“The view that the Church needs to engage the world is both critical and timely, it is about time for us to seriously understand and undertake this focus.” These are the words of Bishop Nathanael P. Lazaro, General Superintendent of Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF) and current Chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) during his Episcopal message delivered at the IEMELIF General Conference last February 24, 2011. Addressing more than 500 lay leaders and pastors, the Bishop set a fresh understanding of the missionary task of the Church as it should be relevant and contextualized to the realities of the time.
With the theme “Visible Unity: A Force to Engage the World”, the Bishop eloquently articulated the ecumenical agenda vis-à-vis social imperatives of the Church, which according to him, should not be “limited on the salvation of man’s soul but also the redemption of the whole created order.” Both jubilant and humbled, he reported to the Conference two major accomplishments done under his aegis as General Superintendent. First is the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement by the IEMELIF and the IEMELIF Reform Movement (IRM) leadership to end the 18-year old dispute. Second is the return of the break-away group led by the Rev. Nathanael Juane during the Sole-aggregate schism in 2002. He thanked Rev. Juane for ‘reversing the history of the Church,’ referring to the seven major schisms that happened in the IEMELIF since its founding. All congregations and church workers of the sole group already returned to the IEMELIF fold last August 2010.
Bishop Lazaro, powerfully instigated a challenge for the IEMELIF membership to be united while seeking and pursuing to be a socially relevant church. The IEMELIF celebrated its 102nd founding anniversary on February 27, 2011 at the plenary hall of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). Nicholas Zamora founded the Church in 1909 as indigenous and self-sufficient, free from any foreign governance.
Text and photos submitted by Ariel Siagan