New UCCP Gen Sec Hails From Baguio

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY — Who would have known that a small boy flying kites in what they called a “plateau” at Malvar Street, Aurora Hill or playing ‘siyatong’ in Burnham Park would one day become the general secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)?

Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, the son of Bishop Emeritus Juan A. Marigza and Lourdes Ofilas was elected general secretary of the UCCP in the recently concluded quadrennial assembly held last week of May at the Silliman University in Dumaguete.

Bishop Reuel graduated from the Dona Aurora Elementary School in 1971 and the Pines National High School in 1975 with a first honorable mention citation. The Bishop graduated at University of Baguio in October 1979 with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Education, major in History and English minor. He taught at the UB High School in 1979 to 1980.

He graduated at the Asian Theological Seminary with a degree of Master of Divinity, cum laude in 1983 and finished his Masters of Theology at Silliman in 2007. Prior to his election as general secretary, he was a professor at the Divinity School of Silliman University.

Nordis asked him some questions.

Nordis: What do you think are the challenges that UCCP will face in the coming four years?

Bishop Reuel (BR): Internally, the issue of church unity is foremost. We must exert effort in bridging the gap between groups who think that their group’s agenda should be the main agenda of the church. But as I stated in my inaugural sermon, there is room in the church for all the different ministries. These elements must not compete with one another, but must complete one another. Internal consolidation will be a priority. This will be done through the Christian Education component of our work. The people on the pews of the UCCP must understand what we believe in and what we stand for. We are coming out with a new commentary on the Statement of Faith and popularize the same through some Study Guides.

We should also try to address the miserable plight of many of our church workers who live under extreme poverty. Even to these days there are pastors receiving less than one thousand pesos a month, yet continue to toil and labor for the Master’s sake. The Church must do something about this.

Externally, Church and State dynamics must be faced. Many UCCP clergy and lay leaders had fallen victims to extra-judicial killings. Government must be made to account for its miserable record in addressing this issue, giving credence to the view that because it has done virtually nothing that it was complicit in these killings. Other than that, there are the enforced disappearances and arrests on false charges. UCCP lay leader, Dr. Alex Montes of the Morong 43 still remains in detention.

Nordis: Your term is coincidentally starting as a new administration comes to power, how do you see the role of UCCP in this regime?

BR: We will continue to be a prophetic voice vis-à-vis the government. But we can also be partners in pro-people policies and programs that the new administration will push forward. Of particular interest to us is the peace talks, climate change, just closure of human rights cases since the Marcos regime up to the Arroyo regime.

Nordis: In the ecumenical movement, what will UCCP’s role be?
BR: The UCCP is a concrete result of the ecumenical endeavor. From five faith tradions, we became one church. Thus our Declaration of Principles states that we are a united and a uniting church and that we recognize the ecumenicity and catholicity of the Body of Christ. We will continue to be a leading force in the ecumenical movement here and abroad.

But ecumenism as understood in the UCCP goes beyond the traditional denominational lines. This ecumenism, according to the UCCP Policy Statement on Ecumenical Relations, has come out of the Church’s ministry in identity and solidarity with people’s struggle for justice, peace and freedom.”

Nordis: In the peace movement, GRP-NDFP peace talks and Moro separatists, what will UCCP’s role be?

BR: We will push for parties to return to the negotiating table, and continue to address issues like the CASER. We will be willing to be among the third party observers and facilitators to this process.

Nordis: The Low Intensity conflict was used against the church, do you see a continuation of the same politico-military tactic especially as UCCP has been branded as soft on the Left?

BR: The extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and arrests on trumped-up cases remind us of tactics plated during the Martial Law. They are very similar to what had been the result of the implementation of the Banzer Plan in Latin America, and its local counter-part, the Kintanar Paper which proposed ways on how to handle dissent from the Church.

As a result, many clergy were killed, tortured, disappeared in the reign of terror against the Church which stood for the poor and the oppressed.

As I said in my inaugural sermon: we will not bow the knee. We will continue to be faithful to the demands of Scripture. We will raise a prophetic voice whenever it is needed. (Northern Dispatch/Posted by

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