Philippine Report (III)
Dudley Ross Spears
During the second week of our stay in the Philippines we went to Baguio City. Baguio is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. It is the summer capital and one of the finest resort and tourist areas. Brother Needham and I were the first two American preachers to visit this city who are of the conservative persuasion. In Baguio, the institutional churches have established the Philippine Bible, College (PBC) which is responsible for many of the native preachers. As expected, several of the students from PBC attended our studies.
Brother Andrew Gawe lives in Baguio City but preaches at several locations in the vicinity of Baguio. His father, Juan Gawe, is the preacher for the local church there in Baguio. In preparation for the meeting, Andrew and others distributed about 4,000 invitations. A large banner was strung up in front of the meeting house. Many came from all over the area around Baguio. Brother Andrew did everything he could to make our stay as pleasant as possible. We shall always be thankful for such a man. The average attendance for the day studies ran in the neighborhood of 75 and this consisted of classes both morning and evening. The evening sessions averaged over 100. Each night there was standing room only.
The basement auditorium of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) was rented. That is the legal and official name of the denomination from which we rented the hall. In the Philippines, churches must register under a legal and official name with the Securities Commission in order to be officially recognized by the government. The rent on the hall ran somewhere around $8.00 per night.
After an exhausting bus ride from Bagbag and a late arrival in Baguio, we found it impossible to speak the first night. Brother Andrew Gawe spoke on the subject of the church, dealing especially with the work of the church. Brother Julian Felix, a man both of in came to admire greatly, spoke next on some of the issues that divide brethren there in the Philippines. Following the speeches, a question and answer period was conducted that lasted well into the night. Some of the PBC students and faculty (not American faculty members) were present and they asked many questions. It was reported to us that they came to the front, many of them, to speak up from the speakers stand and abused the privilege our brethren granted to them. Brother Gawe wrote me the following, "Unfortunately, they abused the privilege by intentionally saying more than what should be said, thus delaying the time and blocking the chances of interested non-members from asking questions." It became necessary to stop them from taking over the meeting.
The next morning our regular sessions began, Inasmuch as brother Gawe kept an accurate record of all that happened and has written it all down, I am going to insert just here what he said.
"The morning sessions began at nine with brother Needham lecturing on Preachers and Preaching followed by Brother Spears on the subject of Denominational Dogmas. Inasmuch as this was held primarily for members of the church, especially preachers, the, general public was not invited. Nevertheless, attendance was 85 when dismissed. The way the meeting was conducted should serve as an example for others to emulate. Practically all ministers were taking down notes in spite of the assurance of brother Spears and brother Needham that they would send us each a printed copy of the notes used in the subjects being discussed. The lectures on preachers, their personalities, importance of the work, qualifications, duties and the beginning of denominational dogmas, etc. were practically accomplished in a few sessions. This task could Dot have been accomplished in weeks of classroom studies bad these brethren not been well prepared for it. My eternal thanks to God for utilizing them for the good of the greatest number.
"Brother Needham opened the afternoon session lecturing on the Organization of the Church, followed by brother Spears on Scriptural Authority. These two topics were the bombs that crystallized the fading faith of many and tore to shreds the doubts of others. On the other hand, God knows, the members of Christs Church in this city wished to convey their heartfelt thanks to brethren Needham and Spears for their strong stand in exposing the evils of smoking- as I always do. Members of, the church, especially ministers, should be made aware that smoking will get them nowhere but destruction. Commendation is again due them for their determination in threshing out the, seemingly deterioration of conduct among supported preachers, their failure to work as they should. Personally, I stand 100 70 behind working full time when being paid full wages. Slackness in His kingdom is without excuse. The afternoon session was attended by 102.
"The evening session began at 7 p.m. and will live a long time in our memories here in Baguio. There were 154 present. The seriousness of the topic, New Testament Church in the 20th Century, delivered by brother Needham inflicted the final blow in convicting the three who came forward and another five that followed the next morning. Thus a total of eight (5 females and 3 males) were baptized into Christ. I announced that the baptisms would be done the next morning as the place of baptism nearest us was 8 kilometers away down a long steep embankment.
"After the announcement, brother Needham opened the floor for questions about his sermon. An Anglican priest was present. Also a minister of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and a minister of the UCCP were there. These denominational preachers asked several questions. Then brother Spears took the floor to conduct the first evening open forum. The first few questions and answers all went smoothly until the students of the PBC and four of their faculty members began asking the same set of questions they had asked the night before. It became clear that they came with their minds already made up and with a pre-arranged plan to disrupt the meeting by planting confusion and prejudice in the minds of all who were there. On the second night another group of students were delivered to our meeting hall by Brother Kenneth J. Wilkey, the titular head of PBC, but he did not bother to come himself. Nearly all the PBC students that came were intent on making trouble-not to learn. I am glad that they showed their true color for now, the members and some students who voiced their disagreements are coming to us for further study. In fact a fellow minister and one time faithful member of the liberals, after a series of studies with me is now standing for the truth. He wants to preach full time. He is Brother Jesus Bejagon. There will be more, God willing.
"The meeting ended at 11 p.m. with the liberals still arguing just for the sake of more debate. It came to the point of no return when they challenged our brethren into a fist fight, which is never becoming of a true Christian.
"The last day of our studies was on April 12. The morning session was cancelled because of the baptisms 8 kilometers (approximately 5 miles, DRS) away in the Irisan River, Naguilan Road. Eight souls were immersed. We came back to the city at about 12 noon. In the afternoon, brother Needham continued with his previous lectures on the subject of preaching. This is needful meat that preachers really would give anything for. The know how of preaching and the life of a preacher are the things that we preachers can not afford to let go. I admire these two for the priceless gem of information that they passed on to us.
"In the evening session, brother Spears spoke with confidence and determination on the subject "of The Gospel Plan of Salvation. There were no visible results by way of baptisms but I am convinced that the seed was properly planted and will bear fruit even yet. Two will be baptized very soon and six came to see me for further enlightenment. These and many more are direct results of these meetings and of this particular subject.
"Brother Needham conducted the open forum. In this session there were more than 70 outsiders who came primarily to learn and to have doubts clarified, so when students from PBC again tried to disrupt the meeting, brother Needham insisted that they not ask questions that had already been answered and not try to take over the meeting. It was a shameful thing for them to want to discuss internal issues with such a violent attitude in the presence of so many non-Christians. I personally commend brother Needham for the fine work he did in handling this open forum. Indeed, many of the visitors asked fine religious questions such as what is the solution to the problem of denominationalism and other similar questions. One asked how unity could be achieved, etc. Thus it was that the meeting ended in peace with all having learned something and may our Great God see to it that the truth be allowed to grow in us and change the lives of souls in darkness.
"The eloquence of these brethren in speech and ability to speak in terms that we all understood made all the difference between failures and success. This meeting was a success in every sense of the word. The seed was planted in fertile hearts. Preachers and members were made aware of their duties. Sinners (at least 8) were converted. Baguio City people now know of us and what we stand for in religion. And last, denominationalism now fears the fangs of Gods word. These, to me, make for success and I thank God.
To summarize the outcome, 8 were baptized, a family of Christians came to know our presence in the city and are worshipping with us, three liberal preachers have made up their minds to preach the truth with us, two congregations (one in Bagbag, La Union, and Balatoc Mines, Tuba, Benguet) are established and a debate with the liberals of this city is to be scheduled,"
I might add just a word or two in conclusion to what I have quoted from Brother Andrew Gawes report. The evening sessions were rather stormy as the students of this liberal school demonstrated more rancor and ugliness than I have witnessed in many years. The PBC has become more of a missionary society than anything else. It is supposedly under the oversight of the elders of the church of Christ in Inglewood, California. Yet, with money the school in Baguio receives, native preachers are paid in the Philippines. The school engages in secular education, trains preachers, then sends them out and furnishes their salary. This is the same operation of the missionary society except for the delegate representation of contributing churches. Those who are directly involved in this operation deny this with a clever dodge saying that the head of the school sends the native preachers out and furnishes their salary with his own money-but that is merely a dodge.
I appreciate the report Brother Gawe made of our work. It is accurate and perhaps a little too much in its praise of brother Needham and me, but it does convey the work we did in this city. In the next installment I will relate what occurred during our visit to Mindinao and Cotabato.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 38, pp. 10-13