First General Assembly of the UU Church of the Philippines
The recently concluded 64th Founding Anniversary and First General Assembly (formerly General Convention) of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines was attended by almost 80 delegates from 23 congregations. Delegates officially adopted the UUCP’s new Constitution and By-Laws, which had been tested for the last three years. The newly adopted documents split the powers of the President from one person to two, and they pave the way toward creating Four District Offices—each headed by a District Minister and District Administrator.
The new UUCP Constitution and By-Laws divided the presidential powers between:
- The Executive Minister, who is also the President, in charge of the ministry of the church; and
- The Church Administrator, who is also the Vice President, in charge of the administration of resources (people, finances, property, documents, etc.).
The goal is to let the Executive Minister focus on the ministry without the encumbrances of stewardship. And since the two positions are coequal, they can provide a check and balance on their respective powers.
During the election of the new Board of Trustees, the Rev. Tet Gallardo (aka Ma. Theresa G. Gallardo, Jr) was elected as President - Executive Minister. She is the second woman in the history of UUCP elected to the highest post, and the first out lesbian trans president in its history. The elections fell on April 26, Lesbian Visibility Day. Rev. Gallardo had served as Minister of the Bicutan Congregation since 2013, and last year served as Interim Minister of the Ulay Congregation. She also served on the Nominating Committee of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU). To learn more about her ministry, you can find Rev. Gallardo’s book Spirit’s Breath on Amazon.com.
Rev. Tet Gallardo will prioritize:
- Church partnership programs for all local congregations
- The Ministerial Formation Program, to guarantee successful and diverse ministries in the UUCP
- The realization of congregational polity in all local churches in preparation for direct representation at the UUA
- The independence of district administration
- Robust connections across districts for all congregations through periodic communications between quarterly district assemblies and the triennial General Assembly
- Strengthening the independence of organizations like UUYOP for the youth, PhilYANG for young adults, UU Women’s Association, UU Men’s Association
- Starting up a UU arts and culture ministry; and
- Carrying out a social justice ministry focusing on Climate Justice, ARAOMC (Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, and Multiculturalism), and SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics)
A one-year transition plan is under consideration by the Board of Trustees to smooth the succession from President Rev. Rebecca Sienes.
Re-elected on the same day was Rev. Arman Pedro, as Vice President - Church Administrator, who had been ordained the day before during the formal rites of the church anniversary. Also elected to the Board were Mr. Persie Mark Sienes as Board Member at Large and Ms. Geraldine Faburada as Moderator.
The new Board of Trustees will have its first meeting on May 7, 2019.
One of the highlights of the First General Assembly was the ordination of Arman Pedro to the UU ministry. Rev. Pedro did his internship at UUs of San Mateo, CA and First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, HI, and received his Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) in May 2017 from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL. Rev. Pedro is credited for his excellent work in stabilizing the finances of the UUCP, facilitating the construction of the new sanctuary of the UUCP, and the great improvements on the income-generating apartment and dormitory (La Residencia de TSQ, named in honor of UUCP’s late founder Rev. Toribio S. Quimada). He also led the organization of the Ministerial Formation Program, in consultation with UUA’s International Resources Office, ICUU, Meadville Lombard, and the other leaders of UUCP to form the team and the final curriculum.
The Church Administrator’s goals are:
- Growing the income generating projects to ensure UUCP’s financial stability, in order to sustain and finance its programs and projects and to provide good salaries and benefits to its workers and—hopefully— to all its ministers.
- Ensuring that district organizational structure is functional, with the right person and with the right knowledge for the full operation and growth of the district and for a speedy response to the needs of the congregations under its jurisdiction.
- Ensuring that congregations are empowered and capacitated to run the operations of their respective congregations and to improve their ministry and their active involvement in peace-building in their respective communities.
- Maximizing the use of resources to support programs that will promote, strengthen, and sustain the UU faith in the region and hopefully in key cities around the country.
On the same occasion, the La Residencia de TSQ was also dedicated. The marker was unveiled showing the names of all the generous donors—both individuals and local and global UU Congregations/Organizations—who financially supported the construction of the three-story apartment and dormitory building. This income generating project aims to sustain UUCP’s ministry and operation for years to come. The simple ceremony was led by the Rev. Dr. Fredric John Muir from Annapolis, MD.
In conclusion, UUCP is very optimistic. With the restructured Constitution and By-Laws and with new leadership and more young minds on the Board of Trustees, we can only hope for the best possibilities in the years ahead. And with the continued support of our global friends and allies, Unitarian Universalism will continue to strengthen its roots in the hearts of many Filipinos.