For the past 20 years of my life I have been attending, exploring, studying and observing different churches existing in my town. I was born a Catholic but in 1990 my family especially my mother and relatives from my mother’s side became evangelical Christians and decided to join an Evangelical Church. But that church was so far away, it was in Manila and we live in Cavite. So my mom and I decided to look for another church that is near in our house. We tried going to a Baptist church but it was too silent for us. So we tried attending a Born Again Pentecostal Church it was noisy at first but we got a hang of it and we stayed there from 1991 to 1999.
During my high school days I was suffering from “identity crisis” because I don’t know if I will accept my sexuality or not because of the teachings that was taught to me that homosexuality is a sin. But as a Christian I read and explored the bible and I read the stories of Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David, Centurion and his servant in Luke 7, and also Jesus and John. And it confused me. And during this time I was also confused on the fact that there are so many churches in our town. So I went and attend services of the Mormon church, Jehovah’s witnesses, Iglesia ni Cristo, Ang Dating Daan or Members Church of God International, El Shaddai and numerous Born Again Pentecostal Fundamentalist Ministries or Fellowships. And during that time one of my main question is where is the true church founded by Christ?
I read in the Bible in Matthew 16:18 that Jesus Christ our only Lord and Savior built his church. So I was asking everyone where is it but none of them convinced me. So my spiritual journey did not stop there. In 2000 I was invited by a member of the Metropolitan Community Church Manila. When I first attended their Sunday worship I was totally shocked! because everyone is gay and the worship service was too gayish for me and during that time I was in the closet but I was happy but I was shocked. So I didn’t go back for another 3 months.
After 3 months I thought I was ready to face myself and want to come out so I went to MCC Manila and became a member and eventually became the Assistant Pastor in 2001. At this church I learned so much about sexuality, ecumenism, understanding different churches and different traditions, respecting different beliefs, same sex relationships, same sex holy unions and many others. In 2005 I was elected as the Interim Pastoral Leader of MCC Philippines formerly called MCC Manila and ended my term in 2008. I had so many good memories and also bad ones. I learned to accept that there is no perfect church because we are not perfect. A perfect church is an empty church. After being an IPL of MCC Philippines I decided to retire early and be an ordinary citizen of the republic of the Philippines. So I decided to be a call center agent. But something happened. Our account was pulled out and 80 of us didn’t have work.
I remembered the Prophet Jonah when he was called by the Lord to preach in Nineveh and doesn’t want too because he said he is busy to do that. So he went far away just to escape God’s calling and he rode a boat and then disaster came. You know the story. He was eaten by a big fish and he was there for three days and nights and when the fish opened its mouth it was on dry land on the shores of Nineveh. So Jonah said Ok Lord I will preach less another fish will eat me again. To make the short story long I compared myself to Jonah.
One night I was praying because of this question that has been bothering me for such a long long time. Where is the church founded by Christ? I opened my Bible and I read Acts Chapter 20, when I came to verse 28 I felt that the letters was alive as if it was jumping out of its page. And so I read:
“Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood…”
God gave me a revelation in this particular verse. If I want to be a member of the true church founded by Christ I must look for a bishop. Not just a Bishop from any church but a bishop with a historic episcopate or ordained by the apostles that will assure me that the church that I am in is connected to the true church or true body of Christ. But I reasoned with God there are many churches today with apostolic succession like the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Churches, the Assyrian Churches, the Ethiopian Churches, the Indian Churches and most of them are anti-homosexual so how can I belong with them it’s impossible?
Well I never learn do I? I read in the Bible that all things are possible with God. So one night I had a chat with a Bishop at facebook and he was starting the Christian United Church. It was n inclusive, welcoming and affirming church for ALL PEOPLE straights and gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. And as we chat I learned that this Bishop has a historical episcopate in an unbroken chain from the Apostle Peter. And I was stunned. And I told myself I want to belong to this church. And I decided to join. He did not offer me any money nor a monthly salary. The spiritual tradition of the historic episcopate for me is enough. Now I feel at peace that I am now connected to the true body of Christ, the true church of God or church of Christ and that is connecting to the Bishop.
Tertulian (160 – 220 AD), a prolific Christian writer in from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa writes:
Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men…
Irenaeaus, an early church father also writes:
Wherefore we must obey the priests of the Church who have succession from the Apostles, as we have shown, who, together with succession in the episcopate, have received the mark of truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who separated themselves from the principal succession.
So for me the historic episcopate of our Bishop, H.E. Bishop David Strong is enough for me to be joyful, secured and assured that I am connected to the body or church that was founded by Christ. I am so exited, humbled and honored to be one of the local pastors of the Christian United Church and I have promised God that I will serve inside this church as long as I live. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!