Filipino United Methodist laity and clergy members are spending the next days and weeks in prayer as part of the denomination-wide Praying Our Way Forward movement.
“We are doing this for the forthcoming special General Conference. With those overwhelming plans, we called people to join us in prayers, so delegates would have the right decision,” said the Rev. Orly Veron, Southeast District superintendent of Quezon City, Philippines East.
“Filipino Methodists are deeply divided on this issue. The (One Church Plan) and (Traditional Plan) are both strong forces,” Veron said. “I expect that after the result, we will abide, and we will still be united.”
The call to pray continues leading up to the special session of General Conference Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis. During the legislative session, delegates will work on determining what direction the church should take in its longstanding debate over homosexuality.
The Praying Our Way Forward initiative began in the fall of 2016 within the Council of Bishops and expanded in early 2017 to include 18 months of daily prayer by members of annual conferences. The final phase, which urges daily prayer and weekly fasting, culminates with a Day of Prayer on Feb. 23.
Emelita B. Cortez, a lay leader in the Southeast District, said she is anxious about the church’s future. Despite that, she said, she will stand for what she believes in.
“Christ is our foundation. Let us follow the will of God. I will encourage (United Methodists) to stay in the Traditional Plan,” she said.
The Traditional Plan and Modified Traditional Plan appeal to United Methodists wishing to maintain the status quo on the church’s approach to homosexuality. In contrast, the One Church Plan would eliminate the Book of Discipline passage that states, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Other plans on the table include the Simple Plan and Connectional Conference Plan.
The Rev. David Sablan, administrative pastor of St. John United Methodist Church in Cubao, Quezon City, said that it is everybody’s responsibility to pray.
The church hosted clergy and laity members from the Southeast District for intercessory prayers on Jan. 26. The group prayed for the 864 delegates and 200 alternate delegates; the Commission on the Way Forward; members of the Council of Bishops; delegates of the Philippines Central Conference; and for the United Methodist connection, for unity and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As part of the Praying Our Way Forward initiative, bookmarks were distributed at the gathering urging everyone to pray for delegates, laity, pastors and bishops, with guidance to pray for a particular group for three minutes each day, from 2:23 to 2:26 p.m.
A candle-lighting ceremony and prayer gathering also was held at Central United Methodist Church in Manila on Feb. 1 to pray for unity in the church.
Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco led the event. He talked about the power of prayer, referencing Jesus’ prayer to obey God’s will at the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Rev. Menre Mendillo, administrative pastor of Central United Methodist Church, delivered a prayer for God to keep the church united.
On Feb. 3, Dumoy United Methodist Church in Davao City led a cluster prayer for unity.
Dania Soriano, wife of retired Bishop Leo A. Soriano, said the cluster prayer, also called Jerusalem cluster, brought together four churches within Davao City — The United Methodist Church Cathedral, Obrero First United Methodist Church, Dream United Methodist Church and Dumoy — for shared prayer.
She said the cluster prayers will continue each Sunday before the special General Conference, with each church serving as host.
The Rev. Jerry C. Ganal, Southeast District superintendent of East Mindanao, Philippines, said that they are praying for unity by keeping the flame and cross lit at Dumoy United Methodist Church.
“We embrace the flame and the cross, hence we lit those candles. I believe that God will reveal miracles during the special session and that God will flow his grace to us,” he said.
Ganal said that he is hopeful that the church will remain united after the session and that “there will still be an undivided General Conference in 2020.”
Rio Anne Dizon, a United Methodist deaconess and General Conference principal lay delegate, uttered her prayers during a prayer conference in the Metropolitan district of the Middle Philippines, which was attended by 500 lay people and church workers.
“For whatever you wish for our church, give us hope, so we may experience your redeeming grace. As we journey to the General Conference, prepare the place, empower each delegate and each bishop,” she said.
Dizon prayed for empowerment for The United Methodist Church as a vessel of acceptance and forgiveness.
“Amid the deeply divisive issue and in the midst of intricacies, only you, God, can envelop us with your Holy Spirit. We will not resist, but we will rather glorify you.”
Mangiduyos is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in the Philippines. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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