With a record attendance of 1,700 at pastors’ conferences in the Philippines, World Vision this summer crowned its 28th and 29th conferences in 11 countries since 1954 with an aggregate participation of more than 21,000 Christian workers.
A majority of the Protestant ministers and other full-time workers (missionaries, evangelists, Bible women, deaconesses) came from near and far for the sixth and seventh Philippines conferences, in Baguio City July 27–31 and in Iloilo City August 3–7. Cooperating were the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches (whose 2,000 congregations are Methodist, Unide de Cristo, Baptist, IEMELIF and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines whose 800 congregations were once Presbyterian, Evangelical United Brethren, Congregational and Disciples of Christ) and unaffiliated groups including Christian and Missionary Alliance, Southern Baptist, Conservative Baptist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Salvation Army, Four Square, Pilgrim Holiness, Seventh-day Adventist, plus other indigenous groups. There are some 100 denominations in the Philippines (ranging even to “The Church of Christ According to Matthew 16:18”) and World Vision has been credited as an instrument which, through evangelical concern and evangelistic earnestness, has drawn together scattered churches and rival denominations with a new sense of mutuality in mission.
A few clouds shadowed the Philippines conferences. The displeasure of ecumenically-active Methodist Bishop Jose Valencia of the Philippines blocked participation of Methodist Bishop Mongal Singh of India, a warm evangelical, as one of the speakers (Bishop Valencia’s son, meanwhile, was a member of a 12-man Methodist team engaged in a four-week Philippines evangelistic conference), but the action had less of a restrictive effect on the participation of Methodist delegates than had been feared. In Iloilo the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (GARBC) carried on regular classes in their school adjacent to the conference and disapproved participation. But Christian workers came from all denominations from many levels of church life, sharing eagerly in the spiritual blessings of a rich and authentic Christian fellowship.
There are only 1,000 ordained Protestant pastors in all the Philippines, a nation of 22 million people. Roman Catholicism claims 85 per cent of the population. Some political observers report that if Rome’s drive for power continues with success for another 10 years no Protestant will hold a chance of election to public office, and approval of Rome will be determinative of political fortunes. The independent Catholic Church, a breakaway movement, claims 5 per cent; the cult of Manalistas (Arian in tendency) claims 5 per cent; Protestants 31/2 per cent; and Moslems, 2 per cent. A marked nationalist trend in 1910 gave impetus to Filipino-led, Filipino-supported and Filipino-administered evangelical churches. This movement accounts for 75,000 of the 300,000 Protestants and has 200 churches in many denominations.
Filipinos speak 76 dialects, although most of the younger generation understand English. Tagalog is increasingly used as the national language. The whole Bible is now available in eight major dialects. The Iloilo conference saw dedication of a revision of the Hilgaynon Bible, in a dialect used by four million people. The revisions was begun in 1938, but suffered a setback when all copies of the completed Old Testament were destroyed during World War II. In the Philippines the next generation is considered decisive for providing Bible revisions in the various dialects.
World Vision’s mission in the Philippines sent workers back to their barrios with a growing evangelistic burden. The climate for evangelism in the Philippines today is at its greatest peak in recent history. Denominational and interdenominational agencies are taking hold of the city-wide mass meeting approach long popularized by Orient Crusades, and are also training laity for personal evangelism.
As in most pastors, conferences, high points came as the invading Spirit of God worked the unprogrammed thing. In crowded Baguio dormitory rooms workers shared spiritual needs and victories in the afterglow of powerful evening meetings. Several ministers, recent seminary graduates, professed the new birth during the meetings, and many renewed their surrender to Christ. One pastor brought three of his children, their training for Christian service ended, for public dedication, and a dozen other tear-dimmed young people joined them at the altar.
Iloilo delegates gathered on the edge of typhoon weather, holding their opening meeting in Central Philippines University, the country’s second largest. Although American Baptist in sponsorship (the west central islands are historically “Baptist territory”), its Roman Catholic enrollment, now 55 per cent, has steadily increased as Roman churchmen have threatened such students with excommunication; in recent years one in three such students has become a Protestant convert. Christian workers gathered for Iloilo sessions by boat-load, planeload, train-load, bus-load and on foot. Their stories of sacrifice and hardship demanded in their work, encouraged each other as they came. One national pastor walks 60 miles to serve his three parishes. Fifty pesos ($25) is the average monthly stipend for many workers, and often this is paid in equivalent rice or other food. A UCCP fraternal worker, Robert Malcolm, who traveled third class with 250 national workers by boat, repressed tears to tell of the deprivation of the workers. Most came carrying shoes for conference wear, being too poor to afford them for everyday use, and their dress shirts were mended and remended. But Iloilo quickly submerged tribal features and dress and linked the workers heart to heart in prayer for their land of 7,082 islands, 2,000 of them inhabited the year round.
The evangelical task in the Philippines gains special urgency from the fact that this land is a showcase of democracy in southeast Asia. But it lacks the spiritual background and moral power which shaped American traditions. The four-year Japanese occupation had a debilitating influence which dissolved inherited standards in many places. Before the occupation human life was held in higher reverence and it was not unusual even for a woman whose chastity has been involuntarily violated to take her life rather than to face society. Through the occupation, cruelty, torture and even murder became means to material benefits. Not only the Japanese occupation, but the American movie has had a part in lowering sex morality. The breakdown of political morality, and resultant corruption in office, is a barrier to government stability, as is the problem of inflation. Meanwhile, American emphasis on a higher living standard has shaped somewhat of an idolatry of luxury on the part of the younger generation, although this does not prevail in the provinces. Some observers think that, unless spiritual revival sweeps the land, Philippine greatness must wait for another generation.
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