Filipino fellowship gathers for equipping and conversation

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – About 150 people attended the annual meeting of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America as part of the 2024 Southern Baptist (SBC) annual meeting.

Perhaps the largest gathering since 2013, the Filipino Fellowship met Monday, June 10, at the Indiana Convention Center with a theme of “Transformed by the Truth.” The scripture: 1 Peter 3:15.

“We are encouraged to see new churches and pastors are participating in our annual fellowship and that we are able to provide an equipping portion for our pastors as well as time to interact with one another,” Executive Director Dan Santiago told Baptist Press. “It is our joy. We are so happy to do this.”

The Fellowship officers – and their wives, who handled registration – worked together as “a smoothly functioning team,” Santiago added.

Several representatives from SBC entities brought greetings: Charles Grant, the SBC Executive Committee’s associate vice president of convention advancement and relations; Ezra Bae, Asian strategist for the International Mission Board (IMB); Jeremy Sin, Asian national missionary for the North American Mission Board (NAMB); Ed Aungon, president of the Southern Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary; and Alexander Arceno, mission director for the Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches.

As stated on its new website – fsbcna.org – the Filipino fellowship exists to plant churches, train pastors and church leaders and assist pastors with ministry needs and the annual meeting. Filipino churches are invited to add their names to the website, the executive director said.

“Our program this year was on equipping our pastors,” Santiago said. “We want to help the Filipino churches address the issues in local churches.”

In breakout sessions, Bethel Bumanglag-Webb, who works in the women’s ministry department at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) as well as with the Christian Psychological Institute, spoke on the wellness needs of pastors’ wives.

Victor Dela Cruz, pastor of Biblical Community Church East in Dallas, explained the benefit of using Logos Bible study software.

Guest speaker Andrew Walker, associate professor of Christian ethics and public theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke about transgenderism “just in case our pastors encounter it,” Santiago told Baptist Press. “Dr. Walker gives a biblical basis, but also a practical and ethical way of handling this issue in churches today.”

The Filipino Fellowship provided each pastor present with a copy of Walker’s book, “God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Gender Identity?” expanded and updated in 2022 from the original published in 2017.

The Fellowship in March agreed to partner with NAMB in the calling of its second Filipino church planter, Tim Eborda, to serve in Frankfort, Ill.

The church planting in Illinois is done in collaboration with the sending church, Ashburn Baptist Church in Orland Park, Ill. Eborda, the church planter, was assessed and approved by the Send Network in Illinois.

Eborda spoke about the steps he is taking: meeting people, making friends and already averaging 55 in a multi-ethnic congregation.

“They continue to increase their influence in the community by conducting home Bible studies, especially in the Filipino-American community,” Santiago said.

There are about 200 Southern Baptist churches that worship in a Filipino, Filipino-American or Filipino-international context, Santiago noted. Since more than 4 million Filipinos live in the United States, “there is a need for many more churches,” the executive director said.  

“The FSBFNA leadership is committed to uniting our churches and pastors in doing God’s work in partnership with the SBC Convention entities,” Santiago continued. “We continue to promote partnerships and visited churches this last year in Texas, Washington D.C., California, and Illinois.

“… Using the process and standards used by the Send Network, our fellowship may now assess our church planter and submit the names for approval and support to NAMB.”

The Filipino Fellowship is a founding member of the SBC’s Asian Collective, Santiago added.

The Filipino fellowship did not have a business meeting this year. Officers were elected last year for a two-year term: President: Pablito “Lito” Lucas, pastor of Philippine International Christian Fellowship in Lakeland, Fla.; West Coast Vice President: Valentino Natcher, pastor of Filipino Bible Church in Anchorage, Alaska; East Coast Vice President: Darius Noble, pastor of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Cherry Hill, N.J.; Treasurer: Vener Rafael, pastor of Filipino American Christian Church in Miami Shores, Fla.; and Secretary: John Paul “JP” Arceno, pastor of Union Community Bible Church in Annandale, N.J.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

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