving in support of parish-hood, however, more and more of what used to be outside congregants are attending the entire service, participating in the worship and actively joining other activities. Space limitations would not allow a narration of examples but these will certainly be part of the historical annals of this institution.
“Rice Christian” used to be a pejorative term referring to somebody who convert or declare himself or herself to be a Christian in order to receive rice or other material benefit from Christian missionaries. The erstwhile signification of the term however is now being completely overturned by the spectacle of Episcopalians holding bags of rice while walking not away from but towards the Church. They are not taking rice from the church but are actually giving rice to the church! This is especially noted in a number of parishes which has set the second Sunday of the month (or other regular schedule) as rice offering day, presenting a fascinating picture of rice bag-holding individuals converging to the church as the bell tolls.
Finally, the parish-hood efforts of our congregations have led to a more independent and critical thinking among communities in terms of the ECP’s social witness and advocacy. A confidential survey of behaviors of the electorate in one province showed that incidence of vote-buying were lesser in areas where parish-hood efforts were intentionally pursued,, especially among those who have established socio-economic projects. As people realize that they can be self-governing and self-reliant by their own efforts, their bondage to political patronage considerably eases up while the capacity to be more critical of public policies that affect them is enhanced.
It was also during the past 10 years that the ECP was able to make a breakthrough into non-traditional mission areas and established two congregations with more than 40 community outreaches in the islands of Samar, Leyte and Aklan among people who have never before heard of the Episcopal Church. Unlike traditional mission work patterns, however, these two congregations and outreaches which now comprise the Visayas Mission Area assumed the cost and continues to pay for their clergy salaries and operational budgets and at no cost to the national Church. Moreover, the Php 1.6 million worth Church of the Resurrection in Sabang Bao, Ormoc City whose picture appears below, was built out of the collective efforts of these communities, which declined an expressed offer by St. Luke’s Medical Center to build the same, the first and only time that an SLMC offer to build a church was ever politely declined.
Finally, the ECP transformed its erstwhile community-based development program (CBDP) which was completely funded by external partner grants into the Episcopal Care Foundation which is now 100% external grants-free in its community projects. The Foundation is now managing an Php 80 million fund from its partner communities participating in a continuing spiral of “receiving” and “giving back” under what is now referred to as The R2G, or The Receivers-to-Givers Practice.
Over the years, the ECP has established and grown capital funds totaling around Php 400 million. It will not withdraw any part of this to cover short-term budgetary shortfalls and it must be noted that almost 50% of these funds were raised at a time when the ECP was experiencing grave financial difficulties, following the late Prime Bishop Ignacio C. Soliba’s philosophy that it is in times of financial crises that capital or endowment funds must be established and grown precisely to address such crises. Since then it is the income of these capital funds that has been accounting for up to 30% of the ECP’s annual revenues.
Indeed, the past 30 years has been an exciting journey of hope and transformation for the ECP. The current financial challenges that the ECP is experiencing as a result of a global pandemic is nothing but a temporary setback that its general membership and leadership, praying, worshipping and acting together, will certainly overcome.
Happy 30th Year, ECP!
(Message by Atty. Floyd Lalwet, ECP Provincial Secretary, for the commemoration of the autonomy of ECP last May 1, 2020. Picture inset is the Resurrection Episcopal Church at Sabang Bao, Ormoc City, Leyte.)
The Episcopal Diocese of North Central Philippines was formed out of a division of the Diocese of Central Philippines in February 1989 when the Annual Diocesan Convention elected the Rev. Dr. Artemio M. Zabala as its first bishop. The Diocese consists of Episcopal Congregations in Baguio City, the provinces of Benguet, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Southern Nueva Viscaya and Zambales.
In July 1991, an earthquake hit Baguio City and destroyed its Cathedral. Plans for rebuilding were immediately set up. Meanwhile, the diocese deployed personnel to Lawin, Zambales for Relief and Rehabilitation work which led to the eventual formation of a new congregation from among the natives in that area.
The year after, Bishop Zabala resigned from his jurisdiction to be ECP’s missionary to the Diocese of Los Angeles. The Convention of January 1993 elected the Rt. Rev. Joel A. Pachao to be its second bishop. He continued the work of rebuilding the Cathedral and in 2000, the New Cathedral was consecrated for use.
The Diocesan Cathedral is the Cathedral of the Resurrection located at 358 Magsaysay Avenue, Baguio City.
The Mission of the Diocese is to equip both clergy and lay with arms and instruments that are effective in the ministry through continuous and responsive education and training.
By the year 2007 we envision a God-fearing diocese with dynamic human resources and vibrant members, self-reliant and aggressively reaching out.
Of the Seal of the Diocese
At the topmost portion of the inner versica is the Miter which graces most Episcopal Church seals. It stands for the authority of the Bishop (in Greek being Episcopos from which the designation Episcopal is derived). The miter bears on its top the Greek letters ICXC, the ancient acronym for IESOUS CHRISTOS or Jesus Christ. Below is the Greek word NIKA which means Victor or Conqueror. Put together it proclaims Jesus Christ the Conqueror (of sin and death). The miter is adorned with a design representing the motif of most art works of the indigenous people of Benguet against a backdrop of dominant brown color, the color of the Filipino skin. The context where Christ is proclaimed as Conqueror in the diocese is among the indigenous and other Filipino people residing in the provinces within the jurisdiction.
An unfurled scroll below the miter bears the words ZOE AIONIOS, “life eternal” which Christ promised to give to the full (John 10:10). The words were retained in Greek to amply describe the divine quality of life shared by God in Jesus’ death and resurrection. This message of abundant life given by Jesus is also at the heart of the National Mission Statement. That abundant life includes autonomy, the spaciousness in which we grow to be ourselves in relation to others in mutual responsibility and interdependence.
Below the scroll is the shield that resembles that which is found in the seal of the Diocese of Central Philippines. This indicates that this diocese once formed part of that diocese until its creation as a separate diocese in 1989. The shield is divided into four panels. The right topside panel bears the sun and stars found in the Filipino flag and is in the seal of the Church Province. This situates us along with the lower left panel with the images of the highlands and lowlands, the miner’s pick and shovel, rice grains and sea with a boat.
The top left panel bears the symbol that graced the ECP’s inauguration as a Church Province. It becomes a constant focus of meditation and judgement as it artistically delivers the message; “Kapit-bisig kay Kristo: tungo sa Kasarinlan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan” (Arm-in-arm in Christ towards Autonomy, Justice and Peace).
This afternoon, we have come together for the interment of the remains of our late beloved Prime Bishop Edward Pacyaya Malecdan. We join his wife, Manang Myrnam, their children and relatives in mourning his passing away from this earthly life. The death of a loved one always brings grief and sadness, especially to the family, relatives and friends of the deceased. Even Jesus wept with Mary and Martha and the other people who were mourning the death of their brother Lazarus. But Jesus turned their grief into joy when he raised Lazarus from the dead. In the Gospel this afternoon from Luke 8:49-56, Jesus also brought joy to Jairus and his wife by bringing their dead daughter back to life. How we wish the same can be done to raise Bishop Ed from death now so that our tears of sorrow will become tears of joy! But we know that raising the dead back to life cannot be done today. Jesus taught us that the dead will be raised during His 2nd coming. In the meantime, we have prayed the Collect imploring God to accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant Edward who has fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection; and to grant him entry into the heavenly abode of those who through the ages have been found pleasing in your sight.” (BCP 328). So even as we mourn the physical loss of Bishop Ed, we look forward with joyful hope of the resurrection. Meanwhile, we can find solace and inspiration in the life and ministry of Bishop Ed whom God called to serve his flock as a deacon, priest, Seminary teacher and dean, diocesan bishop and then as prime bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.
Please allow me to share my reflections on the life and ministry of Bishop Ed based on my personal knowledge and encounters with him. I first came to know Bishop Ed in 1969 I when I enrolled for the 7th grade while he enrolled for the 3rd year here at St. Mary’s School. At that time, Bishop Ed just came back to St. Mary’s to resume his studies which was disrupted when his father died in an accident at the Lepanto Mines. Bishop Ed had to quit after 2nd year high school to help his mother and older brother support the family. From shoe-shine boy in Sagada, he became a gardener at Makellay’s farm in Sinipsip, then a cement-mixer at Itogon Suyoc Mines, and then as a janitor at the Makati Medical Center. After sojourning from one odd-job to another for 4 years, he decided to continue his studies with the prodding of his uncle Frank Longid. So he came back to SMS for his 3rd year in 1969. Because of his athleticism, Fr. Stapleton choose him to play for the SMS basketball team that won championships against teams in Bontoc, Lubuagan and Balbalasang in Kalinga. He was also a member of “Post 11” – a Boy Scout troop organized by Fr. Abellon, who was then the rector here, and who was their Scout Master. Bishop Ed considered his return to SMS as providential because that was where he met and caught the attention of Manang Myrnam who became his bride in 1978.
I consider myself lucky to have been under the tutelage of Bishop Ed, starting when I enrolled as a freshman at St. Andrew’s Seminary 1976 while he was in fourth year. He was the team captain and star player of the Seminary basketball team and I was privileged to have played in his team. More than anything else, he provided leadership and imbued a winning spirit to our team. He became our coach after he graduated in March 1977, and he became my mentor when I succeeded him as Student Sacristan, a key position of responsibility in the spiritual formation of seminarians. (I still vivid recall his advise, “Brent ilam ta baken paspas ay maamin nan mompo”). During graduation, Bishop Ed also received the Faculty Award for his overall performance in academics, athletics, house work, spiritual formation, and all other aspects of ministry formation in the Seminary. In recognition of his potential as a Seminary faculty member, Bishop Abellon cut short Bishop Ed’s internship in Guinaang, Bontoc, and sent him back to the Seminary for further studies. While studying History at Trinity College, he got married in 1978 and was ordained to the diaconate in 1979 while being an adjunct faculty of the Seminary.
Our third encounter was when Bishop Ed and I were among the 5 candidates who were ordained together on December 22, 1980 at St. Thomas Church in Dagupan, Tabuk, by Bishop Richard Abellon. Bishop Ed was ordained as a priest while I and 4 others were ordained to the diaconate. After his ordination, Bishop Ed returned to teach at the Seminary while pursuing masteral studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. In 1991 after ten years as Seminary Instructor, he went on sabbatical leave to pursue studies in Church History at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Texas. He finished his Master of Arts in 1993 with his thesis on the Formative Years of the Philippine Episcopal Church, and returned to the Seminary to resume teaching. Sometime in the mid-2000s, his Alma Mater in Texas conferred him the honorary degree of Doctor in Divinity in acknowledgment of his services at the Seminary and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.
In 1994, Bishop Ed was nominated for the office of Suffragan Bishop of EDNP. At the same time, he was also being considered for the deanship of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary to succeed Dean Henry Kiley who resigned. With a deep sense of calling, he decided to withdraw his nomination for Suffragan Bishop and accepted his appointment as the 6th dean of SATS where he served until he was called to be the 4th diocesan bishop of EDNP in 1997.
When he became our diocesan bishop, he admitted with humility his lack of knowledge and experience in parish work and diocesan administration since he spent his whole ministry teaching at the Seminary. But he made up for his deficiency by being a good listener, keen observer, fast learner, diligent worker and a team player. He translated the principle of basketball teamwork in the Diocesan Office where he worked closely with the diocesan staff whom he called his “reliables” for their competence and dedication to serve. He was keenly aware of his heavy responsibility as diocesan bishop because EDNP at that time was in financial crisis due to the cut in the financial subsidy from the Episcopal Church in the US. Because of the crisis, we had annual budget deficits and our clergy and lay employees did not receive their salaries for as long as 6 months. We implemented cost-cutting measures and some employees were given early retirement. During those times, our Diocesan Employees Credit Coop or DECCO became our lifeline. But these were temporary remedies, so Bishop Ed focused our diocese on the attainment of ECP Vision 2007 with self-reliance, renewal and outreach as the main goals.
Bp Ed with the Archbishop of Korea
One great temptation at that time was to use our accumulated diocesan endowment fund for the salaries and benefits of our clergy and lay. But Bishop Ed wisely decided not to spend the endowment fund but to build it up and then invested the bulk of it in the Rural Bank of Paranaque. This move was lambasted and opposed by some members who feared that the church will lose its investment. There was strong pressure on Bishop Ed to withdraw the investment, but Bishop Ed did not give in because he was confident that his decision was based on reliable information which those opposing his decision did not have. In the end, the investment at RBP yielded substantial returns resulting in a balanced diocesan budget. The church fully recovered its investment, proving that the fears of losing the investment were unfounded.
In 2008 when Bishop Ed was called as Prime Bishop, yours truly inherited a much improved diocese in terms of self-reliance and mission outreach. There were surpluses instead of the annual deficits in our diocesan budget. The number of fullfledge parishes increased from 3 to 9 and 12 congregations became provisional aided parishes. Three of our institutions: St. Mary’s School, St. James High School and St. Theodore’s Hospital were incorporated to broaden their capacity for self-reliance and self-governance. And the Walter Clapp Centrum and Timothy Chaokas Memorial Student Center were built, while St. Joseph Resthouse and the Diocesan Center were upgraded to increase their self-support contributions.
One highlight of Bishop Ed’s episcopate is the division of EDNP in year 2000. The division resulted in the creation of the new Diocese of Santiago and made EDNP the smallest diocese in terms of geographical coverage but still the biggest in terms of church membership. Bishop Ed believed that the division would accelerate mission expansion and congregational development of both the new diocese and the mother diocese. This vision has been proven by the remarkable growth of both dioceses under ECP Vision 2018 which was ushered in by Prime Bishop Ed in 2008 and was continued by Prime Bishop Rene when Prime Bishop Ed retired in 2014.
Prime Bishop Ed has left us just as we are preparing to embark on a new ECP Vision 2028 under Prime Bishop Joel. (I think he will be visiting Prime Bishop Joel from time to time.) But while he left us, I believe he will not abandon us. When he left EDNP for Cathedral Heights, he did not abandon us. He was a patient and brutally frank mentor especially when I was just starting in the episcopate. He taught me valuable lessons and offered practical suggestions in pastoral ministration and diocesan administration. He made it a point to attend and participate in our diocesan conventions. He accepted every task that was assigned to him, whether as celebrant, preacher, bible study facilitator, lecturer, or resource person. And he was excellent in all of these tasks. He is known for his well prepared homilies, and he wanted us his clergy to prepare and deliver good sermons. He used to provide us with references and guides on good sermons. ( I believe he will still be observing us to see who is naughty or nice about sermons.) A writer in his own right, he authored “A brief history of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Sagada” and wrote several articles on ECP history. He started editing for publication his MA thesis, “The Philippine Episcopal Church: Its Formative Years”, but this was derailed by illness. The ECP leadership should see to the publication of this book for posterity.
Bishop Ed maintained his cool and calm demeanor even under pressure or stressful conditions. He demonstrated this demeanor sometime in 2007 when he led us clergy and lay volunteers to try to rebuild St. Peter’s Church which was demolished by government contractors in Sabangan. The situation at the construction site was tense due to the presence of thugs who were trying to prevent the reconstruction. The situation became worse when suddenly a half-naked woman appeared and started dancing in front of the Bishop. She was followed later by a man swinging his samurai sword threatening to hurt anyone who got near him. Bishop Ed who was helping lay out the lumber at the construction site did not panic. He just stayed calm and cool until the tension subsided. Whether he was facing a samurai sword, a tough negotiator, or colon cancer, he was calm and composed.
Bishop Ed called himself an “outdoor person.” After office hours during his healthy days, Bishop Ed was either in the basketball court or the tennis court. He played great tennis and he won championship trophies in Bontoc and elsewhere.
He also loved to dirty his hands in his garden, orchard, field, fishpond. When he was in Manila, he would drive home to say hello to his plants. He used to bring oranges from his orchard for the staff at the diocesan office. Bishop Ed is a rare breed of an all around athlete who excelled in all sports that he engaged in including basketball, volleyball, softball, and lawn tennis.
Bishop Ed was also a cowboy at heart. He bought a cowboy hat and a pair of cowboy boots in Texas, and one of his favorite songs was “God must be a Cowboy”.(?) He also used to ride his horse above Lake Danum, but later passed on his horse to clergy in the Sunnyside area who he felt needed it more for their outstation visits.
And he was the only yodeler in town. In many community occasions, he was in demand to render his favorite yodel song, Chime Bells Are Ringing to the delight of the audience (but which did not impress his children anymore because they heard it more than a thousand times!)
Now we will all be missing this yodeler, cowboy, farmer, athlete, writer, bishop, priest, pastor, counselor, preacher, teacher, mentor, father, grandfather, and much more! Such was the life and ministry of Bishop Ed. A life worth emulating for its dedication to Christian service. It is the life of a man who has “fought the good fight, finished the race, and have kept the faith.” 2Timothy 4:7.
Let me end with these comforting words from 1 Peter 1:3-7 — “Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of His great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time.”
May our brother Bishop Ed in the company of all the saints, rest in peace and rise in glory! In Jesus’ name. Amen!
Well-meaning individuals have observed that ECP Vision 2018 was accordingly too parochial and focused on the institutional interest of the Church without much consideration to the day-to-day realities of its members. The experience of St. William’s Parish in Butigue, Paracelis completely debunks this observation and validates what Vision 2018 had intended to do which is to grow congregations in order that they can better pursue and live out the Five Marks of Mission.
Back in the early 1990s, the congregation of St. William’s consisted of only seven families. The women members practiced og-ogbo, where they pooled their meager financial resources that they rotated among themselves in order to support their economic activities. A grant of P20,000 from the Anglican Board of Mission – Australia boosted the self-help operation and allowed them to get more members. In 1997, the St. William’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative was formally registered and has since then provided much-needed providential, agricultural and small-business financing to the people in and out of Paracelis. It now has 1,756 regular members and 1,527 associate and laboratory members . Much of the economic upliftment in the municipality can be attributed to the assistance of the cooperative. Today, after 21 years, the cooperative has P173.54 million in assets, with members’ equity amounting to P41.72 million and has 59 employees. Aside from its multi-million lending operations, the cooperative operates a grocery, pharmacy, airconditioned lodging rooms and a 5-van transport service. In the records of the ECP’s development program, St. William’s Cooperative is listed as a spectacular success.
The congregation of St. William’s has grown to more than 100 families and has been admitted as a full-fledge parish in 2009. Through the cooperative, the parish is one of the main contributors to various fund-raising activities of the diocese and is actually supporting neighboring congregations. It has started an elementary school from Kindergarten up to Grade II with 32 total pupils and intends to complete the 7-year levels of basic education.
The cooperative is open to non-Episcopalians who now compose the majority of its membership. Pastors of evangelical churches are active members and directors of the cooperative. Yet, even with its membership configuration, the cooperative strongly maintains its Episcopal roots. It’s General Assembly always starts with an Episcopal sung mass, with full attendance from the pastors and leaders of other denominations. The ECP’s Five Marks of Mission is prominently displayed in the coop offices as part of its values enhancement program and biblical verses are found in the Assembly theme and in various documents and members’ t-shirts.
In recognition of its Episcopal roots and continued spiritual guidance, the cooperative pledges 10% of its annual net income to the parish. Surprisingly, the initial opposition to this came from Episcopal members themselves but it was the pastors and leaders of evangelical churches who, up to this day, are insistent that the coop must always express thanksgiving through this pledge.
Much of success of both the parish and the cooperative has evolved out of the visionary leadership of the rector, The Rev. Frenzel Ray P. Piluden [now bishop-elect], and The Rt. Rev. Alexander A. Wandag, Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago.
I was privileged to speak at the 21st General Assembly of the coop last 24th February 2018. One of the stories I shared was our experience in Nairobi, Kenya where Mr. Patrick W. Pelenia, CEO of the Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark, presented the ECP’s coop program in an international micro-finance conference in 2012. The conference was impressed with the presentation just as they were impressed with an earlier presentation from a Kenyan micro-finance bank whose president and manager was an Anglican who finished advance economic and management degrees from Oxford University of England. Following these presentations, a Kenyan friend of mine asked where our people managing our coops, including St. William’s, took their MBAs. I explained to him that perhaps the elementary and high schools in Paracelis are comparable to the graduate schools of England since most of our coop directors are elementary and high school graduates in the municipality. Also, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary must be comparable to Oxford University since the manager of St. William’s was a SATS graduate. These are the leaders who have transformed P20 thousand into P173 million.
December 16. Tonight is my family’s Christmas party at my sister’s house in Trinidad. I’m going to miss that and, except for my brother Joe Anthony if he is on overseas assignment, this will be the first time that a member of the family will be absent. I’m really very sorry for this.
I’m now holed up in a hotel here in Tacloban with the Prime Bishop and Mrs Precy Pachao and Mr Danny Ocampo as our flight to Manila yesterday was cancelled due to raging Typhoon Urduja. The earliest flight available to us is on Monday, December 18. Strong winds and rains are slamming into the roof and walls of our hotel and the streets are flooded. It’s a good thing that ECARE staff here in Leyte have joined us in the hotel as the staff house is flooded. They are now running around the city looking for open restaurants to buy food and coffee for us since our hotel doesn’t have an eating place. At least it is on higher and safer ground and residents of the city whose homes are flooded have also checked in here.
But we don’t regret coming down here. We were here for the blessing of Ressureccion Episcopal Church in Ormoc City yesterday as this church is maybe one of the best gifts that ECP has received from its people this Christmas season. Ground-breaking for this church was done in April this year and was completed in record-time of only 7 months. This was also built entirely from the resources of the people here who, about 4 years, ago were almost completely devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda. In fact, St Luke’s Medical Center, impressed with the successful housing project here offered to build the church but the people politely declined as they believed that it us their way of expressing gratitude to the Divine Providence who has enabled them to rise up from the unspeakable devastation. We would never have missed the blessing yesterday. We are so thankful that we were still able to fly down here before the storm so that our people were able to use the church for their first misa de gallo this morning!
Two volunteers from the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of The Episcopal Church have come to join in the ministries of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) for one-year terms of service.
Ben having Thanksgiving Dinner with community members
Ben Hansknecht, a graduate of Wildlife Management, will be working on tree planting and other ecological restoration projects in the Visayas Mission Area, a program established by ECP’s E-Care Foundation after Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Ben will be based in Sabang Bao, a housing development and community for victims of the typhoon.
Caroline Sprinkle, a graduate of Wake Forest University in North Carolina, will be working in t
Caroline with her Kalinga costume
he Episcopal Diocese of North Luzon (EDNL), where she will be a staff of our E-CARE Foundation, doing community development work and also working in the area of carbon reduction.
ECP has been receiving YASC volunteers for several years already, and we have greatly benefited from their energy, thoughtfulness and commitment to the work of the Church.