Thank you for coming and congratulations for taking part in this historic gathering today. Its significance may not be felt immediately but some years from now, after our consistent commitment, we can look back to this gathering and the people who are here as the key players in bringing the change many have longed for.
This is the reason why I decided to print my message so that you can keep it for reference 3-5 years from now. Not to mention the obvious, that I cannot speak too long, having not fully recovered yet from my ailment. But the urgency of organizing this movement cannot wait for my full recovery. Being personally present is enough for me.
The need for change in the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) has long been felt. Many have been calling for it, some even taking initiatives towards this end. This is one of the important lessons I have learned in my stint as President of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) for two terms in my interaction with pastors in the mainstream. By trying to know the actual situation and improve the life of pastors, I have learned that problems do not only involve personal ones but the system itself. And we can only attain the development of pastors if we change the system, to complement the changes in individual lives.
Let me cite concrete example of defect in the system. We were made to believe before that CPBC is basically for churches and not for pastors, which should be the concern of the CBMA. But when I joined the CPBC Board, I have discovered that foremost of the tripartite intentions of the CPBC is the leadership development of pastors and lay. This was inscribed in the Declaration of CPBC Principles during its founding in 1935. There is an observable trend, however, of the lopsided development in terms of fulfilling its intentions. For so long, the development of ministers was not given much emphasis in programs and services and in the budget.
Similarly, record shows that in 2000, a Ten Year Strategic Plan was formulated which included the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns as a separate program specifically for the development of pastors. This however was not given emphasis and sufficient budget and particular staff.
Why such historical document that is very valuable to pastors not given attention and emphasis reflects the problem in system of leadership and CPBC politics. Indeed, since the time CPBC elections have been highly politicized, the trend in leadership position has drastically changed. Results of elections always favored organized groups that have established and strengthened their mass base and machinery to perpetrate their leadership control and set the direction of the CPBC and related institutions. As such, the CPBC and related institutions have been captive of various interest groups/cliques as the focus shifted to control of leadership and not service and giving direction in implementation of the avowed intentions and purpose of the Convention as chartered by the founders.
Some opined that the development of pastors was not given emphasis to maintain their dependence and loyalty on particular person and group that support them. Because if this has been deliberately undertaken by the CPBC, then the loyalty of pastors will be on the organization not on person.
It has become a perennial problem, criticized, scorned and condemned by some. But oftentimes forgotten in the course of time. Then when the problems manifest, the concerns are revived. There appears to be no deliberate and concerted effort to put an end to this obvious and condemnable activities. Rev. Rustom Ola has rightly described this as form of bondage.
The systemic problem has created a culture of traditional politics of patronage – that one cannot be in the leadership position unless he/she submits to a particular patron/group. Leadership is no longer a matter of capability, ability and skills and tract record but on what has been programmed by the group. Those who do not toe the line or fail to consult the patron are left by their own in their leadership survival. Such approach forces those dreamers of leadership position to establish tactical alliances and trade offs in order to get and subsequently cling to the desired position.
Because of this, the CPBC has been deprived of other qualified and good leaders who cannot win in the elections because of the systemic problem. The trend will continue unless we make a move to form a network of principled individuals and groups to change the system and revive the noble purposes of our pioneer leaders.
MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE INITIATIVES
Our gathering today is not the first effort for change. There has been attempts in the past mostly initiated by younger ones. Unfortunately, seldom has been sustained. I could still recall there was movement of progressive pastors in 1980’s, some seminarians in Panay in 2000. In Negros, a movement of young pastors showed their consolidated strength by daring to challenge the veteran leadership in Negros and foretasted success when they captured the leadership in Kasapulanan in 2006.
After the CPBC election in 2006, kasapulanan presidents also organized themselves to protest the fraudulent election practices. Even the whole assembly has made resolutions to review, redefine, reorganize the CPBC structure, relationship, programs and services as contained in the 2005, 2006 Assembly Resolutions. However, while there are few who patiently continued, many were either coopted of gave up due to the hassles encountered, being vulnerable to institutionalized repression, retaliation and black propaganda from the notorious Dirty Tricks Department used by various groups.
Personally and through the CBMA, I attempted to present the agenda for change entitled IMPROVED MINISTERS: DEVELOPED CPBC (I’M D CPBC) during the CPBC Board of Trustees (BOT) Meeting in 2006 but it was laid on the table. Revised, presented and subsequently endorsed by the CBMA BOT, it was presented again during the February 2009 meeting for CPBC BOT action. Part of the document was also used during the Round table discussion during the 69th CBMA Assembly. But two CPBC administrations have gone, the documents are still kept in the archive.
The situation calls for a deliberate and sustained organizing effort to consolidate the gains and coordinate/synchronize other initiatives for change and set the principled direction to break the cyclic bondage. There is a need for revival of the original purpose and focus of the CPBC. The call to Reclaim the Visionary Intentions and Value system (REVIVAL) represents the aspiration of pastors, as well as lay leaders and youth. The direction is to reclaim the inherent CPBC avowed purposes chartered by our founders.
THE CALL FOR SOLID ORGANIZING AND COORDINATED NETWORK
The REVIVAL Network will advocate to reclaim these as priority concerns for the CPBC, as well as the value system based on Jesus declaration in John 14:6 – His being “the way, truth and the life.” This value system was exemplified by our forefathers/mothers in faith and pioneer leaders who have the spirit of missionaries not mercenaries, truthful and transparent in their service not for personal gain or profit. They served as shepherds, not hirelings, that are concerned with life and not destruction. Truly, they were leaders not dealers who led properly and in right way, not by manipulation. By reclaiming this value system, we will put an end to patronage politics, as those in the leadership positions will truly serve to attain the CPBC tripartite avowed intentions. These are (1) train the Filipino ministers and lay leaders in Christian leadership; (2)organize and establish more Baptist churches of good standing; (3) establish charitable and religious institutions such as schools, hospitals and Christian centers.
Apparently, the CPBC was organized not only for the work of churches but also for the development of ministers and lay leaders, as well as for the establishment of other institutions. Let us emphasis the seemingly neglected CPBC purpose (Article II, Section 1e): “To work with member churches and related institutions in securing the well-being of all its ministers for strengthening of the pastoral ministry and missionary work.”
However, we know that this is not an easy task. The system has been perpetrated for decades. It will take probably equally same length of time to change the system. Hence, the network will be known as REVIVAL 1020 to emphasize a decade of protracted struggle. But we should not forget that successful movements worldwide started small but with sustained commitment. Our Christian faith is a concrete example of this. Moreover, to be specific, we have also experienced success story through the Katipan Hall in Camp Higher Ground. At the start only few believed the possibility to finish the project while more had reservations. But in the process of campaign and construction, the participants have experienced God’s power and provision as church leaders, members and even the public gave their support. Also we realized the beauty of restoring trust and confidence and the power and strength in unity.
With these experiences and many more, we know we can if we will. Because our motives are not selfish. Our basis of unity is in line with God’s will and purpose for the CPBC.
REVIVAL 1020 Network is basically an advocacy network to consistently push for the REVIVAL agenda thru the following: CPBC
Consciousness raising thru information-dissemination of Revival Network’s existence, thrusts and direction, as well as the significant historical role of pastors, lay and youth in the life of CPBC and related institutions and the current realities and trends in CPBC.
Prayer and participation in various groups and CPBC related activities including electoral exercises to support principled leaders for the CPBC Board and Corporation of related institutions who subscribe the principles of the REVIVAL Network
Building of network to coordinate various initiatives for change and development and provide support system for the Network members and others who are persecuted for truth and advocacy work.
Call for transparency and participatory governance in CPBC and related institutions/organizations.
From here, we will take action, strengthen our network, expand our reach and expect REVIVAL in the CPBC. “For if God is with us, who can be against us?”
*Opening Statement during the Organizational Meeting of REVIVAL 1020 Network, April 19, 2010 at Central Philippine University.