THE VALUE OF HISTORY IN (LAY) THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION

THE VALUE OF HISTORY IN (LAY) THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION

By Fr. Apolonio  M. Ranche

(Delivered in the National Laymen of the Philippine Independent Church [NALPIC] Assembly, Iloilo City, August 2, 1995.)

 Points to Ponder from this Paper

  • Importance of theological education. Theological education is meant to enable Christians to understand his faith. Such understanding in turn enables one to articulate such faith and share it with others as well as give this faith expression in various situations in which he will encounter in his life as a Christian who belongs to his own particular denomination.
  • Theological education is primarily learning to say yes when God says yes and say no when God says no. The primary source of the reasons for our action is none other than our Almighty Father and therefore to know his will, form and matter fitting his life situation. It follows therefore that before one makes a statement regarding the faith and how the faith is to be given expression especially in critical and vital functions must have understood his faith and therefore conscious and aware of the implications of such action to the life of the Church.
  • Understanding history. History is more of a search for meanings for the present as defined by the past. And this field of study is guided by the search for truth. Recognizing that records of the past is colored by those who recorded it, historian does not look at the materials and sifts them for the selection of reliable and therefore useful in the reconstructing the past. And the past as reconstructed must approximate to the closest the truth or how it really happened. In such way, the reconstructed story of the past “ay may saysay.” Alam po ninyo, itong isang napakaganda sa ating sariling wika, ang kahulugan ng history ay KASAYSAYAN. Ang kuwento ng nakaraan ay kailangan may saysay.     
  • It is my contention after looking at the various presentations about the beginnings of the IFI that what we have so far are those so called myths or what some others have called pseudo-historical theories. I lament to note that such myths or pseudo-historical theories on the beginnings of the IFI are the more popular ones for most IFI members. Before going further, let me define myth or pseudo-historical theories as I mean it. Myth is not a total falsehood but rather uses some half truths to explain or interpret and give meaning to an event. It is an undeniable fact that there are so many myths which people have learned to live by. As they contain some half truths, they become pseudo-historical theories since history needs to be wholly true.
  • History tells us about the founding of the IFI.  Incontrovertible data tells us that in 1902, our country was again (being colonized) under a new colonizer – the Americans. It was primarily these colonizers whom the cry was directed to. An exercise in history is a look at the original documents and the lives of those primarily involved.
  • To make it short, there was never liberation during the times that our church was born, grew and gained national prominence. It gained national prominence precisely because it articulated a national aspiration to be free from foreign domination. It continued to proclaim and participate in the struggle for national freedom, independence and prosperity.
  • What do such historical data mean to theological education? You interpret these other ideas or beliefs learned in the other fields of theological education and you come up with this statement:

From a theological viewpoint, the IFI can be seen as a vehicle for communication by God. Conscious of the context when this church irrupted in the life of the Filipino people, its founders sought to respond to the Divine call for mission. Colonization of one nation by another nation is contrary to God’s will. For it is respect for the dignity of peoples to recognize their collective aspirations and desire for liberty. As clearly laid down in the official doctrines of our Church in its founding, Liberty is doing what is in accordance to one’s pleasure so long as you do not violate the rights of others. A people when liberty is denied must fight for it. A person who allows such liberty to be trampled is not worthy to be called a child of God. The IFI therefore had to be aligned with the national liberation movement and the struggle of the working class. This is her heritage in which she must continue to incarnate or give expression for if we look at Filipino society today, whether in the national, independence and abundant life.

  • Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “The Truth shall make you free.” May we be freed from those pseudo-historical theories on the beginnings of our Church. That is the value of history as a critical field of study concerned for the illumination of the present by looking at the true past which can serve as sure and sturdy foundation which we can stand on in our continued journey towards the future. Definitely, we must do this if we are to enter the Bagong Siglo with a Panibagong Sigla sa Paglilingkod sa Diyos at sa Bayan.

I.  INTRODUCTION

Venerable Members of the National Laymen of the Philippines Independent Church, Good Morning. It is my presumption that this is national assembly of your organization and therefore it is appropriate to greet you as fellow members of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente from all over the Philippines and other areas where our beloved church had been planted.

In line with the over-all theme of this year’s centennial celebration, the topic given to me is “The Value of History in the Lay Theological Education”. You will notice that in the title, the word Lay is enclosed in parenthesis. That is intentionally done since to my mind, there is no dichotomy or difference in lay  as well as ordained theological education. Whatever value it has in theological education, such holds true whether theological education is for the lay or the ordained. I agree wholeheartedly however that we have to deal or tackle seriously the serious topic of theological education.

The lack of nurture in the faith is one of the identified reasons why membership is our church had been dwindling through the years. Christian education programs or endeavors in our church is definitely found wanting, there are very few and far between. Added to this is the lack of coherence or unity among all these endeavors. Looking more deeply unto this, there is no solidified theological education n the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. There is no unified training among those who are involved in the various scattered Christian education programs in our Church. It is therefore timely and fitting that in this year as we celebrate the 93rd Anniversary of the Proclamation of our Church, we have for our theme and topic for the Centennial Lecture and therefore to be discussed in the various sectors “The IFI and Theological Education”.

I was not here yesterday so I am not very sure of what happened in the Centennial Lecture. I was hoping to get copies f the Lecture and the Various reactions when I was preparing for this lecture last week. The copy of the lecture by Bishop Rosales which I was able to get hold of is entitled Theological Education for the IFI. I was not able to find the definition or clear statement on what theological education in the IFI is. I was rather expecting to see that in a lecture by a member of the magisterium. The bishop may have his own reasons and this might have come out yesterday. I am open for any information in that regard later at the open forum if there is any.

Going back to the toic, aside from theological education being the same in so far as content for all students, I would like to point out that the topic cannot be given justice in a lecturette. I was asked to give this lecturette not so long ago and with my work as an Instructor and my life as a student as well as a family man, I just didn’t have the luxury of time to  undertake an extensive research which I would have loved to do. Besides, this assembly is not meant to be an academic exercise so what I will present is part of my experiences as one who seems history as indispensable in theological education.

II.  AN UNDERSTANDING OF THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION

In this section, I would like to present an understanding of theological education which I hope is not technical and which is a product of my own experience as one involve in theological education. As Chairman of the CTEOM, and as instructor of SATS, I have access to the Curriculum of SATS as well as the one prescribed for our regional seminaries or the so called Tagaytay Curriculum. It is called such because  it was the lasting product of a National Consultation on Theological Education held at Tagaytay City in 1988. A look at the history courses in both curricula will reveal that except for Philippine History which is the first course offering in the Tagaytay Curriculum, all the other courses are the same for IFI students.

What has this got to do with theological education? The whole seminary program, the biggest portion of which is fulfilling the curriculum is the most common form of theological education not only in the IFI but in all other denominations as well. Actually at SATS, except for the particular histories of their own denominations, all students, Episcopalians and Aglipayans follow the same curriculum. Theological education as such is primarily preparation for the ordained ministry. But this can give the idea that theological education is preparation for any work related to the fulfillment of the mission or vocation of the church.  Because all members of any denomination must be involved in the life of his own church, this necessarily means that under-going theological education is an imperative for any Christian in order to be a useful if not worthy member of the Body of Christ. Theological education is meant to enable Christians to understand his faith. Such understanding in turn enables one to articulate such faith and share it with others as well as give this faith expression in various situations in which he will encounter in his life as a Christian who belongs to his own particular denomination.

One other definition which I have treasured with fondness through the years was the one which I have come to adopt after several rounds of discussion with the late Bishop Emerson Bonoan, who in the teaching profession and in the ordained ministry was both a master and a colleague but always had been a friend. This is what I presented when I gave a priest’s view on the Continuing Theological Education (CTE) for the NPO in that founding consultation in 1979. Theological education is primarily learning to say yes when God says yes and say no when God says no. The primary source of the reasons for our action is none other than our Almighty Father and therefore to know his will, form and matter fitting his life situation. It follows therefore that before one makes a statement regarding the faith and how the faith is to be given expression especially in critical and vital functions must have understood his faith and therefore conscious and aware of the implications of such action to the life of the Church.

I can say will all confidence and firmness that I was the one primarily responsible for the formulation of the illuminator for the courses in SHE (Studies In Ecclesiastical History) in the SATS Curriculum. There is no illuminator for the History Courses in the Tagaytay Curriculum as courses are arranged on the years and semester they are to be offered but I can also say that I had great influence in the identification and definition of said course offerings in History. However, the SATS illuminator can also be applied to the Tagaytay Curriculum. Said Illuminator gives a concise statement on what Christian History is and therefore we can find its value on theological education. The first paragraph of said Illuminator says:

Church History is the story of the response of the People of God to the divine call for mission in Christ by the Power of the Holy Spirit. The course offerings under Studies in Ecclesiastical History at SATS provide opportunity for students to place the ecclesiastic bodies to which they belong in their proper historic perspective and to develop a more comprehensive view of the Christian Church as man’s living experience with God in the world throughout the ages. Studies in the Ecclesiastical History enables a person to assure himself that his particular denomination is part of the Christian Church, the story of which is the response of the people of God. One who has undertaken historical studies has understood that even if he is living in a certain place far from the place where the Church was born in a certain time long after the apostles has started in their mission to spread the gospel knows and understands that he is just but continuing the tradition which started with Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

Two main concepts which are major topics in the area of Christian Doctrine had been part of my discussion and these are Church and Mission. Study of these two concepts are defined as Ecclesiology and Missiology respectively. These concepts have undergone developments and some evolution in meaning and function through the years. They have also taken specificities and particularities in the various denominations of the Christian Church. In looking at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente which is our own Church and a denomination in the Universal Christian Church, when we need to understand our own Church and its mission, we need to look at the generalities and universalities of the Body of Christ. On the other hand, we also need to look into our own particularities in terms of ecclesiality and mission. And we can only do so if we seek the assistance of history.

III.  AN UNDERTANDING OF HISTORY

The specificity or particularity of our character as part of the bigger Body of Christ and our mission or vocation as a denomination is certainly defined or shaped by our own history. At this juncture, let me now enter a definition or understanding of history. Whenever I talk of history, I don’t mean bits and pieces of data from the past arranged chronologically as parts of a story. When I say history, I mean that field of study which seeks to illuminate the present by looking into the past. History is more of a search for meanings for the present as defined by the past. And this field of study is guided by the search for truth. Recognizing that records of the past is colored by those who recorded it, historian does not look at the materials and sifts them for the selection of reliable and therefore useful in the reconstructing the past. And the past as reconstructed must approximate to the closest the truth or how it really happened. In such way, the reconstructed story of the past “ay may saysay.” Alam po ninyo, itong isang napakaganda sa ating sariling wika, ang kahulugan ng history ay KASYSAYAN. Ang kuwento ng nakaraan ay kailangan may saysay.

IV.  HSITORY AND THE BEGINNINGS OF THE IFI

It is my contention after looking at the various presentations about the beginnings of the IFI that what we have so far are those so called myths or what some others have called pseudo-historical theories. I lament to note that such myths or pseudo-historical theories on the beginnings of the IFI are the more popular ones for most IFI members. Before going further, let me define myth or pseudo-historical theories as I mean it. Myth is not a total falsehood but rather uses some half truths to explain or interpret and give meaning to an event. It is an undeniable fact that there are so many myths which people have learned to live by. As they contain some half truths, they become pseudo-historical theories since history needs to be wholly true.

Let me explain now what I mean when I say that our knowledge or understanding of our beginnings is a myth. The most popular description of the IFI is that romantic definition that it is the remaining tangible result of the Revolution. The Revolution of course was against the rightfully pictured curel Spanish colonizers. The ideology that inspired the revolution was of course nationalism. And then some trace the roots of such nationalism to the anti-Spanish resistance or revolts starting from Lapulapu (or sometimes end with Lapulapu and jump to the Revolution). Nationalism here diluted for such revolts during the Spanish colonial period before the Revolution were for the most part negative reactions to the cruel and oppressive Spanish impositions and not a positive movement towards a national goal. The cry of course during the Revolution was for the Filipino to be freed from the Spanish colonizers. And because the Spaniards were driven away, there was the need to rejoice and celebrate and this is the heritage that the IFI holds on to.

To use other terminologies, the IFI therefore was the proclaimer or bearer of liberation from foreign oppressors, particularly the Spaniards who colonized us. Who wouldn’t want such kind of Church? What Filipino would therefore not belong to this Church? The argument now runs that if you do not belong to this Church you are not a true Filipino. To me this sounds chauvinistic or exclusivistic.  To have this view runs counter to being a nationalist who advocate national unity or identity. But worse, this is not totally true and therefore pseudo-historical. The truth is that there are many other expressions or articulations of said cry. There were many other expressions of the national longings and aspirations of the Filipino people to have freedom from foreign masters. The IFI was only but one of those who articulated such national aspiration or desire which she frequently did by praying that may the Almighty Father allow the rising of the joyful day of freedom, independence and abundant life.

But to go back to that romantic description, that is tantamount to saying that one of the purposes of the Revolution was the founding of a Filipino Church. But that is not true! The Paniqui Assembly which some pointed as the founding of the IFI did not envision an independent Filipino Church. During the Revolution, there never was any attempt to separate from the Vatican. It was only after numerous failures in the attempt to seek recognition of the Vatican on the Filipino struggles for freedom that separation became the option. And what was the very reason for such separation? Again, most presentations present the resentment of the clergy because they are not given responsible positions in the Church. That to me is not true and very shallow. It was also very clear in the Doctrina y Reglas Constitucionales that such objective is the least reason for the founding of the IFI. The very reason of course is that the struggle for freedom must go on. Recognition of the value or need for the church in said struggle was the reason for the establishment of the IFI. At that time, the institutional Church meaning the Roman Catholic and the missionary Churches or the Protestant Churches were already on the side of the new colonizers. That was what the Governor-General of the NPO tried to explain more than eleven years ago when he said:

One question that has been repeatedly asked of me is how the nationalism of the church should be considered in the light of the present Philippine realities. One thing is that the heritage must be well understood. We must posit the nationalism expressed by Don Belong and Aglipay within the content of their times and understand why it had to be Anti-Roman Catholic and anti-Protestant for instance. But yet, we must also analyze the context today and perhaps see how the Americans and the Spaniards that Don Belong were fighting against are actually present, their shoes being worn by Filipinos acting as proxies of these perpetrators of anti-Filipino acts.

To further explain why our understanding of the beginnings of the IFI as a myth, let’s have a glimpse look at the popular understanding of the two great men, Gregorio Aglipay and Don Belong. These two great men who were identified with the early years of the Church. Specifically on Aglipay, our knowledge of him is limited to the “Aglipay Before Aglipayanism.” We don’t have a clear understanding of Aglipay as a practitioner of Aglipayanism. We have an understanding of Aglipay as a revolutionary against the Spaniards in the roles of priest involved in the Secularization and Filipinization in the Catholic Church and a Katipunan sympathizer, member and eventually an organizer. Many of us even mistake his being a guerilla general during the Revolution fighting against the Spaniards when the truth was that he was fighting against the Americans. On Don Belong, aside from being the one who proclaimed the IFI, there’s not much that we know about this fellow. What were his statements when he became involved in politics during the American colonial period? I will go back to this point later.

Talking about the Americans, we find the mother of these myths, that the Americans came to help us and since they were more powerful than the Filipino revolutionaries, they should  be given more credit in our liberation from the Spaniards. Other elements supporting such mother of all myths would be that they stayed however in the Philippines to teach us the principles of democracy and self government through popular education.

It is my contention that because of such myths that pervaded and guided the life of the IFI for so many years now, the IFI had been amiss in its fulfillment of its vocation and mission to the Filipino people. And thanks be to God, the Bishops of the Church have come to realize this and they have said so in their First Pastoral Letter entitled “Our Heritage, Our Response.” Nevertheless, it seems to me that this heritage is still vague fro many of us. When we talk of colonizers or those who denied the Filipino people of freedom during the birth of our church, many of us can only think of the Spaniards and the Vatican.

But history tells us another story. Incontrovertible data tells us that in 1902, our country was again under a new colonizer – the Americans. It was primarily these colonizers whom the cry was directed to. An exercise in history is a look at the original documents and the lives of those primarily involved. I would like to end my sharing with an endeavor of that kind.

V. HISTORY AND THEOLOGY

The original statement on the IFI as a remnant of the Revolution came from the mouth of the nationalist playwright, author of Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas, Aurelio Tolentino who in a speech to the IFI members in Guagua, Pampanga on February, 1903 said:

You will recall the history of the Revolution. You have seen the road which we have passed, and know it as an irrigation ditch filled with blood. We managed to reach the goal of our ideals, but it all was but momentary, our enthusiasm died out, and then… almost nothing.

But no: there is one great left us (sic). Our political independence may be dead, but from its ashes our religious independence has arisen vigorous….

The religious independence was what the IFI stood for in that period. If one looks at the ealier paragraphs of such speech, he was talking of three baptism, Filipino, Roman and Presbyterian all of which he said was the same but the root of the question at that time when the identity of baptism is asked is religious independence.

In the next occasion, still in the same month, he explained that religion is the political bond of national unity and the Filipino Church does not bastardize the true sense of the sage democratic teachings of Christ, or distort the faithful interpretation of the Gospel which dominates the orders of the Christian morality and aspires to charity, love of neighbor and progress of country and national unity.

If there was a time that the IFI enjoyed national prestige and that what some of our older members nostalgically reminisce, it was because it fulfilled its God-given mission in this God given country for the Filipinos. Our first Obispo Maimo was not only a priest who fought in various roles during the Spanish colonial period. He was a guerilla general during the Filipino-American War; he was a friend of the renegades during the early American colonial period; he was always on the side of those who staged peasant rebellions during the twenties and the thirties. He was in the forefront urging political unity among the Filipinos and exhorted them to work not for their colonial masters but the interest of the Filipinos.

On the other hand, Don Belong was in addition to his being a theologian of the Church was a politician serving positions as councilor in Manila and later as a senator. In said positions, he was always castigating his colleagues who when facing he people were projecting their stand that they were for immediate independence but in the face of their American masters, they were for prolonged tutelage under their benevolent colonizers emphasizing that their countrymen really needs such tutelage.

To make it short, there was never liberation during the times that our church was born, grew and gained national prominence. It gained national prominence precisely because it articulated a national aspiration to be free from foreign domination. It continued to proclaim and participate in the struggle for national freedom, independence and prosperity.

As a concluding statement, what do such historical data mean to theological education? You interpret these other ideas or beliefs learned in the other fields of theological education and you come up with this statement:

From a theological viewpoint, the IFI can be seen as a vehicle for communication by God. Conscious of the context when this church irrupted in the life of the Filipino people, its founders sought to respond to the Divine call for mission. Colonization of one nation by another nation is contrary to God’s will. For it is respect for the dignity of peoples to recognize their collective aspirations and desire for liberty. As clearly laid down in the official doctrines of our Church in its founding, Liberty is doing what is in accordance to one’s pleasure so long as you do not violate the rights of others. A people when liberty is denied must fight for it. A person who allows such liberty to be trampled is not worthy to be called a child of God. The IFI therefore had to be aligned with the national liberation movement and the struggle of the working class. This is her heritage in which she must continue to incarnate or give expression for if we look at Filipino society today, whether in the national, independence and abundant life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “The Truth shall make you free.” May we be freed from those pseudo-historical theories on the beginnings of our Church. That is the value of history as a critical field of study concerned for the illumination of the present by looking at the true past which can serve as sure and sturdy foundation which we can stand on in our continued journey towards the future. Definitely, we must do this if we are to enter the Bagong Siglo with a Panibagong Sigla sa Paglilingkod sa Diyos at sa Bayan.

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