The Beginnings of Reformed-Presbyterian Churches in the Philippines (Part 1)


Part 2Download this article (PDF)

Artwork by Keren Tan Chu
Artwork by Keren Tan Chu

The exercise of a federative relationship is possible only on the basis of unity in faith and in confession. (I Corinthians 10:14-22; Gal. 1:6-9; Ephesians 4:16-17) ~ “Foundational Principles of Reformed Church Government” by the United Reformed Churches in North America

Last week, Rev. Richard Bout, Chairman of the Missions Committee (MC) of the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) visited our two churches in Pasig and Imus. Rev. Bout served as a missionary pastor in Tepic, Nayarit in Mexico for 15 years. The MC is exploring ways in which it can serve our two young churches in the Philippines.

Pasig Covenant Reformed Church (now located in Cainta, Rizal) started as a small home Bible study in June 2008 after Rev. Nollie Malabuyo was called and ordained to be a missionary-pastor to the Philippines by Trinity URC in Walnut Creek, California. Last year, our Lord’s Day attendance peaked at about 40-50, but has currently settled back to about 30-35. Trinity Covenant Reformed Church in Imus, Cavite also started as a small home Bible study in June 2011. Current Lord’s Day attendance also averages 30-35 people. The church in Imus has a minister, Rev. Lance Filio, who preaches and teaches every other Lord’s Days, and two elders and two deacons. The Pasig church is served by two elders and two deacons as well, but is currently in search of a minister. Rev. Bout preached in both of our churches on February 1, and held a seminar on marriage and parenting on February 7. He also presented his work in Mexico on the Lord’s Day February 8.

On February 4-5, Mr. Ryan Reyes, one of our Pasig elders, and Pastor Nollie accompanied “Pastor Richard” to Cagayan De Oro to meet with two Reformed groups in the area. In the Lord’s providence, Revs. Bout, Stephen ‘t Hart of the Free Reformed Church in Baldivis, Western Australia, and Raymond Sikkema, a retired URCNA pastor, all came to visit and hold seminars in Cagayan De Oro (CDO) and Davao almost at the same time.

Beginnings in Davao City

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

How did our two churches get connected with these groups in CDO and Davao, and other places in the Philippines? A brief review of events in the last 20 years or so will help. In 1993, Pastor Nollie and his wife joined a mission organization called Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT). So in 1995, after working as a mechanical engineer for 19 years in the States, Pastor Nollie and his family arrived in Davao City, working there as a Computer Specialist until 2001. From the outset, they searched for a Reformed presbyterian church, but in vain. In 1999, feeling the great need for Bible-based preaching and teaching, they started a home Bible study with a few friends that included Vic and Cathy Bernales and Bob Sterner, another WBT missionary and a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).

In January 23, 2000 (supposed to be the end of the world!), the small group started worship services on the Lord’s Day, with Dr. Donald Paauw (Trinity URC) as guest preacher. The congregation agreed to name the church Davao Covenant Reformed Church (DCRC). In February 2001, we were able to convince Rev. Steven Poelman, a URC missionary-pastor in India, to fill our vacant pulpit. We were blessed with his preaching and teaching until he returned to the States in October 2001. Later in 2001, at our recommendation and with the help of Trinity URC, Dr. Paauw and Mr. David Linden (former elder at Bethel URC, Calgary, Alberta, Canada), Mr. Bernales started his studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, obtaining his M.Div. in 2008.

The United Covenant Reformed Churches in the Philippines

Pastor Nollie also started his studies at Westminster Seminary in California in 2001. After obtaining his M.Div. in 2005, he and his wife returned to the Philippines, still as a missionary with WBT. Through the Internet, he started meeting with Revs. Edwin Puzon, Napoleon Narag and Rey Domingo in Manila in 2001. As a result of these meetings, the United Covenant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (UCRCP) was born in 2005, with three mission churches in Las Piñas (Metro Manila), San Carlos (Pangasinan), and San Pablo (Laguna). Because the church in San Carlos did not have a minister, Pastor Nollie committed to preach there once a month, traveling six hours by bus, jeepney and tricycle. In 2009, DCRC joined the UCRCP, and in 2010, Rev. Vic Bernales was ordained by the pastors and elders of the denomination.

Blogosphere Spreads Reformed Christianity in the Philippines

To keep up with the times, Pastor Nollie started a blog which he called Doctrine Unites! in November 2006. Since the first post, people from all over the Philippines (and the world) have viewed and read articles about many different aspects of Reformed doctrine, worship and life. We will never know how much Doctrine Unites! has spread Reformed Christianity in the Philippines, but to date, this blog has over 350,000 views. Pastor Nollie has received many inquiries from Filipino brothers and sisters about the Reformation, and who are now searching for Reformed churches in their locations. As a result, he has been invited to preach and teach as far north as Vigan, Ilocos Sur and as far south as CDO and Marawi City.

Conferences and Classes

Click image to enlarge
Artwork by Keren Tan Chu (click image to enlarge)

To further promote Reformation in the Philippines, we supported and sponsored various conferences and seminars in the Philippines. In June 1999 in Davao City, our very young church sponsored a Y2K Conference, focusing on Reformed eschatology and warning over 200 attendees to avoid gross speculations about the end of the world.

After finishing his M.Div. at WSC in 2005, Pastor Nollie taught various classes at Unida Biblical Seminary and Presbyterian Theological Seminary for two years. Several of his students who are now pastors have embraced Reformed Christianity as a result, even at the cost of ridicule and persecution.

In May 2009, our church promoted the Manila Conference on Theology, featuring Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At this conference, some of our members met Pastor Brian Najapfour for the first time. He has served as pastor of Dutton URC in Caledonia, Michigan since 2012.

In January 2010, our church, together with three other pastors (whom I will mention again in Part 2), sponsored another Conference on Theology, “Putting Amazing Back into Grace,” featuring Dr. Michael Horton, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at WSC. While Dr. Horton was here, Pastor Nollie introduced him to Ms. Tiffany Liong (Gabuya), Station Manager of DZFE. This meeting resulted in the weekly airing of White Horse Inn broadcast at DZFE.

And in October 2014, Rev. Michael Brown, pastor of Christ URC in San Diego, California came to Manila as the featured speaker in a conference with the theme “Exploring Covenant Theology.” He was invited by Grace Covenant Evangelical Church, Pilgrim Community Church, and PCRC.

In addition to these conferences, we have held annual seminars and classes under Rev. Allen Vander Pol of Miami International Theological Seminary (MINTS) and Mr. Linden. Mr. Linden was also instrumental in providing funds for PCRC’s H-P laser printer.

One of the goals of Pastor Nollie was to hold classes for pastors who lack theological education. Mr. Linden was once again instrumental in providing funds for the purchase of the first 200 books of what we called Mars Hill Study Center, which is now MINTS Philippines, headed by Bro. Benjamin Anum-Higher.

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.” (Psalm 66:1-4)

Part 2