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Top court rules on Philippine actions


6:00 P.M. EST November 1, 2011 | SAN DIEGO (UMNS)

A UMNS web-only photo illustration.
A UMNS web-only photo illustration.

A continuing dispute over a suspended bishop in the Philippines has led to three new rulings from The United Methodist Church’s top court.

The rulings, issued after the Oct. 26-28 fall meeting of the United Methodist Judicial Council, upheld decisions of law by Bishop Daniel Arichea Jr. about the validity of specific 2011 annual (regional) conference sessions.

These decisions of law, the council pointed out in its rulings, present as “a further unfortunate set of circumstances and series of events in the Philippines Central Conference centering upon the processing of complaints against and the status of a suspended bishop.”

The central conference is a church region comprising the Philippines’ three episcopal areas, each led by a different bishop. The episcopal areas encompass the annual conferences, which are smaller regions than the central conference.

Since the 2011 annual conference sessions, the bishop in question — Bishop Lito C. Tangonan of the Manila Episcopal Area — has been relieved of his office by the United Methodist Council of Bishops. The council’s executive committee took that action in July, according to Arichea, who continues to serve as interim bishop for the Manila Area.

Tangonan was elected bishop in November 2008 at the age of 51, and began a four-year term on Jan. 1, 2009. In December 2009, the College of Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference gave him the first of a series of suspensions.

Bishop Daniel C. Arichea Jr. <br/>
A UMNS  file photo by Mike DuBose.
Bishop Daniel C. Arichea Jr.
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
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Complaint lodged

In April 2010, the Judicial Council ruled in Decision 1149 that the Philippines College of Bishops could handle a complaint against Tangonan. The complaint accused him of misconduct under Paragraph 2702 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline. No details were released about the complaint itself.

Arichea was assigned to replace Tangonan as the presiding bishop of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference on Jan. 10, 2010. He had served as bishop of the Baguio Episcopal Area, in northern Luzon, from 1994 through 2000, before his retirement.

During a May 22, 2010, special session, the Judicial Council affirmed in Decision 1152 Arichea’s decision of law that the officially approved venue of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference’s Feb. 22-25, 2010, session was at Wesleyan University Philippines, not at Carmen United Methodist Church, where a simultaneous session was held.

The Wesleyan site “was validly chosen and designated by a majority of the district superintendents with the consent of the bishop in charge,” the ruling said. Any actions outside of that site “are null, void and of no effect.”

That same year, a majority of the bishops from the Philippines Central Conference asked the Judicial Council “to rule on the legality of actions” taken by the conference’s Committee on Investigation regarding the complaint against Tangonan. The petition alleged “the Committee on Investigation voted to certify six specifications for judicial trial, but refused to refer a charge based on the specification” or “record a vote as to the two other charges” before it.

In an Oct. 30, 2010, ruling (Memorandum 1177), the council said it had no jurisdiction “to conduct an interim review” of the committee’s proceedings. “The Judicial Council’s jurisdiction in this context is limited to appellate review of completed trial proceedings,” the ruling stated.

Bishop Lito C. Tangonan <br/>
A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of The United Methodist Central Conference.
Bishop Lito C. Tangonan
A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of The United Methodist Central Conference.

‘Validly chosen and designated’

Arichea’s decisions of law regarding several 2011 annual conference sessions were the basis of the Judicial Council’s Oct. 28 rulings. The Council of Bishops originally had suspended Tangonan Jan. 20-March 19, 2011, and Arichea was assigned to fulfill all episcopal duties in the Manila Episcopal Area.

His decisions that the annual conference sites were “validly chosen and designated” were upheld for the March 3-5, 2011, Middle Philippines Annual Conference at Roxy Lefforge United Methodist Church, Palayan City; the March 9-11, 2011, Palawan Philippines Annual Conference at Brookes Point, Palayan; and the March 16-18, 2011, Philippines Annual Conference-Cavite at Tagaytay (City) Mission Camp.

All actions of those specific conference sessions “are valid, including the venue, composition, actions and decisions of the session, including the appointments and the election of delegates to General and Central Conference,” the council’s rulings stated. Any “purported annual conference actions” outside of those sessions “are null, void and of no effect.”

Ruben T. Reyes, a Judicial Council member from the Philippines, recused himself from all decisions related to the Philippines Central Conference.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 2 comments

  • Diane Kenaston 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Could you please report on the substance of the simultaneous annual conferences (one valid and one---as we read here---not valid)?  This report is fine in terms of what the Judicial Council had to narrowly rule upon, but we learned nothing about why the conference at Carmen UMC was held in the first place.  The story, I suspect, is in the backstory.  (I further suspect that if this had happened in the US, we would know all the details.)
    show more show less
  • Creed Pogue 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Isn't there already a schism in the Philippines?  It seems a little underwhelming that there aren't any judgments being made about the substance of what has been happening, but instead we seem to stick to procedural issues.
    show more show less

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