Dr. Gordon Zerbe, Academic Vice President at Canadian Mennonite University, graciously offered his expertise in New Testament through a series of public lectures among selected leaders, field workers, and volunteers of various Christian churches and organizations in the Greater Davao Area. Upon the invitation by four groups — UCCP Davao (the Davao City congregation of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines), UCCP Matina, Davao Bible Community Church, and the PeaceBuilders Community-Davao — Dr. Zerbe became an itinerant biblical scholar in this area between December 6 and 16, 2015.
The senior pastor of Davao Bible Community Church (DBCC), Rev. Norman Naromal, expressed his appreciation from the “fresh insights” he gained from the Dr. Zerbe’s sermon in his church last December 6th. “His perspectives on the Christmas Story is so disturbing but liberating,” he said. Rev. Naromal is an ordained minister of the Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines to which DBCC is affiliated. In the afternoon of that same day, Dr. Zerbe gave a lecture on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. It was coordinated by both Rev. Naromal and Rev. Wenzyl Dejolde of UCCP Matina. Rev. Dejolde was a former student of Dr. Zerbe in New Testament at the Divinity School of Silliman University more than ten years ago. Rev. Naromal was a participant at the International Mennonite Pastors Coming Together (IMPaCT) through the recommendation of PeaceBuilders Community. This was the first joint event between the two congregations from both ends of a theological spectrum — one from the Conservative Baptist denomination and one from a progressive UCCP.
On December 10th, Dr. Zerbe gave a lecture on ‘The Gospels’ before 75 people at Davao UCCP’s main sanctuary. The participants came from Davao City and the surrounding municipalities, as well as from the neighboring provinces. Most of the questions from the participants revolved around the issues of justice, peace, armed struggle, non-violence, and community. These are the major subjects of discussion among members, lay leaders, and clergy of the UCCP. Some of them who are working in the midst of the prevailing unjust and violent systems against the poor tend to read the Gospels with welcoming perspectives on armed struggle by non-state armed groups. Some of them who are tired of the decades-long fighting between the government troops and the rebel groups tend to read the Gospels with welcoming perspectives on the military’s anti-insurgency operations. Dr. Zerbe affirmed that the Gospels announce the coming of the reign of God characterized by justice-based peace or shalom. This means that the followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, are called to pursue, even lovingly sacrifice their lives for justice and peace, but not to kill or use violence as they seek the same justice and peace.
On Sunday, December 13th, Rev. Dejolde of UCCP Matina invited Dr. Zerbe to preach in the morning and to give a lecture in the afternoon among the key leaders of the congregation. In his presentation on the The Book of Romans, Dr. Zerbe, started by discussing the historical, cultural, and economic contexts of the Apostle Paul when he wrote his letter. According to him, “the Book of Romans was written by Paul to resolve a disunity problem in the church. The doctrine of ‘justification by faith’ is the framework by which Paul wanted the believers in Rome to accept and welcome one another.”
Gordon Zerbe and Wendy Kroeker stayed at the guest room of the PeaceBuilders Center in Davao. They also immersed themselves in the day-to-day life of the center — eating, listening, laughing, solving problems, and praying with our staff and volunteers. They left for Canada on the 16th of December.
We are grateful to God and we are thankful for the life and ministries of Gordon and Wendy while they were with us here in Davao City.