Friday, January 25, 2019

Recommended readings: Filipino debates on the Traditional(ist) and One Church Plan

American readers will no doubt be familiar with the terms on which the debate over the plans before General Conference 2019 has played out among American United Methodists. Americans, however, are generally less privy to how that debate is construed elsewhere. Two recent Facebook posts give a sense of how that debate is playing out in the Philippines.

The first post is by Luther J. Oconer, a Filipino living in the US and teaching at United Theological Seminary, where he is a member of the United Methodist Professors of Mission, sponsors of this blog. Oconer argues against the One Church Plan and for the Traditional Plan.

The second post is by SJ Early Canlas, a Filipino United Methodist living in Manila and former secretary of the Philippines Central Conference. Canlas rebuts Oconer's argument and instead argues for the One Church Plan over the Traditional Plan.

While many elements of their cases will seem familiar to Americans - discussions of unity, mission, theologies of sexuality, etc. - what is unique about this discussion in Philippine perspective is the added dimension of what this debate says about the relationship between the UMC in the Philippines and the UMC in the United States. Oconer charges that the One Church Plan is a way for American United Methodists to resist being influenced by United Methodists from the Philippines and Africa. Both authors argue that some American United Methodists are unduly influencing United Methodism in the Philippines.

While for American United Methodists, the debates surrounding GC2019 are debates about how American progressive and traditionalist United Methodists should relate to one another, for many United Methodists outside the US, the debates are instead about how American and non-American United Methodists should relate to one another.

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