Part of our plan is that I (Matt) will be ordained a deacon in the REC. Anglican deacons are different from Presbyterian deacons, in that they are ordinarily expected to go on to become presbyters, and are thus considered clergy. When we go to the Philippines, then, I will be in orders. When Anglican clergy go abroad, they are expected to labor under the authority of an Anglican bishop in their receiving jurisdiction. For us, it looks like the appropriate receiving bishop is Bishop Frederick Luis Belmonte of The Anglican Church in the Philippines (Traditional). His church has a concordat with the REC and APA, and is orthodox on the matters of sexual ethics that have vexed the Anglican communion in the past decade.
I emailed Bp. Belmonte two weeks ago, telling him about our family and our church, and about our plans to come to the Philippines as missionaries. A week went by, and then another, and I concluded that I must have had the wrong email address.
We knew that today around 1:30 PM, we were scheduled to have a meeting with our rector, Archdeacon Peter Manto, and Canon Wm. Jerdan, the executive secretary of the REC’s Board of Foreign Missions. Two hours before that meeting, the phone rang, and my daughter was surprised to find that it was Bishop Belmonte, who was replying to my email with a phone call. So I was able to report that, yes, I have had contact with a bishop in our receiving Anglican province, and that he was encouraging and welcoming to us. It is always a pleasure to recognize God’s “signature” as He providentially arranges things.
There were a number of encouraging things in the conversation: Bishop Belmonte assured me that after I am ordained in the REC, my diaconal orders will also be recognized in the ACPT. He also told me that the Anglican Church in the Philippines has a seminary, so that there may be opportunity for me to use my Greek skills to assist in the training of Filipino pastors. Finally, he told me that although the ACPT does not have any churches in Davao City where we will be staying for our first year, it is one of the major places in the Philippines where they hope to start a church. I may be able to help with that. He also mentioned that his church cooperates in ministries with other evangelical churches to “build the body of Christ” beyond the particular fellowship of ACPT.
Nothing is certain yet, but it looks like there are many possibilities for me to help and serve the church in the Philippines while Sora ministers at the clinic. Part of our process of discernment is making sure that we both have an objective calling — not a squishy, inner “feeling” of being called to be missionaries, but an objective, verifiable calling. This means we need to see whether our skills and gifts can help meet the needs of the people and churches in the Philippines. Without an objective calling, we would have no business going as missionaries.
Of course, I can’t go expecting to teach Greek or pastor a church — things that God may not have in mind for me there, and things that may or may not work out. It would be a mistake to go into the mission expecting certain things to happen, and then being disappointed when they don’t. My priorities during the first year will be making friends, learning about the culture, working on language skills, and raising my own kids. Nonetheless, I do love to teach Greek and Bible. So I don’t think it’s wrong to be excited about the possibilities.