Subscribe via RSS Feed

Led by The Spirit: Regrouping and Moving Forward

This excerpt from Led by the Spirit: The History of the American Assemblies of God Missionaries in the Philippines is the third chapter. Missionary-scholar Dave Johnson has brought together a chronicle of over 300 Pentecostal missionaries serving in the Philippines from 1926 through the first decade of the new Millennium.

 

Regrouping and Moving Forward

After the war, the Philippine District Council (PDC) lost no time in organizing and getting on with the job of fulfilling the Great Commission. The Missionary Field Fellowship also organized and received evaluation and direction from the Foreign Missions Department regarding relations with the PDC.

 

The National Church Regroups

The fourth District Council was held in Camiling, Tarlac, about ninety miles north of Manila in December 1945. Since no missionary could be present, the Foreign Missions Department had given permission to elect an acting superintendent whom they would ratify later. Rudy Esperanza was elected to this position as well as to his former post as district secretary. Several months later, Noel Perkin confirmed Esperanza’s appointment by letter with a slight but important change. The word acting was not mentioned, and he was appointed as the district superintendent with full power to act in that authority.[1] Why this action was taken is not explained. It may be because there was no missionary available. It is also possible that, because of the pending independence of the Philippines and the renewed emphasis on the indigenous church, the Foreign Missions Department wanted to transfer authority to Filipino leadership as quickly as possible. Also, the United States gave the Philippines its independence on July 4, 1946, removing the legal necessity of American leadership in the PDC. No American would ever again hold the leading office, although Americans would hold other offices within the PDC and later, the General Council.

Those who attended this convention found the fellowship sweet. They were happy to be together again after the terrible war. The meetings were marked with a wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit, reminding the conferees that God had not abandoned them as well as no doubt challenging them to get on with the task of reaching the lost now that the restrictions of war were no longer present. One of the key issues to getting the work back on track was to reopen Bethel Bible Institute, this time in Esperanza’s hometown in Pangasinan.[2] No reason is given for reopening there instead of Baguio even though the road to Baguio, which ran through Pangasinan, had been heavily bombed and was hard to travel. The move also may simply have been due to a more preferred location because Esperanza was pastoring there and could more easily oversee the school.

The Foreign Missions Department wanted to transfer authority to Filipino leadership as quickly as possible.

The first U.S. missionaries after the war arrived in January 1947, and others soon followed. In contrast to the past when all the missionaries lived in Baguio, these new missionaries began to spread out to the various islands in the three major regions of the archipelago: Luzon, the main island; Mindanao, the large island in the south; and the Visayas, a large central group of islands running from east to west. These geographical distinctions outline the story of Assemblies of God missionaries to the Philippines. Before turning to the individual regions, however, it is necessary to trace the developments of the Assemblies of God at the national level in the Philippines.

The PDC continued to hold annual conventions where business was conducted, officers elected, and God’s will sought on various issues facing the nation. The ravages of the war continued to be felt, and the country struggled to recover. All over the world nationalism, with its anti-Western posture, began to rise as the colonial powers, themselves devastated by the war, were unable to maintain control of their colonies. One by one, these colonies began to gain their independence, often by bloodshed. While the Filipinos had gained their independence peacefully, they were not immune to these events. At the 1950 convention, there was some discussion of nationalism. However, those attending the convention, admittedly with a strong missionary contingent present, went on record as expressing great appreciation for the missionaries and the sacrifices they had made, and expressed the desire that more would be sent. Part of this positive attitude may have come from the fact that during the convention, they were dedicating some permanent BBI facilities financed by missionary supporters. However, the general feeling was appreciation for a growing unity in spiritual things.[3] This must also be seen in the national context where Americans were esteemed because American and Filipino blood had mixed freely in the war.

During the historic 1953 convention, the PDC was recognized by the Foreign Missions Department as a sovereign General Council with the freedom to elect its own officers and govern its own affairs. In all practicality, it had been doing so since the end of the war. The PDC changed its name to the Philippines General Council of the Assemblies of God (PGCAG). Rudy Esperanza was elected as the general  superintendent. Three districts were formed: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, with authorization to divide into more districts as the work expanded. The genius of forming these districts was that it allowed closer oversight of the 103 ministers and seventy-five established and pioneering churches among the far-flung islands of the archipelago.

Missionaries have sometimes fallen into the trap of the other golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.

The relationship with the U.S. General Council of the Assemblies of God now became fraternal rather than governmental, at least in theory, if not always in practice. The fact was that the PGCAG was at that time dependent on massive foreign funding, especially for BBI and some of the Bible schools that would follow, and for a number of national programs that would come into being within the ensuing years. The reality is that missionaries have sometimes fallen into the trap of the golden rule (not the one that’s in the Bible!): He who has the gold makes the rules, meaning that the ideal of a self-governing, indigenous body has not always been achieved.

 

Organizing the Philippine Field Fellowship

The missionaries also formed themselves into the Philippine Field Fellowship (PFF), incorporating with the Philippine government’s Securities and Exchange Commission in 1949. Although the details are far from clear, it appears that there was a field committee in place by 1951, although apparently not all missionaries were informed about it—which may have caused a bit of consternation for one couple.[4] The earliest minutes date back only to 1959 and indicate that the missionaries were actually divided into two smaller field fellowships until that year. The missionaries on Luzon were part of the northern fellowship, and those in the Visayas comprised the southern fellowship (there were no missionaries in Mindanao until the 1960s). The entire field was administered by one committee with representatives from each of the fellowships. When the two fellowships merged into one field in 1959, the missionaries began meeting annually for business and election of officers. The meetings were normally one day or a part of a day in length but eventually expanded to as long as four or five days as worship services, ministry to children, and a retreat were included.

The missionaries were part of the PDC/PGCAG and served in various capacities in official district and General Council positions. In that sense then, they came under the leadership of the PDC/PGCAG. However, because the missionaries were under the authority of the FMD, they also had their own leadership structure with the establishment of the field committee and the new office of field secretary, a new level of leadership within the FMD that was instituted during the war years.

With the advent of the field secretaries, the FMD began to take a stronger hand in governing the various fields and making missionaries more accountable to the home office. The field secretary was responsible for making this happen. The first field secretary for the Far East was Howard C. Osgood, a former missionary to China. He served as field secretary until 1955, when he was succeeded by Maynard Ketcham. A former missionary to India, Ketcham was field secretary for Southern Asia from 1951 until he succeeded Osgood in 1955. Ketcham defined the field secretary as a liaison between the missionaries and the national church bodies on the one hand and, between the U.S. constituency and the FMD on the other, as well as a recruiter of new missionaries.[5]

From all appearances the relationship between the missionaries and the PGCAG leadership was good, but Ketcham saw the need to address tensions between the two groups so in April 1958, he wrote an open letter to the missionaries. To get a clear understanding of his view of the way things were and the way he felt they should be, the letter is quoted here at some length:

I stated that there is more good will toward American missionaries in your land than I have seen anywhere else in the world. And, I firmly believe this to be the true [sic]. However, that feeling of good will, and the kindly nature of our beloved Philippino [sic] co-workers, should not blind us to certain fundamental facts. True, we Americans have drive, energy, vision, organizational ability. On the other hand, we are strangers in a foreign land. And, the only real excuse for our presence in the Philippines is as invited guests to counsel, advise encourage, [sic] stimulate, teach—but never to boss or to ‘carry the ball.’

It appears that we have two parallel organizations in the Philippines—the Missionary Fellowship (s) [sic] and the National church. Presumably all our missionaries are members of the Assemblies of God of the Philippines. And yet, while I was in the Philippines, I got the feeling that our Filipino brethren felt that the Fellowships were the organizations of the missionaries and the A.G. of the Philippines was the organization of the Filipinos. Frequently, in conversation with the local brethren, I heard the words ‘they’ (the missionaries) and ‘us’ (the Filipinos). I can realize that no one person or group is responsible for this situation. But, we must do all in our power to break it down. . . .

Then we must explain to our national brethren that the Fellowships are only concerned with the personal lives of missionaries. We must also explain to the Nationals (by word and deed) that our ministry comes under the direction of the A. G. of the Philippines. Then, I believe that missionaries will be elected to office in the National organization and the missionaries will be considered as [an] integral part of the same.

May I suggest certain steps which I believe should be taken, to implement the provisions of the Manual in regard to this matter:

  1. Be very certain that the Missionary Fellowships live up to their names and are only ‘Fellowships’ of missionaries dealing with matters which are of peculiar interest to missionaries themselves.
  2. Take all possible steps to explain this situation to the Nationals, so they will realize that the missionaries, in their Fellowship meetings are not making decisions which affect church members.
  3. Take an active part as possible in all gatherings of the Assemblies of God of the Philippines, and accept any office offered to missionaries.
  4. Try to work things out, as rapidly and gracefully as possible, so that all Bible Schools are on a plane of equality and come under the overall supervision of the national church. (A very delicate matter, I know!!)
  5. See that local congregations have at least some say in the choosing of pastors for all churches.
  6. See that the national organization has the privilege of stating if they approve the re-appointment of a missionary, when he proceeds on furlough.
  7. See that the national organization has at least some say in the allocation of missionaries.[6]

Ketcham went on to say that if the missionaries would deal kindly with their Filipino counterparts, the Filipinos would respond in kind and issues such as the re-appointment of missionaries would not be a problem.

Ketcham’s comments must be understood in light of the times. When this was written in 1958, the PGCAG was only eighteen years old and was rapidly expanding. Consequently, it had not yet had the time to develop the leaders necessary to fill all of the positions that needed to be filled for the PGCAG to move forward. Therefore, missionaries were appointed or elected to fill these positions, hopefully according to their gifts and callings. Being in these positions, then, demanded that they submit themselves to the PGCAG leaders. In noting the missionaries’ drive, goal orientation, and efficiency to get things done, he recognized some legitimate cultural differences between the missionaries and their Filipino counterparts.

Points six and seven reveal the missionaries’ tendency to be independent and indirectly admitted to a failure on the missionaries’ part to consult the PGCAG leadership regarding missionary placement. The first generation of Assemblies of God missionaries, which some of these were, were known for being independent spirits and most likely found fitting into any organization a bit difficult. Yet Ketcham was correct in calling for them to do so since it was essential to demonstrate respect for and support of the Filipino leadership for the long-term success of the mission.

The organizational structure of the PFF and PDC/PGCAG now detailed serves as a backdrop to the work of the individual missionaries during the period after World War II.

 

PR

This chapter is an excerpt from Dave Johnson, Led By The Spirit: The History of the American Assemblies of God Missionaries in the Philippines (Pasig City, Philippines: ICI Ministries, 2009). Used with permission.

 

 

Notes for Chapter 3: Regrouping and Moving Forward

1 Letter from Noel Perkin to whom it may concern, February 22, 1946.

2 Rudy Esperanza, “Pentecostal Convention in the Philippines,” Pentecostal Evangel, March 23, 1946.

3 Minutes of the Eighth District Convention of the Philippine District Council of the Assemblies of God, April 24–30, 1950.

4 Letter from Oneida Brengle to Maynard Ketcham, March 20, 1956.

5 McGee, This Gospel, vol. 1, 173.

6 Letter from Maynard Ketcham to the missionaries of the PFF, April 14, 1958.

 

 

Further Reading:

Read Malcolm Brubaker’s review of Led by the Spirit in the Summer 2010 issue of The Pneuma Review: http://pneumareview.com/dave-johnson-led-by-spirit/

 

Download the full book (in PDF) at: https://www.academia.edu/34297392/LED_BY_THE_SPIRIT.pdf

 

Find more excellent books from APTS Press, home of the Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies.

 

Pin It

Tags: , , ,

Category: Church History, Summer 2020

About the Author: Dave Johnson, M.Div., D.Miss. (Asia Graduate School of Theology, Philippines), is an Assemblies of God missionary to the Philippines. Dave and his wife Debbie have been involved in evangelism, church planting, and Bible school and mission leadership. Dave is the Managing Editor of Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, the director of APTS Press in Baguio City, Philippines and coordinator for the Asian Pentecostal Theological Seminary's Master of Theology Program. http://apts.academia.edu/DaveJohnson Facebook Twitter

  • Connect with PneumaReview.com

    Subscribe via Twitter 1347 Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Then, Now, and Later

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    A Keener Understanding of the Bible: The Jewish Context for the Book of Revelation

    Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., is a prison chaplain, former award-winning journalist, and independent scholar of church history. He holds a doctorate from the University of Pretoria, S...

    F.F. Bosworth and the Role He Played in the Ministry of T.L. Osborn: An Interview with Dr. LaDonna Osborn