A Brief History of the UMC in the Philippines
The Methodist faith first reached the shores of the Philippines through Rev. Major George Stull, a chaplain of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who came with the occupying forces. Rev. Stull conducted the first Protestant worship service in the country on August 28, 1898 within an old Spanish dungeon facing Manila Bay.
In the early days of American occupation in the country, American missionaries decided to divide the territories among themselves to cover more ground and avoid competition with each other. The Methodist missionaries focused on the Northern Luzon area, which probably explains why the majority of Methodists are Ilocano-speaking. (Ilocano is the third most popular language in the Philippines.) A lot of the churches these missionaries planted are still standing strong even after more than 100 years. Some notable United Methodist Churches include the Central UMC located at T.M. Kalaw Street. It is the first ever Protestant church in the predominantly catholic country. Knox UMC, on the other hand, is perhaps the first Methodist church with a predominantly Filipino membership.
From its humble beginnings, the United Methodist Church in the Philippines is now organized as a Central Conference, the only one in Asia, with more than 300,000 members throughout the country. It has 25 Annual Conferences grouped into three Episcopal Areas: the Baguio Episcopal Area, covering the northern provinces in the island of Luzon; the Manila Episcopal area, which covers the areas around Metro Manila; and Davao Episcopal area, covering a scattering of islands from the southernmost tip of Luzon, the Visayas group of islands, and the Mindanao area. The three bishops in charge of these areas are Rev. Pedro M. Torio Jr, Rev. Rudy Juan, and Rev. Ciriaco Francisco, respectively.
Young people are active participants in the life and mission of the UMC in the Philippines. The United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines (UMYFP) and the United Methodist Young Adults Fellowship in the Philippines (UMYAFP) both have strong and dynamic national organizations. The UMYFP’s members are young Methodists aged 12-23, while the UMYAFP’s members are those from 24 to 40 years old.