On Rediscovering the Local Church
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente, as an ecclesial community, manifests, represents and realizes in almost every place and every time the One and Universal Church of Christ and witnesses to Jesus, her Lord and Liberator, through the exercise of mission and ministry of the local churches – the dioceses. These local churches, entrusted with the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments, bear the fullness of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
The local churches or dioceses exist in ecclesial communion that no individual local church can claim autonomy and independence, but only nurturing interrelatedness, mutual responsibility and interdependence with other local churches. This dynamism arises from the actuality and verity that all local churches, profess and proclaim the one and the same faith; receive and preach the same Gospel; are sanctified by the one and the same baptism and nurtured by the one and the same Eucharist; and are served by a common ministry. All local churches are subject to the grace of one and the same Father, have one and the same Lord, and are inspired by one and the same Holy Spirit. This communion is expressed in service and witness to the world; and is sustained by a fundamental coherence and consonance in the living elements of apostolicity and unity: the baptism and Eucharist, the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds, the ordered ministry and the canon of Scriptures. These living elements found at the local churches serve to ensure the fidelity and authentic succession of the IFI to the apostolic faith and mission. Thus, the local church, however, poor and small, incarnates and actualizes the fullness of the one and universal Church of Christ.
Bishops, collegially sharing the ministry of oversight in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente with the primacy of the Obispo Maximo, bear the fullness of ministry and serve the unity, continuity and communion of the local churches. The bishops, who head the local churches, are the principal dispensers of the Sacrament of Orders, and from whom both priests and deacons derive their authority in ministry.
Bishops exercise the ministry of oversight in personal, collegial and communal ways. Their specific ministry however is exercised responsibly in partnership with other bishops, clergy and laity of the whole Iglesia Filipina Independiente. This interdependence in the exercise of ministry is an expression of the fundamental unity in the life of the Triune God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, episcopal ministry is not authoritarian ministry, but rather a ministry that is exercised in service to the ecclesial community. The episcopal ministry is of fundamental importance in the life of the local and universal Church, being the ministry of pastoring and building up God’s people. It reflects the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and from whom we draw order in the life of the Church.
Our reaffirmation of the local churches enables us to define the diocese as the locus of the mission and ministry of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and to rediscover the prominence of episcopal ministry in our Church, whom, together with the ministry of all our clergy and laity, bears witness to our Catholic and Apostolic faith.