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Philippine Bishops: Veteran, new bishops leading in Philippines


Bishop Rodolfo Juan (center) and retired Blshop Robert Spain (right) visit during a recent meeting of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
Bishop Rodolfo Juan (center) and retired Blshop Robert Spain (right) visit during a recent meeting of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

The three episcopal areas of the Philippines Central Conference have new leadership following elections in Bayombong late in December.

Lay and clergy delegates from throughout the multi-island nation re-elected Bishop Rodolfo "Rudy" Alfonso Juan on the fifth ballot. Delegates elected Bishop Pedro M. Torio Jr. on the 19th ballot, while the first election of Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco came on the 25th.

United Methodist bishops in the Philippines are not elected for life but for one four-year term at a time. If the bishop continues to be elected every four years until reaching retirement age, he or she becomes a "bishop for life." If the bishop is too young to retire, the bishop returns to the annual conference as a pastor and surrenders the "episcopal status."

Rodolfo Juan

Juan serves the 11 annual conferences of the Manila Episcopal Area, which has faced controversy in recent years with the suspension and eventual departure from The United Methodist Church of former bishop Lito C. Tangonan. The Filipino bishops are pursuing litigation against Tangonan over disputed church property.

Juan seeks to build more vital congregations and church buildings and to facilitate continuing education for pastors. He also wants to reach out to Filipino United Methodists who have deserted the denomination because their spiritual needs have gone unmet.

He said he would rely on initial financial support from the partnership of United Methodist Communications and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to jumpstart the Philippine Central Conference radio ministry.

Pedro M. Torio Jr.

Torio will serve the Baguio Area, which encompasses eight annual conferences.

Bishop Pedro and Joyce Torio
Bishop Pedro and Joyce Torio

He has been administrative assistant to the bishop and has extensive experience as a pastor and chaplain.

Widespread poverty, threats of violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS are among the challenges he sees facing the church.

Having no stable income or no income at all has kept some people from engaging fully in various ministries of The United Methodist Church, he said.

Torio plans to support a church-based pharmacy program as well as church efforts and government initiatives to help farmers.

Acknowledging that new tensions surface occasionally involving Muslims in the southern part of the Philippines, Torio wants to draw from the United Methodist heritage of "coexisting with other faiths in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding and (to) join forces toward a lasting peace."

Ciriaco Q. Francisco

Serving five annual and provisional conferences, Francisco wants the Davao Area to be a model "in its financial resources and wring out from its lay and clergy ranks passion to make disciples of Jesus Christ that transform lives and transform communities."

Bishop Ciriaco and Restetita Francisco
Bishop Ciriaco and Restetita Francisco

A former district superintendent, Francisco said he would consult lay and clergy to devise training in effective discipleship for church leaders. He also wants to address pastors' salaries, which he said are not sufficient to meet a family's needs, and to build a reputation for channeling church resources into winning souls for Jesus instead of church programs.

The United Methodist congregations in Davao operate in a spiritual environment riddled with Islamic insurgency, he noted. He plans to engage leaders of other Protestant denominations and other faith leaders on how they can work together to promote sustainable peace for spiritual development.

Adapted from United Methodist News Service stories by Tafadzwa Mudambanuki, director of central conference communications for United Methodist Communications.