2017 has been a very fulfilling year for the ECP. We have intensified our gains towards Vision 2018 while positively addressing emerging challenges and obstacles.
As we step into the last year of Vision 2018, it is reported that as of 2017, we have admitted in union with their respective diocesan conventions a total of 80 full-fledge parishes. Ten years ago, we had only 27 parishes established in 106 years or from 1901 to 2007. Part of Vision 2018 then was to enable all our congregations to mature into full parish-hood so they can enjoy the privileges of a self-governing and self-reliant congregation fully entitled to and exercising responsibility for the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom of God, nurture of New Believers, a loving service response to human needs, transformation of unjust structures of society and safeguarding the integrity of creation. Recent reports also indicate that the dioceses will be able to finish 2018 with a total of 99 full-fledge and about 30 aided parishes. While this will not meet the number targeted in 2008, it would still be more than 3 times the base figure when Vision 2018 was crafted. In 10 years, we would have built twice the number of full-fledge parishes that we established in 106 years. The number of congregations that are either full-fledge, aided or provisional parishes will far surpass those of mission stations and outstations, unlike in 2007 when parishes were almost the exception to the general classification of ECP congregations.
For 2015-2016, membership growth rate was recorded at 5% or from 133,891 to 144,094. Since population growth rate in the Philippines for the same period stood at 1.5645%, it is inferred that the increase in ECP membership went beyond mere population growth. Certainly, there were cases of double [or maybe even triple] registration, but there were also cases of non-registration of some members. The improvement of our recording system is a work in progress.
Per capita giving has been increasing over the years. There was a time in recent ECP history when giving was averaged at less than P50. As of 2016, per capita giving was recorded at P568.98.
The ECP has been performing very well in its investments. For 2017, investment targets have been surpassed and an extra-ordinary income [derived from the trading of fixed-income treasury bonds] of P1,102,900.70 was generated. It should be noted that there is now a total of P14 million real estate fund that was derived from extra-ordinary income in recent years, which is now designated for the purchase of real assets.
We toast the champagne glass for meeting the target P10 million Scholarship Fund of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary [SATS] at its feast day celebration last 30th of November. Four years ago, the fund stood at less than half the target after several years, prompting retired Prime Bishop Renato M. Abibico to comment that it seemed as if we will complete the amount at the second coming of the Lord. SATS Board set the completion date on 30 November 2017 and everybody worked hard for it. The realization of the target was a clear testament to what ECP members can do if they pool their efforts and resources together.
We had a smooth leadership change when The Rt. Rev. Joel A. Pachao was installed as the 6th Prime Bishop of the ECP on 26th October 2017. This allowed Bishop Abibico to finally take the retirement course, just in time for escaping the age-related physical pains that often visit even a stallion working beyond 65 years.
At the 2017 Provincial Synod, we made some significant changes in our Constitution and Canons which is now becoming uniquely cognizant of our particular context. We re-affirmed our basic principles on the sacredness of human life when we spoke out against the death penalty, the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, manifested our support to the anti-drug campaign but expressed serious concern over the killings and the atmosphere of impunity that has engulfed the country and also expressed support to the peace talks. We approved the creation of a new diocese out of the current Diocese of North Central Philippines.
On the negative side, we lost The Rt. Rev. Esteban G. Sabawil in early 2017, after serving just a little more than a year as Diocesan of Northern Luzon. We also lost a number of clergy and lay leaders. May they all rest in eternal peace.
We continue to be challenged by the shortfall of financial resources in our Diocese of Davao. Our Council of Bishops and Executive Council are working towards enabling the diocese to meet this challenge.
Finally, the 2017 Synod has set the period from June 2017 to May 2020 as a Mission Re-invigoration Triennium to give particular focus, energy and resources to the following:
1] The mobilization of the ECP constituency during the next 18 months towards completing the targets for Vision 2018;
2] The conduct of a visioning process that will include diocesan consultations and a national summit to build into the accomplishments of Vision 2018 and craft the vision of this Church for the future;
3] The comprehensive review of the Constitution and Canons of this Church in order to open up its structures and canonical framework to a more dynamic and vibrant mission work.
Let us now brace ourselves and dive into full participation in the mission re-invigoration ahead!
(Written by Atty. Floyd Lalwet, Provincial Secretary of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines)