Friday, March 21, 2014

Online Bible quizzes

These interactive exercises (matching type, multiple choice, cloze, and flashcards) are part of my Baptist Distinctives blog. For the timer and automatic scoring to work, you must enable Javascript in your browser.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan): Where is God When Things Go Wrong?





Where is God When Things Go Wrong?” by evangelist and apologist John Blanchard is a free PDF booklet to download from David Legge’s www.preachtheword.com and by kind permission of www.evangelicalpress.org (Note: This download is for personal use only and should not be printed or copied. The book can be ordered singly or in bulk from Evangelical Press.)

Excerpts:

Why should issues of good and evil, or human suffering, cause any problems? If the British philosopher Bertrand Russell was right to dismiss man as ‘a curious accident in a backwater’, why should it matter in the least whether lives are ended slowly or suddenly, peacefully or painfully, one by one or en masse? If the Oxford professor Peter Atkins, another dogmatic atheist, is right to call mankind ‘just a bit of slime on a planet’, why should we be remotely concerned at the systematic slaughter of six million Jews or half a million Rwandans? Are we traumatized when we see slime trodden on or shoveled down a drain? The whole world wept over the destruction and death brought about by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, but why not have the same anguish over the fate of beetles or bacteria, rats or reptiles? If human beings are simply the result of countless chemical and biological accidents, how can they have any personal value, and why should we turn a hair if dictatorial regimes or natural disasters dispose of them by the million? The same applies to violence or bloodshed on a personal or limited basis. If we are nothing more than biological flukes, with no meaningful origin or destiny, why should the way we treat each other matter more than the way other creatures behave?

How can we jump from atoms to ethics and from molecules to morality? If we are merely genetically programmed machines, how can we condemn anything as being ‘evil’, or commend anything as being ‘good’? Why should we be concerned over issues of justice or fairness, or feel any obligation to treat other ‘machines’ with dignity or respect? When people respond to tragedy by asking, ‘How can there be a just God?’ their question is logically flawed, as without him words like ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ are purely matters of personal opinion.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The 24th Fundamental Bible Conference in Metro Manila, October 22-25, 2013

24th Fundamental Bible Conference 
Date: October 22-25, 2013

Venue: Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Julia Vargas Avenue (back of Megamall)

Speaker: Dr. Matthew Recker, Senior Pastor, Heritage Baptist Church, New York, USA

Conference chairman: Dr. Roberto-Jose Livioco (Foundation Baptist Church, Pasig City)

For more information, please call 801-6789, 829-4474, 514-8340, 0917-8139-551, 0922-898-4725, or surf to Facebook Fundamental Bible Conference page

October 22

“Authentic Corporate Worship” by Pastor Gilbert Castillo, Gospel Light Baptist Church, Quezon City

“Christ’s Offer to the Moslem World” by Dr. Roberto-Jose Livioco, Foundation Baptist Church, Pasig City

“The Glory of His Character” by Dr. Matthew Recker - Keynote Speaker Heritage Baptist Church, New York City, New York, USA

October 23

“Lessons from the Lord’s Prayer” by Pastor Jun Gonzales, Las Piñas Baptist Church, Las Piñas City

“Victorious Living in Stressful Times” by Pastor Leo Lorenzana, Promised Land Baptist Church, Malabon City

“The Glory of his Creation” by Dr. Matthew Recker

October 24 

“The Challenge of False Cults” by Pastor Carl Gormley, Calvary Baptist Church, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan

“Biblical Manhood” by Dr. Phil Kamibayashiyama, Director, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College, QC

“Biblical Womanhood” by Mrs. Debbie Recker, Keynote Speaker’s Wife

“The Glory of His Church” by Dr. Matthew Recker

October 25 

“Glorying God in Our Body” by Pastor Cornelio Sacramento, Christian Baptist Church, Bulacan, Bulacan

Panel Discussions


“The Glory of His Commission” by Dr. Matthew Recker

Pastors & Christian Workers Fellowship, October 25, 2013, 3:00-5:00 PM, Meal P100; “Completing Our Course with Joy” by Dr. Matthew Recker

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Due process must be observed in terminating church membership

What is due process?

 (1) “Before a person can be deprived of his life, liberty, or property, he must be given an opportunity to defend himself.”

(2) “Fundamental fairness”

(3) “Opportunity to be heard”

(4) “What due process contemplates is freedom from arbitrariness; what it requires is fairness and justice; substance, rather than the form, being paramount. What it prohibits is not the absence of previous notice but the absolute absence thereof.”

Supreme Court ruling: “While the civil courts will ordinarily leave ecclesiastical matters to church authorities, they may however intervene when it is shown that they have acted outside the scope of their authority or in a manner contrary to their organic law and rules.” (Fonacier vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., 1955)

Plain English explanation: 

(1) The pastor, board, or congregation, must comply with the church constitution or rules in terminating church membership.

(2) Church leaders must educate members on how church membership is terminated.

Biblical due process: Matthew 18:15-17
Several years ago, a young pastor from a province south of Metro Manila was actively opposed by some church members. When he couldn’t take these members’ actions anymore, he announced after the Sunday morning preaching that he was terminating their membership right there and then. His church was split the next Sunday, and he has since then transferred to another church.

The Philippine Supreme Court has ruled in the following cases that due process must be observed when church membership is terminated:

[1] Taruc et al vs. Bishop de la Cruz et al, 2005

We would, however, like to comment on petitioners’ claim that they were not heard before they were expelled from their church. The records show that Bishop de la Cruz pleaded with petitioners several times not to commit acts inimical to the best interests of PIC. They were also warned of the consequences of their actions, among them their expulsion/excommunication from PIC. Yet, these pleas and warnings fell on deaf ears and petitioners went ahead with their plans to defy their Bishop and foment hostility and disunity among the members of PIC in Socorro, Surigao del Norte. They should now take full responsibility for the chaos and dissension they caused.

[2] The Church In Quezon City, 2001

As early as 1988, the respondents-Board of Directors patiently and persistently reminded, advised and exhorted the erring members, including herein petitioners, to stop espousing doctrines, teachings and religious belief diametrically opposed to the Principles of Faith embraced by the CHURCH. The respondents-Board of Directors further warned them during Sunday worship gatherings, in small group meetings and one-on-one talk, that they would face disciplinary action and be dropped from the membership roll should they continue to exhibit acts inimical and injurious to the teachings of the Holy Bible which the CHURCH so zealously upholds. When they ignored petitioners’ exhortations and warnings, the erring members should not now complain about their expulsion from the membership of the CHURCH by the Board of Directors on August 30, 9193. The Board of Directors, before deciding to purge their list of membership, gave the erring members sufficient warning of their impending ouster.

[3] Fonacier vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., 1955

The Supreme Bishop cannot punish an erring member without first giving him an opportunity to be heard and to defend himself, and, in any event, without first securing the opinion of the Judge of the Curia de Apelaciones, and in serious cases, the case needs to be referred to the Supreme Council of Bishops. With regard to a case where a bishop is involved, the action shall be submitted to the Supreme Bishop for approval. And in case of guilt, the accused may appeal to the Curia de Apelaciones, whose decision shall be final. Such is the procedure laid down by the constitution of the church when disciplinary action needs to be taken against a delinquent member. It is not, therefore, correct to say that the Supreme Bishop can take action alone in connection with an erring bishop, even in disregard of the Supreme Council, in view of the over-all powers he claims to possess under the circumstances.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Instances when secular courts can intervene in church disputes (Supreme Court ruling in Fonacier vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., 1955)

Summary:

[1] Case title: “Santiago A. Fonacier, petitioner, vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., respondents” G.R. No. L-5917, January 28, 1955

[2] Supreme Court ruling:

(A) While the civil courts will ordinarily leave ecclesiastical matters to church authorities, they may however intervene when it is shown that they have acted outside the scope of their authority or in a manner contrary to their organic law and rules.

(B) Civil courts have jurisdiction to revise decisions on ecclesiastical matters where it is necessary for settling the question of civil and property rights, or when property rights are affected.

(C) Civil courts can intervene if a member is expelled without due process and a property right is involved.

[3] Plain English explanation: Secular courts can intervene in church disputes (a) if the pastor, board, or congregation, acted contrary to the church constitution or rules; or (b) when the dispute affects personal or property rights; or (c) if a member is expelled without due process and a property right is involved.

[4] Related post: “Doctrine of Church Autonomy: secular courts and church disputes

Note: Claro M. Recto was the lawyer for the respondents. He later on became a senator known for his nationalism; the famous avenue in Manila is named after him. Ferdinand E. Marcos acted as the Supreme Court’s amicus curiae (“friend of the court”).

Facts of the case:


[1] The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), represented by its Supreme Bishop Gerardo M. Bayaca, filed a case with the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Manila against Bishop Santiago A. Fonacier. The IFI sought to require Bishop Fonacier to render an accounting of his administration of all the temporal properties in his possession belonging to the church and to recover the properties from him. The IFI claimed that Fonacier had ceased to be its Supreme Bishop.

Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., having been elected as Supreme Bishop after the filing of the original complaint, was later made a co-plaintiff in a supplementary complaint.

[2] Fonacier claimed in his defense that:
(a) he has not been properly removed as Supreme Bishop;

(b) his legal successor was Juan Jamias who had been elected in accordance with the church constitution ;

(c) Bishop De los Reyes, Jr. formally joined the Protestant Episcopal Church of America and for this reason ceased to be a member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente;

(d) Bishops De los Reyes and Bayaca having abandoned the faith, fundamental doctrines and practices of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, ceased to be members and consequently, have no personality in filing the complaint.

[3] On May 17, 1950, the court rendered judgment declaring Mons. Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. as the sole and legitimate Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and ordering Mons. Fonacier to render an accounting of his administration of the properties and funds of the church.

[4] The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the CFI. Fonacier then filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court.

Some issues raised by Fonacier and the Supreme Court ruling


[1] Issue: The Court of Appeals erred “in holding that the ouster of Bishops Manuel Aguilar, Alejandro Remollino, Isabelo de los Reyes Jr., Gerardo Bayaca, Juan Quijano and Pablo Tablante decreed by the Supreme Council and the petitioner as Obispo Maximo was illegal.”

Ruling: The civil courts have jurisdiction to review the action regarding the ouster.

(A) “Where a decision of an ecclesiastical court plainly violates the law it professes to administer, or is in conflict with the laws of the land, it will not be followed by the civil courts.”

(B) “Expulsion of a member without notice or an opportunity to be heard is not conclusive upon the civil courts when a property right is involved.”

“Since it is claimed that the ouster was made by an unauthorized person, or in a manner contrary to the constitution of the church, and that the ousted bishops were not given notice of the charges against them nor were they afforded an opportunity to be heard, the civil courts, have jurisdiction to review the action regarding the ouster.”

[2] Issue: The Court of Appeals erred in holding that the abandonment of the constitution, restatement of articles of religion and abandonment of faith or abjuration alleged by petitioner are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts.

Ruling: “The amendments of the constitution, restatement of articles of religion, and abandonment of faith or abjuration alleged by appellant, having to do with faith, practice, doctrine, form of worship, ecclesiastical law, custom and rule of a church having reference to the power of excluding from the church those allegedly unworthy of membership, are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts.” (45 Am. Jur., 748-752, 755.)

Friday, March 01, 2013

Secular courts do not have jurisdiction over expulsion or excommunication of church members (Supreme Court decision in Taruc et al vs. Bishop de la Cruz et al, 2005)

Summary:

[1] Case title: Dominador L. Taruc, Wilberto Dacera, Nicanor Galanida, Renerio Canta, Jerry Canta, Cordencio Consigna, Susano Alcala, Leonardo Dizon, Salvador Gelsano and Benito Laugo, petitioners, vs. Bishop Porfirio B. De La Cruz, Rev. Fr. Rustom Florano and Delfin Bordas, respondents. (G.R. No. 144801, March 10, 2005)  

[2] Issue: Whether courts have jurisdiction to hear a case involving the expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution.

[3] Supreme Court ruling: “The expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution/organization is a matter best left to the discretion of the officials, and the laws and canons, of said institution/organization. It is not for the courts to exercise control over church authorities in the performance of their discretionary and official functions. Rather, it is for the members of religious institutions/organizations to conform to just church regulations. In the words of Justice Samuel F. Miller: … all who unite themselves to an ecclesiastical body do so with an implied consent to submit to the Church government and they are bound to submit to it.”

[4] Note: Civil courts can intervene if a member is expelled without due process and a property right is involved. Please read “Instances when secular courts can intervene in church disputes” (Supreme Court ruling in Fonacier vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., 1955). In this case we’re discussing (“Taruc et al vs. Bishop de la Cruz et al”), the Supreme Court ruled that due process was observed and no property right was involved.


Facts of the case:

[1] Political differences lead to conflict between church members and parish priest Fr. Florano

Petitioners were lay members of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) in Socorro, Surigao del Norte. Respondents Porfirio de la Cruz and Rustom Florano were the bishop and parish priest, respectively, of the same church in that locality. Petitioners, led by Dominador Taruc, clamored for the transfer of Fr. Florano to another parish but Bishop de la Cruz denied their request. It appears from the records that the family of Fr. Florano’s wife belonged to a political party opposed to petitioner Taruc’s, thus the animosity between the two factions with Fr. Florano being identified with his wife’s political camp. Bishop de la Cruz, however, found this too flimsy a reason for transferring Fr. Florano to another parish.  

[2] Petitioners organize mass during town fiesta with another priest, Fr. Ambong, despite appeals by Bishop de la Cruz

Hostility among the members of the PIC in Socorro, Surigao del Norte worsened when petitioner Taruc tried to organize an open mass to be celebrated by a certain Fr. Renato Z. Ambong during the town fiesta of Socorro. When Taruc informed Bishop de la Cruz of his plan, the Bishop tried to dissuade him from pushing through with it because Fr. Ambong was not a member of the clergy of the diocese of Surigao and his credentials as a parish priest were in doubt. The Bishop also appealed to petitioner Taruc to refrain from committing acts inimical and prejudicial to the best interests of the PIC. He likewise advised petitioners to air their complaints before the higher authorities of PIC if they believed they had valid grievances against him, the parish priest, the laws and canons of the PIC.

Bishop de la Cruz, however, failed to stop Taruc from carrying out his plans. On June 19, 1993, at around 3:00 p.m., Taruc and his sympathizers proceeded to hold the open mass with Fr. Ambong as the celebrant.

[3] Bishop de la Cruz excommunicates Taruc and other members

On June 28, 1993, Bishop de la Cruz declared petitioners expelled/excommunicated from the Philippine Independent Church for reasons of:
(1) disobedience to duly constituted authority in the Church;
(2) inciting dissension, resulting in division in the Parish of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Socorro, Surigao del Norte when they celebrated an open Mass at the Plaza on June 19, 1996; and
(3) for threatening to forcibly occupy the Parish Church causing anxiety and fear among the general membership.
[4] Obispo Maximo urges Fr. Florano to step down voluntarily but does not interfere with Bishop de la Cruz’s decision

Petitioners appealed to the Obispo Maximo and sought reconsideration of the above decision. In his letter to Bishop de la Cruz, the Obispo Maximo opined that Fr. Florano should step down voluntarily to avert the hostility and enmity among the members of the PIC parish in Socorro but stated that:
… I do not intervene in your diocesan decision in asking Fr. Florano to vacate Socorro parish…
[5] Bishop de la Cruz reassigned; his successor continues to support Fr. Florano

In the meantime, Bishop de la Cruz was reassigned to the diocese of Odmoczan and was replaced by Bishop Rhee M. Timbang. Like his predecessor, Bishop Timbang did not find a valid reason for transferring Fr. Florano to another parish. He issued a circular denying petitioners’ persistent clamor for the transfer/re-assignment of Fr. Florano. Petitioners were informed of such denial but they continued to celebrate mass and hold other religious activities through Fr. Ambong who had been restrained from performing any priestly functions in the PIC parish of Socorro, Surigao del Norte.  

[6] Taruc and other excommunicated members file complaint with Regional Trial Court of Surigao City, contending that their expulsion was illegal and violated due process; RTC rules that it has jurisdiction over the case

Because of the order of expulsion/excommunication, petitioners filed a complaint for damages with preliminary injunction against Bishop de la Cruz before the Regional Trial Court of Surigao City, Branch 32. They impleaded Fr. Florano and one Delfin T. Bordas on the theory that they conspired with the Bishop to have petitioners expelled and excommunicated from the PIC. They contended that their expulsion was illegal because it was done without trial thus violating their right to due process of law. Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the case before the lower court on the ground of lack of jurisdiction but it was denied. Their motion for reconsideration was likewise denied so they elevated the case to the Court of Appeals.

 [7] Court of Appeals reverses RTC decision, saying that civil courts should not interfere in the internal affairs of a religious organization except for the protection of civil or property rights

The appellate court reversed and set aside the decision of the court a quo and ordered the dismissal of the case without prejudice to its being refiled before the proper forum. It held:
… We find it unnecessary to deal on the validity of the excommunication/expulsion of the private respondents (Taruc, et al.), said acts being purely ecclesiastical matters which this Court considers to be outside the province of the civil courts. … “Civil Courts will not interfere in the internal affairs of a religious organization except for the protection of civil or property rights. Those rights may be the subject of litigation in a civil court, and the courts have jurisdiction to determine controverted claims to the title, use, or possession of church property.” … Obviously, there was no violation of a civil right in the present case. … Ergo, this Court is of the opinion and so holds that the instant case does not involve a violation and/or protection of a civil or property rights in order for the court a quo to acquire jurisdiction in the instant case.
[8] Supreme Court affirms CA ruling; courts do not have jurisdiction to hear a case involving the expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution

Petitioners appealed from the above decision but their petition was denied. Their motion for reconsideration was likewise denied, hence, this appeal. The only issue to be resolved in this case is whether or not the courts have jurisdiction to hear a case involving the expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution. We rule that the courts do not. Section 5, Article III or the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution specifically provides that:
Sec. 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
In our jurisdiction, we hold the Church and the State to be separate and distinct from each other. “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and to God what is God’s.” We have, however, observed as early as 1928 that:
upon the examination of the decisions it will be readily apparent that cases involving questions relative to ecclesiastical rights have always received the profoundest attention from the courts, not only because of their inherent interest, but because of the far reaching effects of the decisions in human society. [However,] courts have learned the lesson of conservatism in dealing with such matters, it having been found that, in a form of government where the complete separation of civil and ecclesiastical authority is insisted upon, the civil courts must not allow themselves to intrude unduly in matters of an ecclesiastical nature. (italics ours)
We agree with the Court of Appeals that the expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution/organization is a matter best left to the discretion of the officials, and the laws and canons, of said institution/organization. It is not for the courts to exercise control over church authorities in the performance of their discretionary and official functions. Rather, it is for the members of religious institutions/organizations to conform to just church regulations. In the words of Justice Samuel F. Miller:
… all who unite themselves to an ecclesiastical body do so with an implied consent to submit to the Church government and they are bound to submit to it.
In the leading case of Fonacier v. Court of Appeals, we enunciated the doctrine that in disputes involving religious institutions or organizations, there is one area which the Court should not touch: doctrinal and disciplinary differences. Thus,
The amendments of the constitution, restatement of articles of religion and abandonment of faith or abjuration alleged by appellant, having to do with faith, practice, doctrine, form of worship, ecclesiastical law, custom and rule of a church and having reference to the power of excluding from the church those allegedly unworthy of membership, are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts. (emphasis ours)

(Note: Facts of the case above are from the Supreme Court decision but numbered and with some paragraphs broken up for easier reading. Headings are mine.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Free ebook: “What every church leader needs to know about church communications”

Yvon Prehn, founder of the “Effective Church Communications” ministry, provides this free ebook only for this month. Yvon says:
“An effective church communication ministry that enables unchurched people to find Jesus as Savior and grow to mature disciples takes the joint efforts of all the church staff. Church communications that fully fulfill the Great Commission take more than a church administrator who knows how to create professional-looking publications.

“They require involved pastors and leaders. Unfortunately, this involvement is rare and that lack of involvement results in less than effective communications and often frustrated church communicators. But this book will help your church leaders understand the need for their involvement and the limits to their communication involvement in this vital area of church leadership, management and growth.”