The spread of Reformed presbyterianism in the Philippines was not limited to Manila and the island of Luzon, but also included other parts of the country.
CDO, Marawi City and Other Mindanao Groups
In 2009, Pastor Vic Bernales introduced his friend Glimar (Glem) Melo, a pastor in Cagayan De Oro City, to the UCRCP. The denomination hoped that Pastor Glem would join them. However, in 2010, he eventually decided not to join the UCRCP. Our Pasig church also unanimously voted to withdraw from the UCRCP due to concerns about its hierarchical form of church government and Christian liberty issues.
Shortly after his decision not to pursue membership in the UCRCP, Pastor Glem requested Pastor Nollie to interview their 20-plus regular attendees and administer their professions of faith. In September 2010, Pastor Nollie traveled to CDO and did as requested in a joyful Lord’s Day worship at Kagay-an Reformed Church (KRC), the new name of his church.
Pastor Glem also introduced Pastor Nollie to Mr. Jim Ouano, a lecturer at Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City (a predominantly Islamic city), and who also leads a group of students in worship and Bible studies. Pastor Glem again requested Pastor Nollie to interview Bro. Jim for eldership at KRC, and the Marawi group for professions of faith. In December 2010, Pastor Nollie returned to CDO and traveled to Marawi. After sustaining the interview, Bro. Jim was installed as an elder of KRC. About 20 brothers and sisters in Marawi were also interviewed and joyfully made professions and received their first Holy Communion as a Reformed congregation.
Most recently, Pastor Jim Ouano invited Pastor Nino Cuevas of Grace Church in Talakag, Bukidnon to attend Rev. Stephen ‘t Hart’s lectures in Naawan, Misamis Oriental (near CDO) last year and just last week. It was good to meet Pastor Nino and also see about 30 of Grace Church’s 70 people attend the lecture.
A small group of Reformed believers in CDO started meeting in December 2014 at a house for study and worship. They agreed to meet regularly once a month as a start. They will be led by Pastor Jim and one of the men in the group. In Butuan City, about 3-4 hours by bus to the east, another group of Pastor Jim’s former students in MSU in Marawi also desire to meet regularly once a month. Pasig CRC is discussing with Pastor Jim and the CDO group how best to help strengthen and oversee these two Reformed groups.
The Chinese-Filipino Connection
Rev. Dennis Yam began his journey to Reformed Christianity in the mid-1990s, so he pursued further studies at Westminster Theological Seminary, from where he received his Th.M. in 1997. After his return to the Philippines, he started teaching at the Biblical Seminary of the Philippines (BSOP). He was a great influence on many of his students, who later became acquainted with the Pasig and Imus members, including Pastors James Bryner Chu of Pilgrim Community Church and Dennis Ohsan, who now co-pastors Grace Covenant Evangelical Church with Rev. Yam. Pastor James was also influenced by two other pastors of the United Evangelical Church.
David Linden was instrumental in our earliest contacts with our Chinese-Filipino brethren. We are not able to recall how we were introduced to him, possibly in early 2006. However, even in the years prior to 2006, he had been teaching and preaching at churches in Hong Kong and in the Philippines, notably at BSOP and the Chinese-Filipino churches above.
Together with these three pastors, we have brought to the Philippines Dr. Michael Horton in 2009 and Rev. Michael Brown in 2014 to speak at Reformed conferences. Our goal is to teach and spread Reformed presbyterianism in the Philippines by inviting pastors and theologians in annual Reformation Day Conferences.
The spread of Reformed presbyterianism in the Philippines owes much to various churches and individuals here and overseas. Trinity URC and Escondido URC were the first supporters of the Philippine mission. Rev. Yogi Gangar and the Consistory of Trinity URC provided Biblical oversight. Several professors of WSC, notably Drs. Horton and Scott Clark, were always ready to give wise counsel on Reformed doctrine, worship and church polity. Other URC pastors such as Revs. Brown, Kim Riddlebarger (Christ Reformed URC), and Steve Donovan (Escondido URC) likewise provided godly counsel and other resources.
Without them and many others not mentioned in this short write-up, Reformed presbyterianism in the Philippines would have been set back several more years. And many of the current Reformed pastors and churches scattered all over the country would most probably have remained Arminian-Dispensationalist Baptist and Pentecostal pastors and churches for some time. Only by God’s gracious providence that the Reformation came to the Philippines.
The future for Reformed presbyterianism in the Philippines would be brighter if and when these four things are accomplished: first, a Reformed presbyterian council of churches, patterned after the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC); second, a Reformed presbyterian seminary in the mold of Westminster Seminary in California; third, an annual Reformed presbyterian pastor’s conference, similar to Ligonier’s Annual Pastors’ Conference; and fourth, an annual Reformed presbyterian conference for everyone, now in progress.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God€™s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle. ~ Martin Luther, 1529