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“Break Camp . . . Go Forward”

By Bishop Scott J. Jones

An ordinand is ordained by GM Church Bishop Scott J. Jones in the Philippines.

God’s church is on the move! That idea was proclaimed by dozens of persons wearing a t-shirt at the convening conference of the Covenant Philippines Annual Conference of the Global Methodist Church. The t-shirts had the GM Church logo on the front. On the back they said “Break Camp . . . Go Forward, Deuteronomy 1:6-7.” Those verses quote God as saying to the people of Israel, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Resume your journey.”

These shirts exemplified the two events I recently attended, which celebrated the continued growth of the Global Methodist Church in the Philippines. People were excited to gather together, and the spiritual energy was contagious. In both places the meetings included passionate worship, spiritual teaching and the ordination of new clergy.

The first event was in Manila, held July 1. Approximately 1,000 people gathered in an auditorium in a mall. I ordained new clergy and celebrated Holy Communion. A video team was filming all of the events of the day, and by its end had produced a summary of the events. Among other things, I said “I am looking for a new Pentecost.” To an American who had already seen the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a number of American meetings, watching this passionate worship in Asia was a foretaste of my hoped for reality!

During the meeting we heard by video what the Spirit is already doing in local GM churches in the Philippines. We saw a testimony by Rev. Ernest Oyeng Mendoza about the Overflow Christian Community. It began by prayer and fasting, and has had great success in reaching children. It is one of many new churches formed in the Philippines in the last year. We are growing!

I preached at St. John’s Methodist Church on Sunday morning. This is a church that exemplifies both the presence of Christ through their amazing church choir and the struggle they have in disaffiliating from The United Methodist Church. The Council of Bishops of the UM Church has ruled that paragraph 2553 does not apply outside of the United States, and so the UM Church annual conference is contesting St. John’s decision to leave the denomination. Both local UM and GM churches are currently sharing the building; it is hoped that the tension will be resolved amicably. The continuing UM congregation is much smaller, but they have control of the church office.

Global Methodists in the Philippines celebrate the continued growth of the new denomination as they worship together.

Another group of local churches is disaffiliating and engaged in conflict with the UM Church. They are considering joining the Global Methodist Church, but they had numerous questions. Our delegation, including Dr. Luther Oconer, the leader of the Philippines Transitional Conference Advisory Team, my wife, Mary Lou Reece, and I, answered as many questions as possible in a Monday morning meeting. They appeared to be encouraged. Such visits with leaders of the general church help local church people trust what God is doing through the new denomination.

Mary Lou and I then visited the Cansinala Christian Community in Pampanga, near Manila. The emphasis on children’s ministry was evident. The children sang for us and demonstrated their love for Jesus. This church is led by a group of women clergy and is experiencing growth since its founding earlier this year. (To view a view short celebration video at Cansinala Christian Community in Pampanga, near Manila, click here.)

These two churches and their emphasis on ministering with children is a strategic choice for Filipino GM Church leaders. One-half of the Philippines population is under the age of 26. That was evident in the laypersons who attended our meetings, because the crowd was much younger than U.S. Methodist meetings of any denomination.

On the following weekend, the convening conference for the Covenant Philippines Annual Conference was held in the province of Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines. It was attended by 500 persons with the theme “Breaking Through.” It also was a Spirit-filled gathering. It started with a motorcade from Cordon to the meeting place, which was the Nueva Vizcaya Conference Center at the Lower Magat Eco-Park, where we were welcomed by the mayor of the city. I presided at the opening worship and Holy Communion service Friday afternoon. Over the three days I taught on the GM Church’s mission statement with sessions covering making disciples, passionate worship, loving extravagantly and witnessing boldly. Dr. Oconer preached a powerful sermon Friday night where a number of people recommitted their lives to Christ.

These two gatherings brought home to me the reality that we are truly a global church. Mary Lou and I were Caucasian persons in a large group of Filipinos. While English was the dominant language, speakers frequently shifted into Tagalog or Ilocano. Local people called it “Taglish” to describe the mixture of the two languages.

Two realities, one spiritual and one personal, emphasized that Mary Lou and I were not in the U.S. (or, given our roots, we weren’t in Kansas anymore!). First, the worship services were frequently like a revival. It was genuinely passionate worship. Many of the speakers were powerful in their prayers and the music was full of praise. Second, for years to come we will treasure the hundreds of photos that were generously shared with us we worshipped and celebrated our Lord with our Filipino friends.

During our eleven days in the Philippines we were blessed with many new friends and an awareness that the Global Methodist Church has a strong group of devoted disciples following Jesus. We are eagerly anticipating further growth and development as this new expression of Methodism spreads across the country as our friends break camp and go forward!

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Bishop Scott J. Jones is an episcopal leader in the Global Methodist Church.

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