Global Church Partnership Histories

"Once we have broken bread together, knelt together, prayed together, begun to understand each other as communities of faith, then we will undo our old thinking and have a real partnership." -from the Ohio Conference's statement on Global Church Partnership

Most Global Church Partnerships developed in the early 1990's. Working closely with Global Ministries staff (United Church Board for World Mission, at the time), leaders from the UCC Conference or Disciples Region and leaders of the International Partner Church were identified and introduced. Then began a long process of "courting," a time during which the US/Canada Global Church Partner and the International Global Church Partner could get to know one another.

These documents present the stories behind Global Church Partnerships that have developed and grown.

Central Atlantic Conference UCC, the Connecticut Conference UCC and Justapaz, the Mennonite Churches in Colombia

Illinois South Conference UCC and the United Evangelical Church, Ecuador

Minnesota Conference UCC and the Mindanao Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Ohio Conference UCC with the Evangelical Church of the Union (EKU) in Germany

Kansas-Oklahoma Conference and the Madhya Kerala Diocese of the Church of South India

Wisconsin Conference


Minnesota Conference UCC and the Mindanao Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines

History

Prepared by Glen Herrington-Hall
September 15, 1998

Our partnership with the Mindanao Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines began in 1986, under the guidance of the Associate Conference Minister, Robert Bergfalk, and the Minnesota Conference Stewardship/OCWM Committee. The Task Force was established to develop and coordinate partnership activities.

One major accomplishment in the first years of the relationship was a book drive for the library of the theological school at Southern Christian College in Midsayap, Cotabato.

The Bishop of the Mindanao Jurisdiction, Rev. Lorenzo Genotiva, with his wife Amy, visited our conference from November 1990 to March 1991. This was a significant step in the development of our partnership. They were warmly received and their visit is fondly remembered by many of the churches that hosted them.

In addition to Bergfalk, several other MN Conference clergy traveled to the Philippines during those years, including, Don Britt (Gaylord), Jeff Stinehelfer (Conference Minister) and Jerry Hankins (Morris), who participated in an exchange of pastors with a congregation in Mindanao in the summer of 1992.

Ambitious plans were made, including several youth/young adult work camps, dialogue on the Theology of Struggle, work with the conference Peace and Justice Task Force on Philippine issues, student/faculty exchanges, and visits from the bishop and other UCCP representatives. For a variety of reasons, including funding and staff changes, these goals were not met.

The Task Force, in recent years, has worked with the United Theological Seminary (UTS) of the Twin Cities to sponsor students from the Philippines for an academic year as well participate in our summer camping program. While a few students have studied here, obtaining visas for visitors from the Philippines presents a major challenge.

Since the addition of Rev. Eleazar Fernandez (raised in Leyte and a graduate of the Philippine Christian University) to the faculty of UTS, our partnership efforts have received new life. As part of the globalization of the curriculum at UTS, Rev. Fernandez has led one 14-day exposure trip (January 1997) to the Philippines for students, faculty and others and is arranging another for next January. With the support of the Task Force, half of the last trip was spent in Mindanao, visiting UCCP schools, churches and development projects. I was fortunate to have participated in that trip and have worked with the Task Force since my return to further develop our partnership.

Just this month (Sept1998), we have welcomed Rev. Teresita de la Cruz to the Minnesota Conference. She is Dean of Theology at Southern Christian College and is taking classes at UTS toward a doctorate with the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology. UTS has provided a scholarship to cover her tuition, books and some expenses. The Task Force has committed itself to raising funds to provide for her rent, additional living expenses and transportation; in return, Rev. de la Cruz will also be visiting local churches and participating in the life of our Minnesota Conference as her studies and academic schedule allow.

In the meantime, we are recruiting MN Conference congregations to be in one-to-one partnerships with congregations and conferences in Mindanao. Partnership guidelines have been developed and approved by our Task Force and Conference Council as well as the Bishop of the Mindanao Jurisdiction. We are also hoping to sponsor a work camp to Mindanao in March of 2000 for 8-10 persons from our conference churches. While young adults are the focus of this trip, we will welcome participation from any interested adults.

Communication between our Task Force and the Mindanao Jurisdiction is often difficult and frustrating, although we are now able to communicate quickly and often via the internet. A new church constitution for the UCCP, adopted in May of 1998, created two new jurisdictions in Mindanao and two new bishops. These changes help provide a more reasonable focus to our partnership efforts; the previous Mindanao Jurisdiction included over 850 congregations!

An update, June 8, 2001

Eleazar Fernandez has since led a second exposure trip to the Philippines, centered in Luzon; three students from that trip have since visited again, to create a video on poverty and children as part of an independent study project.

Rev. Anacleto Serafica, bishop of the newly created South East Mindanao Jurisdiction, spent 10 days in the Minnesota Conference in November 1999. He visited several local congregations and met with our Conference and Eastern Association Councils. That visit strengthened our ties and allowed us to make plans for my visit in March 2000 to the SEMJ.

Rev. Cromwell Rabaya, program coordinator of the SEMJ recently visited the U.S. in October 2000 as part of a delegation sponsored by the Presbyterian Synod in Michigan and Ohio. I was able to meet with Rev. Rabaya in Cleveland, where the Global Missions staff hosted us graciously and generously. Rev. Rabaya has been the primary contact and resource person for me as our partnership efforts have continued. Out time together at 700 Prospect was productive and encouraging.

I visited the SEMJ in March 2000 to visit various communities, met clergy and other church workers, to lay the groundwork for the Partnership Visit from the Minnesota Conference, which took place in March 2001. 12 adults from across the Conference participated, spending two weeks as guests of the newly-formed Partnership Committee of the SEMJ; through various immersion experiences, we attempted to enter into their daily lives so that we might learn more about our brothers and sisters in Mindanao and how they live out their faith in often difficult conditions and with limited resources. Each of us, Minnesota Conference visitors and our SEMJ hosts, opened ourselves to the many possibilities God is offering us for faithful and creative partnership with one another.

In addition to supporting a partnership between UTS in New Brighton, encouraging student and faculty exchanges, our visit set before us some possible goals for our Partnership, including Minnesota Conference sponsored and funded visits, first by a delegation from the SEMJ, and then by young adults from our conference to the SEMJ; an annual Partnership with common liturgy, hymns and texts as well as an exchange of a special offering taken that day; advocacy on shared concerns (economic, political, environmental, etc.); resource sharing; a scholarship program for the children of UCCP pastors; and direct partnerships between congregations or clusters here and circuits of churches within the conferences of the SEMJ.

Partnership guidelines

Partner churches of the Mindanao Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ in North America seek to realize the Christian unity that has often eluded us because of differences in culture, language and world view. Indeed, we are already one in Jesus Christ. Our partnerships will be built on the common ground of a shared faith and desire for unity among Christians and the integrity of creation.

Partnerships can be created between any of the several organizations that make up our respective churches: individual congregations and parishes, clusters, committees, conferences and associations. In these guidelines, the participating organizations will be known as Partner Churches.

Partner Churches agree to: 

  • confess the dependency, discrimination and domination that have kept us from embracing each other as full and equal members of the body of Christ. 
  • seek the guidance of the Spirit of God as we open ourselves to a renewed sense of faith and mission and new understanding of what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ. 
  • establish partnerships based on equality, mutuality, solidarity and unity. 
  • recognize the differences that exist between us as gifts from God so that they become the cornerstones of understanding and appreciation rather than stumbling blocks to a shared faith and mission. 
  • pray and advocate for peace based on justice (economic, social, political, racial and religious) in our own contexts and on behalf of all persons and the whole of creation. 
  • share with each other the particular priorities and concerns of our congregations and their communities so that we might find ways to support each other in our ministries. 
  • trust one another by listening to one another, challenging and supporting each other as we learn to speak the truth in love. 
  • communicate on all partnership activities through the Philippine Partnership Task Force (Minnesota Conference, UCC) and the Bishop's office (South East Mindanao Jurisdiction, UCCP) in order to share the good news of these partnerships and receive support from our respective leadership. 
  • commit to a 5-7 year partnership, with annual evaluation and a final review so that partners can celebrate what has been accomplished, learn from the experiences and renew their commitment with same or another partner.

Partner Churches are strongly encouraged to work together to establish clear goals. These goals will provide concrete steps that will help them each enjoy the full fruits of their partnership. Partnership Committees in each setting, working closely with each other, could develop and carry out the programs to meet those goals. They would be responsible for sharing the good news about the partnership, not only between the partners but in their respective churches and to the wider church as well. Regular evaluation of the goals and programs is essential for reflection, renewal and the inevitable redirection of the partnerships.

Within and between the Partner Churches, activities could include: 

  • exchange of ideas and programs as well as newsletters, etc. 
  • sharing of worship and education resources. 
  • regular prayer for each other's members, programs and concerns as well as prayer for the partnership itself. 
  • material assistance (books, education materials, etc.) 
  • theological dialogue. 
  • study and advocacy of public policy and social justice issues, especially at points of mutual interest, experience and concern. 
  • sharing human resources, i.e., persons with particular gifts, technical knowledge or professional skills for training and service (teachers, musicians, theologians, agriculturalists, compu e programmers, etc.) 
  • craft exchanges. 
  • financial assistance, as appropriate, in the knowledge that such assistance has historically led to dependency and colonialism that we are called to resist. Any financial projects will be coordinated through Global Ministries.
  • creating and supporting opportunities for exposure and study trips, including education and mission tours, youth and adult work camps, clergy sabbaticals and exchanges, hosting and visiting partners, etc. 
  • other projects that can be a joint venture of the Minnesota Conference and the South East Mindanao Jurisdiction.

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