United Methodists in the Philippines have elected two new bishops and re-elected a third while celebrating their 100th anniversary as an annual conference of The United Methodist Church.
The Rev. Rodolfo Alfonso Juan was chosen on the seventh ballot, while the Rev. Lito Cabacungan Tangonan was elected in the 11th round of voting. Their four-year terms begin on Jan. 1.
Bishop Leo Soriano was re-elected on the 22nd ballot early in the morning hours of Nov. 24.
The elections occurred as the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference met Nov. 19-24 in Manila, with 496 delegates equally divided between clergy and laity. U.S. Bishop Warner Brown Jr. of the Denver Area presided over the proceedings.
Following the episcopal elections, Juan was assigned to Baguio Episcopal Area, replacing Bishop Benjamin Justo. Tangonan will oversee the Manila Episcopal Area, replacing Bishop Solito Toquero. Soriano was reassigned to the Davao Episcopal Area.
Juan, 47, currently is on special appointment as chaplain of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at a base in Fort Bonifacio. He was born in Baggao, Cagayan, and is married to Lurleen Lapuz, an optometrist. They have two children, Rudolph James, 14, and Pearl, 7 months.
Tangonan, 51, the district superintendent of Quezon City District of the Philippines Annual Conference East, is from San Mateo, Isabela. His wife, Jeanne Grace Domingo, is the internal auditor for Wesleyan University in the Philippines. They have one child, Kerussein Shalom, 18.
Justice Reynato Puno, a United Methodist who is chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, used the backdrop of the conference to call for urgent action to address human rights violations in the Philippines.
Puno has questioned the roles of the Filipino government and military in hundreds of deaths and abductions in the Philippines. Many of the victims have been church workers who support the poor. "Telling the truth requires courage," he said.
"Jesus did not take up 'baby steps' against oppression, and he challenged injustice," Puno said. "It is power that can move. &ellipsis; It is power that can bring change. &ellipsis; Christ is truth that frees people from oppression and greed."
Other conference business included the first Young People's Address, which focused on calls for opportunities for growth; the prioritizing of Christian education; empowerment of lay and clergy together; empowerment of the poor; and creation of comprehensive national programs.
The conference was able to reach Filipinos outside of the country by offering live video and audio streaming of proceedings online.
"As we move forward in the 21st century, we are faced with the realities of increasing Filipino migration and globalization alongside the breakneck speed of technological breakthroughs and innovations," the conference explained on its Web site.
"While the message of Methodism remains the same, the mode of communications and the way people relate with each other have changed. This is the age of instant messaging and chatting, of blogs and Web sites, of e-mails and the Information Superhighway."
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].