|Filipino women ask for support against abuse|
The Rev. Blessing Yap, left, and Chita Millan at the 2009 fall meeting
of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
A UMNS photo courtesy of Blessing Yap.
By United Methodist News Service*
Sept. 22, 2009 | EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS)
More United Methodist women in the Philippines are in church
leadership positions. But they remain underrepresented as clergy in a
church and society challenged by a “culture of silence” in the face of
violence against women and children.
Chita Millan of Pangasinan, Philippines, told the United Methodist
Commission on the Status and Role of Women Sept. 18 that women in the
Philippines need greater church support in cases of domestic and sexual
the commission’s vice president, gave an overview of the lives of women
in the Philippines, particularly the status of United Methodist
laywomen and clergywomen. Her presentation was based on personal
interviews with Filipino women and a survey of United Methodist Women
The survey found that women are gaining ground as leaders. More than
a quarter, or 414, of the 1,600 clergy serving the 600,000 United
Methodist across the Philippines are women. In addition, 430
deaconesses -- laywomen trained and appointed as Christian educators
and teachers across the Philippines -- undergird the church’s mission
“Women are the wind beneath the wings of our church,” the Rev.
Connie Mella, a pastor in the Davao Province, told Millan in a video
interview shown to commission members. She and others hailed the
Filipino Women’s Society of Christian Service.
At the same time, Millan and those she surveyed said women need more
leadership training so that they are equipped to advocate for their
concerns and to bring their voices to regional, national and
international mission, ministry and administration.
Reported cases of violence against Filipino women increased by 21
percent from 2007 to 2008, according to government statistics.
Churchwomen say they need denominational support to help address
physical and sexual violence in their communities and congregations.
Millan and the women surveyed reflected on the “culture of silence”
in the Philippines. “We are taught not to tell family secrets and women
are discouraged from reporting violence by their husbands or other male
family members and friends,” she explained.
“Even in the church, pastors and others don’t know how to support
women who are victims of violence. They feel uncomfortable
interfering,” said Millan, who is also president of the World
Federation of Methodist and Uniting Women. Compounding the silence is
the fact that some pastors themselves are perpetrators of domestic
violence and abuse, Milan said, so they are not receptive to training
Nearly half of the women Millan surveyed—lay workers and clergy—said
they knew of cases of domestic and sexual violence in their
congregations. Respondents also lamented a lack of training for church
workers and reticence among Filipinos to speak publicly about such
To address these concerns, Millan said the Board of Women’s Work, an
umbrella organization of United Methodist women’s groups in the
Philippines, petitioned for—and the Philippines Central Conference
- Mandate women’s studies programs for clergy through the conference board of ordained ministry;
- Require training for pastors on women’s rights and how to identify and address violence against women and children;
- Create church-run “sanctuaries” or shelters for Filipino women and children fleeing sexual and domestic violence.
After the presentation, the Rev. Blessing Yap, a Filipino American
and pastor of Grace-Epworth United Methodist Church, Bartlesville,
Okla., echoed the concerns about domestic and sexual violence,
especially at the hands of United Methodist male pastors, and called
for greater oversight and accountability by United Methodist bishops in
Even when a woman makes a complaint, the pastor is often not removed
from the pulpit, or the process of adjudication is delayed, even in
cases of alleged incest or child sexual abuse, Yap declared. She
challenged the commission to work with the United Methodist Council of
Bishops to insure “that our laws against abuse by clergy are enforced
around the world.”
Sexual misconduct –including harassment, violence, or abuse—is
considered a “chargeable offense,” according to United Methodist Church
The 45-member commission was created in 1972 to advocate for full
inclusion of women in United Methodist structures and creates resources
and trains church leaders on addressing sexual harassment and abuse.
Millan is the agency’s first elected officer from outside the United
*Information for this story was provided by the Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Philippines Episcopal Areas
Philippines: Mercy and Mission - UMC.org
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Commission on the Status and Role of Women
Sexual ethics Web site
Philippines Advance projects
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