The Right Reverend Rhee M. Timbang was elected as the new Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church (Iglesia Filipina Independiente, IFI) on 9 May 2017. He succeeds the Most Reverend Ephraim S. Fajutagana, who has held the office of Obispo Maximo since 2011. Timbang is currently bishop of the Diocese of Surigao and chairperson of the Supreme Council of Bishops. He will be consecrated as Supreme Bishop on 25 June.
Bishop Timbang has played an important part in deepening the IFI’s understanding of the diocese and the central role of the bishop, as described in the Supreme Council of Bishops’ statement “Rediscovering the Local Church”. In his diocese, he put the IFI policy of “episcopally led, synodically governed” into action.
Timbang studied at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, the University of the Philippines, and Birmingham City University.
The new Secretary General is Bishop Joel O. Porlares, who is Bishop of the Diocese of Bataan and Bulacan. He currently teaches church law and history at the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary and St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary.
The Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht have been in full communion with the Philippine Independent Church since 1965.
The announcement of Bishop Timbang’s election was overshadowed by other news from Mindanao. Carlo Morales, Bishop of Ozamiz, was arrested on 11 May while in the company of an alleged commander of the New People’s Army whom the police were looking for. The Philippine Independent Church has long campaigned for peace negotiations with the socialist National Democratic Front and has distanced itself from the violent actions of both the Philippine government and the New People’s Army.
In a letter to the Philippine Independent Church, the Archbishop of Utrecht Joris Vercammen expressed his solidarity with Bishop Morales and assured the church of his prayers for peace and justice for the imprisoned bishop and his wife.
Office of Information of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference