United Methodist agencies will have an increased presence in the Philippines with the opening of a ministry office in the nation’s capital.
Staff with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Communications have collaborated to open the Manila Agency Center, which can be used by other church agencies. It will be a base for work in the Philippines Central Conference.
“This is a great moment in the life of the church because two of our major general agencies are here in the Philippines,” said Bishop Pedro M. Torio Jr., who is on Global Ministries’ board of directors and leads the Baguio Episcopal Area. “Our connectionalism, vision network, national and international cooperation, now have a very concrete expression and are … more accessible to us. I look forward to wonderful things happening in our partnership and mission together.”
The office was dedicated Dec. 18 with a service of celebration attended by active and retired bishops of the Philippines, executives of both general agencies, as well as representatives of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Harris Memorial College, Union Theological Seminary, and the Ecumenical Center for Development. Philippines Central Conference agency heads, Global Mission Fellows, Global Ministries Scholars and missionaries also were present.
“This is a ministry center of The United Methodist Church,” said Thomas Kemper, top executive of Global Ministries."... It’s UMCom and Global Ministries of the central conference of the Philippines. We are one church, and we are glad.”
The office opening is exciting for United Methodist Communications, said Dan Krause, top executive.
“It really lives into our goals as an agency as we work to tell the story of God’s work through The United Methodist Church around the world; as we work to support our local churches … in communications and outreach to the world; and as we work to build a communications infrastructure that helps us to spread the love of God into the world as well,” Krause said.
Bishop Ciriaco Francisco, who leads the Manila Episcopal Area, sees the office as a sign of a stronger partnership between the Philippines and the general church.
“That’s a very solid and concrete expression of being one church because in the past we barely felt the presence of the general church in the Philippines, but with the office here in Manila for (the) Asia Pacific, I think the partnership becomes stronger,” he said. “And it helps … the central conference understand the global nature of our church.”
The dedication of the office followed a Dec. 10-17 consultation, organized by Global Ministries, in which staff from several United Methodist agencies visited missions and churches in Cambodia and Vietnam.
“Our work all over Asia has exploded,” said the Rev. Paul Kong, Asia Pacific representative for Global Ministries and director of the agency’s regional office in Seoul, South Korea. The Seoul office oversees Global Ministries’ work in Asia and the Pacific, including the Philippines. The agency is working in 24 countries in the region.
The Philippines is the only United Methodist central conference in Asia, and it is important for Global Ministries and United Methodist Communications to serve alongside the people there, Kemper said.
“We are building on the incredible mission spirit of the Filipino United Methodist Church, which is spreading, especially through migration and the migrant labor force into so many parts of Asia and beyond,” said Kemper, adding that Persian Gulf countries are included.
The office will be particularly helpful for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, a unit of Global Ministries, as it works with local partners in responding to the growing number of typhoons and other disasters in the area, Kemper said. The office also will enable Global Ministries to use the Philippines more as a resource in mission and ministry in the region, he said.
Other general agencies are welcome to join in using the office. “It’s an open invitation,” Krause said.
United Methodist Communications has been focusing on better serving the global church by working in more languages, getting original content from around the world, and making programs such as church grants available globally, he said. Opening the office is the next step in that journey, he said.
“We’re really trying to integrate our work into the life of the Philippines Central Conference and make sure that UMCom is present and connecting the work of the central conference here to all else that we do,” Krause said.
United Methodist Communications will now have a permanent place for staff and contractors to work on training, provide resources, store equipment, and develop content about the work of the church, he said.
Reiner Puno, a Filipino member of the United Methodist Communications board, said the agency has long had the vision for a regional presence, especially in Manila. “Having it will make the presence of UMCom more accessible to the entire central conference because there are so many projects,” he said, citing examples such as radio ministry and communication training.
Each agency contributed $50,000 to improving the second floor of the building, and some of the $100,000 was used to cover other renovation costs in the building.
The five-story building includes space on the ground and second floors that is generating rental income for the church. The Manila Area’s episcopal offices are on the third floor, and work is under way to renovate the fourth floor as a place for serving United Methodists migrating from the provinces who need a place to stay. The fifth floor will become a space for the Philippines bishops to meet and work together. The central conference’s three bishops are based in the Manila, Baguio and Davao regions.
The Philippines church has spent more than 20 million pesos on the renovation so far, with a total projected cost of 50 million (US$941,000), Bishop Francisco said. That figure includes the $100,000 contribution from Global Ministries and United Methodist Communications. The additional renovations are to be completed by 2020.
Global Ministries had also contributed $100,000 a few years ago to initial renovations to the building, Kong said.
United Methodist Women shares office space in the building with the Diakonia ecumenical group, said Emma Cantor, who works for both Global Ministries and United Methodist Women.
Norma Dollaga, a deaconess and executive of Kasimbayan, a social justice organization, said the benefit of the office is not just “about proximity of office to the immediate locations of ministries. It is about having a center of communications and sharing of work and mission within the Asian context. Hence (we are) looking forward to a mission work that lives out a contextualized mission.”
Jennifer F. Meneses, executive secretary of the Philippines Central Conference Board of Women’s Work, said the board looks forward to the partnership with Global Ministries “for our common mission and ministries for women, youth and children in the Philippines.”
Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana will lead Global Ministries' work in the office as area liaison for Asia and the Pacific. Global Ministries will have two staff in the office initially. United Methodist Communications plans to staff the center also, and current contract partners will be able to use the office for technology and content work.
The Rev. Gary Henderson, chief relationship officer-global partnerships with United Methodist Communications, offered a scriptural reflection as he brought greetings to those gathered for the dedication.
“We are standing on the very edge of expectancy because we don’t know yet what God is doing with us, but we are certain that God is with us, doing a new thing,” Henderson said.
Tanton is chief news officer for United Methodist Communications. Mangiduyos, a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in the Philippines, contributed to this story. Contact Tanton at 615-742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.