The United Methodist Church’s Philippines Central Conference has elected its first females bishop.
Rev. Ruby-Nell M. Estrella, 57, has been elected bishop during the central conference’s meeting in Cabanatuan City on November 26.
“So many people have told me that I would be the first woman bishop in the Philippines, [because] I was just a local pastor — even when I have not proven anything yet. I just laughed and never took it seriously,” she said in a report on the Church’s website
Estrella said that she has supported and campaigned for women candidates since she became a delegate to the Philippines Central Conference.
“Now that this long-awaited dream has been fulfilled in my election, it feels so surreal. I am truly humbled and thankful to God for this historic election,” she said, adding that she believed God would help the Church.
“Instead of worrying, I am praying that the future of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines and around the world will be filled with exciting possibilities as we fulfill the mission of Christ in this broken world,” said Estrella.
The central conference’s delegates, an equal number of United Methodist clergy and laity from the country’s three episcopal areas, elected Estrella and assigned her to lead the Manila Episcopal Area.
Methodist Bishops in the Philippines serve four-year terms before they face reelection or retirement.
“I hope I will be able to do more for the women and youth of our Church now that I’m a bishop,” she said.
“They have been passionately serving God and the Church with all that they have, but oftentimes, these were not fully recognized by the Church,” she added.
Estrella was baptized and nurtured at Tangos United Methodist Church in Navotas City. She is the second of four daughters of the late Elmer Eugenio and late Leonarda Manucom Estrella.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Accountancy degree at Polytechnic University of the Philippines and passed the licensure examinations for Certified Public Accountants in 1986.
She worked as junior auditor in a group of companies in Makati, but the dream job failed to bring her joy, she said.
She left the role and volunteered as church secretary at Tangos United Methodist Church until she heeded God’s call to the ordained ministry in 1987.
In 1994, she graduated with a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary. She was admitted on probation and ordained deacon in 1993 at St. Peter United Methodist Church and as a full member and ordained elder in 1995 at St. Paul United Methodist Church.
In The United Methodist Church, bishops are ordained elders who are called to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church.”
Bishops, in consultation with district superintendents, are responsible for appointing clergy. They also preside at annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences and General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.