During the summer of 1960, Jordan Memorial Methodist Church in Ramseur, N.C., welcomed Danny Arichea, a new field education student from Duke Divinity School.
Nearly 50 years later, Daniel C. Arichea Jr. returns to visit that church when he can. Now, however, he is a professor, a retired bishop, and an accomplished leader in the field of scriptural translation.
Elderly parishioners remember his time there, and they still talk about his Fourth of July sermon, which Arichea himself has long since forgotten.
“I don’t remember what I said,” he explains with a laugh, “but they think they do!” Looking back he recalls that he had a room in the parsonage, but never stayed there, “because I had a bed in every house I visited.”
At the end of the summer placement, parishioners held a party in his honor and gave him a set of American Tourister luggage, which he used for years traveling around the globe.
All this, for an internship of just two months.
Arichea’s reception at Jordan Memorial United Methodist Church speaks to who he is—an easygoing and affable individual for whom ministry across continents has been a life-long calling. That calling has led Arichea around the world, from rural North Carolina to metropolitan Hong Kong, from the local church to biblical translation and to the episcopacy, and in 2006, to the honor of Duke Divinity School’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Born in 1934 to Roman Catholic parents in San Narciso on the west coast of Luzon, Arichea was baptized in the Methodist church at the urging of his grandfather, who had converted not long after the infant’s birth. His parents soon joined the church as well.
As a young man he was headed for a career in law until a single sermon changed everything. That sermon, preached in 1953 by a visiting seminary professor, convinced Arichea that his calling was to the gospel, not the courtroom.
After earning his bachelor of theology at Union Theological Seminary in Manila, he came to the United States in 1958 for a preaching tour arranged by missionary and Duke graduate Elbert Wethington. Proceeds from the tour made it possible for Arichea to continue his studies at Duke.
When he arrived, Arichea remembers his feelings of being an outsider: he was the first Filipino student at Duke at a time when minorities on the segregated campus were rare.
But he was soon welcomed by the Divinity School community, and Dean Robert E. Cushman and his wife became his surrogate parents. He also found a close friend in Helen Kendall, the registrar, for whom he worked, and he remembers the faculty as close friends as well.
An exceptional student, Arichea once completed a one-hour exam in Professor Mickey Efird’s class in just 20 minutes. Not wanting to walk out early, he started reading the newspaper to the chagrin of his fellow students, who playfully jeered him into leaving. As Efird embellishes the story, however, it was a three-hour exam and Arichea was literally carried out of the room by several strong and angry classmates.
After earning his master’s degree in religious education in 1960, Arichea returned to the Philippines as the youngest member of the faculty at Union Theological Seminary. Although he had received an offer for Ph.D. study at Boston University, Dean Cushman was determined to have him back at Duke. Arichea did indeed return to Duke in 1962, where he completed his Ph.D. under Professor Hugh Anderson.
The next year he married Ruth Mandac, to whom he had become engaged in the Philippines. Cushman helped arrange for her to come to Durham, and he officiated their wedding in York Chapel. Ruth enrolled in the Divinity School and completed the M.R.E. in 1965.
After Daniel and Ruth had their first child, it became clear that they needed a car. Cushman heard about this, and he called the student to his office.
“You can’t afford a car,” Cushman said, then pointed out the window to his own wife’s car. “You can use that one for the rest of the year.”
More than four decades later, Ruth is still a vital partner. She has a gift for music and has organized choirs and music groups everywhere they have served. He describes her as an organizer and admits that, “I would be lost in the midst of chaos if she was not around to help. I have always considered my ministry as a partnership with her.” He often quips that when they are apart he is “ruthless.”
Road to the Episcopacy
The young couple returned home to the Philippines in 1965, where Arichea taught again at Union Theological Seminary. In 1968, he joined the staff of the United Bible Societies as a translation consultant. That work took Arichea and his family from the Philippines (1969-72) to Thailand (1972-74), Indonesia (1974-87) and Hong Kong (1987-94).
Faithful translation of Scripture into vernacular Asian languages presented Arichea with countless challenges.
For example, “hard-hearted” can mean “stubborn” in Scripture, but translates better in many Asian languages as “without pity.” Such nuanced differences must be taken into account in order to make Scripture accessible. Furthermore, many theological concepts in Scripture are presented in abstract expressions, whereas Asian languages more often use concrete expressions.
The greatest challenge, he says, comes from cultural differences. In one Indonesian area, sheep do not exist. They are simply unknown, so the translator working with Arichea attempted to replace “sheep” with “pigs,” ending up with such phrases as “Behold the piglet of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
Worse, the parable of the lost sheep became the parable of the lost pig, and when the swineherd had found his lost pig, “He called all his neighbors together to rejoice, and they ate it.”
It was Arichea’s job to catch and correct such cultural and theological mistakes and miscommunications, and keep the new translations as true to the original text as possible, while still making them accessible.
A Reluctant Bishop
Early in the 1970s, talk began about Arichea becoming a bishop, but he wanted no part of it. A decade later, while he worked in Hong Kong as the regional translation coordinator for the Asia Pacific Region of the United Bible Societies, rumors that he would be nominated to the episcopacy were still circulating in the Philippines. Again, Arichea made it clear that he was not interested. But at the 1994 Central Conference, his name began appearing on the ballots, and on the eighth ballot, he was elected, in absentia.
It was hard news for Arichea to take. He was dedicated to his work with the United Bible Societies, and still had no desire to serve as bishop. Upon reflection, however, he decided that as a United Methodist elder he had no choice. If he had been appointed to the episcopacy, it was his duty to serve. He flew to Manila and was consecrated.
Arichea served as bishop of the Baguio Episcopal Area, in northern Luzon, from 1994 through 2000. He focused on the recruitment and training of church workers, the support of church workers, and reforms of the appointment process. He also worked to strengthen children’s ministries and ensure access to Scripture for families. Ruth was by his side, an important partner in all of his work.
His commitment to the United Bible Societies continued in the Philippines, most visibly as president of the Philippine Bible Society from 1997-98, and again from 2001-05. He currently serves as honorary translation consultant for the Society, overseeing a new project entitled the New Filipino Standard Bible.
“I am glad that I have a part in making the Bible an open book in many parts of the world,” he says.
Return to Duke
Since 2001, Arichea has served the Divinity School as bishop-in-residence and taught two courses designed to raise student awareness of Christianity on the Asian continent.
“I hope that students at Duke come to much more appreciate their Asian brothers and sisters and to be one with them in their struggles to be faithful and committed Christians,” he says.
Now 73, he also teaches at Harris Memorial College, a United Methodist college for deaconesses in the Philippines. Deaconesses there are often commissioned as teachers, youth workers, or music leaders, performing a great deal of the work of the church. In addition, Arichea advises five doctoral students in biblical studies at Philippine Christian University.
Children’s welfare is an issue close to Arichea’s heart. He has been a member of the Council of Bishops Task Force on the Initiative on Children and Poverty, and organized a Children’s Ministry Task Force in the Baguio Episcopal Area. Most recently, he has been active in promoting the well-being of children as chair of the Philippine Interfaith Network for Children (PHILINC). Among other activities, the group is addressing poverty among children affected by recent civil unrest in the Philippines.
Arichea also continues to work throughout Asia on behalf of Christians. He helped organize five Methodist groups working in Cambodia and assisted them in forming the autonomous Methodist Church of Cambodia. His widespread experience with the entire region makes him a strong resource for the church in Asia. As he likes to quip with a wide smile, “I don’t have to be ‘oriented’.”
William E. Pike D’03 is assistant director of stewardship and corporate and foundation relations at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and a former student in Arichea’s course “Bible and Mission in Asian Context.”