Last week I sat in on a meeting of the Joint Committee of Philippine Companionship (JCPC). The JCPC was created to uphold the covenant relationship between The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP). The committee is co-chaired by bishops from both churches and has members from varying leadership roles within the church.
The purpose of this meeting was to have a formal sit-down meeting because the last one was a few years ago and to have a pre-Lambeth meeting. Lambeth is a conference of all the bishops of the Anglican communion which will be held this summer in England. All 8 bishops of the ECP are planning to attend.
Topics covered in the JCPC meeting included education and spiritual programs, scholarships, community development, sustainability, partnerships, and clergy and bishop education programs. The meeting was introduced to me as a “meeting among friends” and it definitely felt that way. In order to conduct the meeting in a less formal way, the meeting opened with discussion and the reading of the minutes and the roll call were held to the end..
Our meeting started with sharing what our churches have been focused on since the last meeting. TEC talked about our work with the Way of Love and digital communication. ECP talked about their vision 2028 “Scripture Rooted, Spirit-Fired, Discipled Parishes” and their work with Bible literacy within the church.
Our next topic was diving into reflecting on the work that the JCPC supported in the Philippines. A major topic that was discussed is a scholarship for international students coming to the Philippines for seminary studies. The scholarship is funded by TEC and covers housing, airfare, visa, and all costs for school. The students have already received bachelor’s in divinity and are coming to receive masters. This will be the first-year students will be graduating since the scholarship started. We discussed the highlights and room for improvement in the program. There are 10 students currently studying as recipients of this scholarship. 9 of them are from Myanmar and 1 from Bangladesh. Two of the Myanmar students are female, the Anglican church in Myanmar does not, however, ordain women. Altogether, the Dean of the seminary says the program has been a great benefit and success. They discussed increasing funding for the program and expanding the search for students to other countries.
Another partner program that has been shown to be a success is a carbon offset program. The program is a partnership between E-CARE and Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). The program financially rewards parishes for planting and maintaining trees. Parishes plant 3,000 trees and maintain them. If at least 2,000 trees are still alive after 2 years, the parish receives $2,000 USD. Since the launch of the program, over 138,000 trees have been planted.
ERD and E-CARE have also partnered to help with assistance in rebuilding communities devastated by earthquakes this past October and December. E-CARE is assisting 4 communities with rebuilding their houses as well as livelihoods following their asset-based model for development. Community members will be trained in building and then will provide the labor. They will also pay back the cost of the land, those funds will then be used when another calamity hits another area. This model has already been a success in the Visayas region after a typhoon destroyed a town.
YASC was also discussed. Henry and I shared our experiences and how happy and fortunate we feel to have been placed here. We both think the ECP are wonderful hosts for YASCers and encouraged them that, if the occasion arises, they can coach other provinces about training and hosting foreigners. They have done a wonderful job of including us, teaching us, but also understanding we are young adults who are still figuring out ourselves and how hard living in a foreign culture can be.
Another area of collaboration is trainings, immersions, and exchange programs for ordained and lay leaders of the church. A few years ago, the ECP bishops participated in a retreat led by Bishop Fitzpatrick from the Diocese of Hawaii. They discussed holding a similar course again because the ECP has multiple new bishops. A few years ago, the seminary here felt the need to train more Filipinos to be professors. This need was met with a scholarship program with Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP). There have now been 3 participants pursuing master’s degrees in a variety of areas. There were also discussions considering exchange and immersion programs for clergy but no definite plans were brought forth.
The final area of significant discussion was the consideration of partner schools. There are Episcopal high schools both in the US and in the Philippines that could become sister schools. I got to contribute on this topic because my Chinese class in high school had the benefits of having a sister school in China. As a group, it was decided this could be an exciting area for partnership. Henry and I were charged with taking this project on finding teachers that will be enthusiastic about taking this on. We also have to figure out internet capabilities and the details of the partnerships.
The future of the ECP and TEC’s relationship is a bright one. There are many areas to which both churches can contribute and I am excited as the relationship between the two entities becomes more of a partnership and less of a mother and daughter church model.