Iglesia ni Cristo
|Iglesia ni Cristo|
Seal of the Iglesia ni Cristo
|Classification||Nontrinitarianism, Unitarianism, Restorationism|
|Leader||Eduardo V. Manalo (Executive Minister)|
|Region||102 countries and territories|
|Headquarters||No. 1 Central Avenue, New Era, Quezon City, Philippines|
|Founder||Felix Y. Manalo (as the registrant for the Philippine Government)|
|Origin||July 27, 1914 (registration in Philippine Government)
Punta, Santa Ana, Manila, Philippines
|Congregations||5,545 as of March 2014|
|Members||No official count|
|Ministers||7,205 as of 2009|
|Aid organization||Felix Y. Manalo Foundation, Inc
Unlad International, Inc
|Tertiary institutions||New Era University
College of Evangelical Ministry
|Other name(s)||INC, Iglesia, English: Church of Christ, Spanish: Iglesia de Cristo, German: Kirche Christi, French: Eglise du Christ, Portuguese: Igreja de Cristo|
|Official website||www.incmedia.org www.iglesianicristo.net|
Iglesia ni Cristo (Tagalog pronunciation: [ɪˈgleʃɐ ni ˈkɾisto] (English: Church of Christ; abbreviated as INC) is a Christian denomination religion that originated in the Philippines in 1914 under founder Felix Manalo, who became the first executive minister.
The Iglesia ni Cristo proclaims itself to be the one true church and says that it is the restoration of the original church founded by Jesus and that all other Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, are apostates. INC doctrines cite that the official registration of the church with the Philippine government on July 27, 1914, by Felix Manalo who is referred to as the last messenger of God. Believers consider the church to be a fulfillment of biblical prophecy of the first century church of Christ being reestablished in the Far East  and the coming of the Seventh seal marking the end of days.
By the time of Manalo's death in 1963, the Iglesia ni Cristo had become a nation-wide church with 1,250 local chapels, and 35 large concrete cathedrals. His son Eraño Manalo became the next church leader and lead a campaign to grow and internationalize the church until his death on August 31, 2009, whereupon his son, Eduardo V. Manalo, succeeded him as executive minister. In 2010 the Philippine census by the National Statistics Office found that 2.45 percent of the population in the Philippines are affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo, making it the third largest religious denomination in the Philippines after the Roman Catholic Church (80.6%) and Islam (5.6%), respectively.
On July 2, 2014, the Philippine government declared the year 2014 through Proclamation No. 815 as "Iglesia Ni Cristo Centennial Year". The proclamation was issued to "enhance public awareness" on the contributions of INC to national development.
- 1 History
- 2 Beliefs and core values
- 3 Practices
- 4 Administration and organization
- 5 Architecture
- 6 Geographic distribution and membership
- 7 Social influence in the Philippines
- 8 Criticism
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In the early 20th century in the Philippines, during American colonial rule, there were a variety of rural anti-colonialism movements, often with religious undertones, and American Protestant missionaries introduced several alternatives to the Roman Catholic Church, the established church during Spanish colonial period.
Felix Manalo, born on May 10, 1886, in Taguig, Philippines, was baptized a Roman Catholic. In his teenage years, Manalo became dissatisfied with Roman Catholic theology. According to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the establishment of the Philippine Independent Church or the Aglipayan Church was his major turning point but Manalo remained uninterested since its doctrines were mainly Catholic. In 1904, he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, entered the Methodist seminary, and became a pastor for a while. He also seeks through various denominations, including the Presbyterian Church, Christian Mission, and finally Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1911. Manalo left the Adventist church in 1913, and associated himself with atheist and agnostic peers.
On November 1913, Manalo secluded himself with religious literature and unused notebooks in a friend's house in Pasay, instructing everyone in the house not to disturb him. He emerged from seclusion three days later with his new-found doctrines.
Manalo, together with his wife, went to Punta, Santa Ana, Manila on November 1913, and started preaching. He left the congregation in the care of his first ordained minister, and returned to Taguig to evangelize. In Taguig he was ridiculed and stoned in his meetings with locals. He was later able to baptize a few converts, including some of his persecutors. He later registered his new-found religion as the Iglesia ni Cristo (English: Church of Christ; Spanish: Iglesia de Cristo) on July 27, 1914 one day before the start of World War 1 at the Bureau of Commerce as a corporation sole with himself as the first executive minister. Expansion followed as INC started building congregations in the provinces in 1916. The first three ministers were ordained in 1919.
In 1922, the INC's first schism, led by Teofilo Ora, one of INC's first ministers, resulted in the loss of several congregations, along with their church buildings, in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. Ora founded Iglesia Verdadera de Cristo which was later changed to Iglesia ng Dios kay Kristo Hesus.
By 1924 the INC had about 3,000 to 5,000 adherents in 43 or 45 congregations in Manila and six nearby provinces. By 1936 the INC had 85,000 members. This figure grew to 200,000 by 1954. A Cebu congregation was built in 1937—the first to be established outside of Luzon, and the first in the Visayas. The first mission to Mindanao was commissioned in 1946. Meanwhile, its first concrete chapel was built in Sampaloc, Manila in 1948. Adherents fleeing for the provinces away from Manila, where the Japanese forces were concentrated during the World War II, were used for evangelization. As Manalo's health began to fail in the 1950s, Eraño Manalo started to take leadership of the church. Felix Manalo died on April 12, 1963. Within the span of 49 years of Felix Manalo's administration, the Iglesia ni Cristo had 1,250 local chapels, and 35 large concrete cathedrals. Felix Y. Manalo was a recognized and highly respected religious leader of the Philippines.
The first overseas INC mission was sent in 1968 on its 54th anniversary. On July 27, 1968, Executive Minister Eraño G. Manalo, officiated at the first worship service of the church outside the Philippines. This gathering held in Ewa Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii marked the establishment of the Honolulu congregation, the first overseas mission of the church. The following month, the Executive Minister was in California to establish the San Francisco congregation and lead its inaugural worship service. In 1971, the church set foot in Canada. In June 1987, the US Main Office (USMO) was set up in Daly City, California to assist the INC central administration in supervising the then 11 districts of the church in the West. The first local congregation in Latin America was established in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 1990. The following year, the church reached Mexico and Aruba. From 2000 and beyond, congregations rose in the Central and South American countries. The first local congregation in Europe was established in England in 1972. The church came to Germany and Switzerland in the mid-70s. By the end of the 1980s, congregations and missions could be found in the Scandinavian countries and their neighbors. The Rome, Italy congregation was established on July 27, 1994; the Jerusalem, Israel congregation in March 1996; and the Athens, Greece congregation in May 1997. The predecessors (prayer groups) of these full-fledged congregations began two decades earlier. Meanwhile, the mission first reached Spain in 1979. The first mission in northern Africa opened in Nigeria in October 1978. After a month, the King William’s Town congregation, in South Africa was established. A congregation was organized in Guam in 1969. In Australia, congregations have been established since mid-1970s. The church first reached China by way of Hong Kong, and Japan through Tokyo also in the 1970s. Missions have also opened in Kazakhstan and Sakhalin Island in Russia. In Southeast Asia, the first congregation in Thailand was established in 1976 and missions have already been conducted in Brunei since 1979. In addition, there are also congregations in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.
In 1965, INC launched its first resettlement and land reform program in Barrio Maligaya, Laur, Nueva Ecija. The INC started operating a radio station in 1969. While its first television program aired in 1983. The Ministerial Institute of Development, currently the New Era University College of Evangelical Ministry, was founded in 1974 in Quiapo, Manila. It moved to its current location in Quezon City in 1978. As of 1995, it had 4,500 students and five extension schools in Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga and Rizal. In 1971, the INC Central Office building was built in Quezon City. Thirteen years later, the 7,000-seater Central Temple was added in the complex. The Tabernacle, a tent-like multipurpose building which can accommodate up to 4,000 persons, was finished in 1989. The complex also includes the New Era University, a higher-education institution run by the INC.
In September 2011, INC bought 59 parcels of land (with an area of 19 hectares) in Scenic, South Dakota for approximately $700,000. Scenic is a ghost town in western South Dakota. No plans for the land have been revealed by the church. On February 28, 2012, INC held simultaneous Grand Evangelical Missions (GEM) across the Philippines. According to the INC, they held the simultaneous GEMs nationwide as part of their campaign for the intensive propagation of "God’s words". On November 27, 2012, the grand press launch for Ang Sugo: The Last Messenger was held at the Quezon City Sports Club, a film depicting the ministry of Felix Manalo, and the growth of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. The first INC School for Ministry outside the Philippines was set up in Sacramento, California on December 2013.
On July 21, 2014, Philippine president Benigno Aquino III and INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo led the inauguration of Ciudad de Victoria, a 140-hectare tourism zone in Bocaue and Sta. Maria, Bulacan, where the Philippine Arena is also located. The Philippine Arena, a 55,000-seater multi-purpose structure, touted as the world's largest indoor domed arena (by seating capacity), was constructed for the INC's centennial celebration on July 27, 2014. Aside from the arena, INC is also building another eight major infrastructure centennial projects.
On July 27, 2014, INC celebrated its centennial anniversary at Ciudad de Victoria, with Philippine Arena as the main venue, and in about 1,180 worship buildings worldwide through live video feed. The week long celebration consisted of pyro-musical displays, worship service led by Manalo, oratorio, musical presentation, theatrical play, quiz show, and evangelical mission. On the worship service conducted for INC centennial, INC bagged two Guinness World Records for the largest gospel choir with 4,745 members and largest mixed-used indoor theater for the Philippine Arena with 51,519 attendees.
Eduardo Manalo said that the church from 2009-2014 alone has ordained 2,740 new ministers with almost 9,000 being trained to become future ministers, opened 220 new local congregations with 191 new extensions being groomed to become local congregations, 17 ecclesiastical districts, and dedicated 603 worship buildings (51 outside the Philippines) with 349 more worship buildings awaiting completion. Two main offices (Burlingame, CA, USA; Heathrow, London, UK) and 11 administrative infrastructure projects were inaugurated within five years from the time he assumed his office (2009-2014).
Beliefs and core values
Iglesia ni Cristo believes that it is the true church established by Jesus Christ in the first century, and that its registration in the Philippines is the fulfillment of bible prophesies that Jesus Christ's church would re-emerge in the Far East.
Because of a number of similarities, some Protestant writers describe the INC's doctrines as restorationist in outlook and theme. INC, however, does not consider itself to be part of the Restoration Movement nor any external religious organization. The Iglesia ni Cristo deems Christian religious organizations outside the INC to be "children" of the "apostate" Roman Catholic Church.
The church stresses its independence, saying that it is not a denomination or sect of any of the major groupings and is neither affiliated to any federation of religious bodies, nor itself an assembly of smaller religious organizations.
The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that the Bible is the sole basis of all their beliefs and practices.
God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit
The Iglesia ni Cristo believes in the absolute oneness of God the Father who is the Creator and is the only true God. The INC rejects the traditional Christian belief of the trinity of God as heresy. This nontrinitarian belief is called unitarianism. They believe that this position is attested by Jesus Christ and the Apostles.
Christ and the Apostles are united in teaching how many and who is the real God. Similar to other true Christians, according to Apostle Paul, there is only one God, the Father—not the Son and more so not the Holy Spirit. The Apostles also did not teach that there is one God who has three personas who are also Gods. ... It [Trinity] is not found in the Holy Scriptures or the Bible, and if [Catholic] priests ever use the Bible to prove this teaching of theirs, all are based only on suppositions and presumptions.
— trans. from Pasugo (November 1968)
The church believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the mediator between God the Father and humanity, and was created by God the Father. God sanctified him to be without sin, and bestowed him the titles "Lord" and "Son of God". The church sees Jesus as God's highest creation, and denies his deity. Thus, INC theology is classified as Arian by Robin A. Brace, a British apologist, and Anne C. Harper, former director of publications of Gordon College in Massachusetts, United States. Adherents profess Jesus' substitutionary role in the redemption of humankind. He is believed to have been "foreordained before the foundation of the world", and sent by God "to deal with sin". Members "are saved by Christ's blood" who died because of his "self-sacrificing love".
One, true church
The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that it is the one church founded by Jesus Christ. Adherents hold that Iglesia ni Cristo is the only true church of Jesus Christ as restored by Felix Manalo. The church recognizes Jesus Christ as the founder of the Church. Meanwhile, its reestablishment is seen as the signal for the end of days. Its founding on July 27, 1914 is one day before the beginning of World War I. They believe that the first century church was apostasized in the 1st or 4th century due to false teachings. The INC says that this apostate church is the Roman Catholic Church.
They believe that the Iglesia ni Cristo is the fulfillment of the Bible verse, Isaiah 43:5, where "east" refers to the Philippines where the Church of Christ would be founded. The INC teaches that its members constitute the "elect of God" and there is no salvation outside the Iglesia ni Cristo. Faith alone is insufficient for salvation. The Iglesia ni Cristo says that the official name of the true church is "Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo (in Tagalog)". The two passages often cited by INC to support this are Romans 16:16 "Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you" and the George Lamsa translation of Acts 20:28: "Take heed therefore . . . to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood."
The INC says that Manalo is the "angel from the east", mentioned in Revelation 7:1–3 who started the INC at the same time that World War I broke out. This period according to INC is referred to as the ends of the earth (cf Is 41:9-10; 43:5-6) the time when the end of the world is near, even at the doors (cf. Mt. 24:3, 33), which began with the outbreak of a war of global proportions (cf. Mt. 24:6-7) Felix Manalo is from the Philippines, which they say is in the ‘center’ of the Far East. The ‘four winds’ in Revelation 7:1-3, they say refers to World War I and the four angels are the four leaders known as the big four (Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Vittorio Orlando) who they say worked on the prevention of the war.
Manalo is also portrayed as the fulfillment of several passages in Isaiah and other books of the Bible. Manalo's titles are "ravenous bird from the east" (Isa. 46:11), "worm Jacob" (Ps. 22:6-7), "one shepherd" (John 10:16) and "the last Elijah" (Mt.17:10-11; Mal.4:5).
As the one who established the INC, Manalo was the chief administrator, chief theologian and spiritual leader of the church. As such, he was the ultimate authority in all aspects of the church, and effectively "the foremost Biblical authority for all humanity and the divinely designated leader of a reestablished church of Christ in the modern world."
The church believes that baptism is done by immersion baptism or Believer's baptism by adults in water, and that it is necessary that people be baptised in the Iglesia ni Cristo to become disciples of Jesus Christ. The church rejects infant baptism. Newborn children of members are instead dedicated to God through a Congregational Prayer, led by an ordained minister of the INC.
People who wish to be baptized in the INC must first submit to a formal process taking at least six months. Once someone officially registers with their local congregation, the person is given the status of Doctrinal Instructee and taught the twenty-eight lessons concerning fundamental teachings and its beginnings in the Philippines. These lessons are contained in the doctrine manual written by Eraño G. Manalo entitled "Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo". This book is given to ministers, evangelical workers, and ministerial students of the INC. Each lesson is usually thirty minutes to one hour in length. After hearing all the lessons, the students enters a probationary period during which they are obliged to attend fifteen once-a-week group prayer meetings, where they are taught to pray and are guided in their adjustment to the INC lifestyle. When the sixth month comes, students who have been active in attending the twice-a-week worship services and whose lifestyles are in accordance with INC doctrines are screened before being baptized. During the screening, they are asked questions about the teachings of the church.
Members who are not living in accordance with the doctrines taught in the INC are admonished. Those who continue in violation of INC doctrines after being admonished are excommunicated or expelled from the INC and thus lose salvation and therefore the church does not believe in the perseverance of the saints. Certain violations, such as eating blood,[a] or marrying or having a romantic relationship with a non-believer may result in mandatory excommunication.
Eschatology and resurrection
INC believes that a person is composed of a body (physical), soul (consciousness) and spirit (life). Members believe that when a person dies, his/her body and soul both die and go into the grave where both will remain until the Second Coming of Christ, whereas the spirit will go back to God. Upon Christ's return, all dead servants of God, from the time of the patriarchs up to the last days, would be resurrected to join living faithful and loyal INC members. They will be rewarded by living in the Holy City or New Jerusalem, together with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and Felix Manalo. After 1,000 years, a second resurrection would occur, and non-INC members will experience second death which is the Lake of Fire (Dagát-dagatang Apóy).
INC divides time into three eras: the era of the Patriarchs from creation to the birth of Moses, the era of the Prophets from the birth of Moses to the birth of Jesus, and the Christian era from the birth of Jesus to the Last Judgment. Adherents believe Felix Manalo to be the last messenger of God in the Christian Era.
Worship and prayer
The church conducts regular worship services, one during the week, and one during the weekend. It is conducted in the local languages (for example, English, Tagalog, Spanish, and German). It involves singing of hymns, prayers, studies of the bible, collection of voluntary offerings, and benediction. Both God the Father and Jesus are worshiped. The ministers of every congregation in a given worship service use the same sermon outline prepared by the executive minister. Deacons and Deaconesses guide worshipers to their seats and collect offerings. The Singing of hymns is led by the locale's choir. The first hymnbook, termed as Himnario, which consists about 300 songs, was published in 1937. Children's worship services are held every weekend. They use similar lessons as the standard worship services taught using the Socratic method (question and answer). The church teaches that willfully forsaking the worship service is a grievous sin, thus members are expected to attend the congregational worship services twice a week without fail.
The church encourages its members to make prayer a part of everyday life. Thus, prayer before various activities, such as taking meals and going to sleep, are commonly practiced. Prayers recited in rote repetition are not observed.
Since February 1939, the church has been publishing Pasugo (English: God's Message) in both Tagalog and English. As of 2010, the God's Message Magazine also features a Spanish Section and in 2012 it has a German and Japanese Section. Felix Manalo wrote its first editorial where he stated the publication's purpose, including the propagation of the faith. Issues contain articles which detail INC doctrines and refute doctrines which it considers as heresy, such as the Trinity. It also features information on church history, educational programs and missionary achievements, including lists and photographs of newly dedicated chapels. In 2001, it had a monthly circulation of 235,000 copies. For the year 2009, there more than 4,152,546 copies of Pasugo distributed worldwide.
In the Philippines, through the Christian Era Broadcasting Service Incorporated (CEBSI), INC broadcasts programs that discuss Bible teachings over the radio and television. These programs are aired by about 60 other radio stations all over the Philippines (i.e. INC Radio- DZEM 954kHz) and several more in the US and Australia. INCTV-49, as well as major cable stations in the Philippines and some channels in the US Direct TV ch 2068, telecast the INC’s religious programs. These programs can also be seen in the Internet via the website www.incmedia.org
INC is holding religious gatherings called evangelical missions regularly which aim to attract more followers. On April 13, 2013, INC launched Lingap-Pamamahayag under its project Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko (Tagalog: My Countrymen, My Brethren), which incorporates outreach missions to its evangelical missions.
On November 19, 1981, INC has launched the Lingap sa Mamamayan (Aid To Humanity) Program. The program aims to provide relief goods, health care, and other services to the needy, especially those who are afflicted by calamities and disasters. It also provides seminars for disaster preparedness, first aid, and family planning. Other humanitarian activities such as blood donation and community clean up drives were also conducted in different parts of the world where the Iglesia Ni Cristo is established.
Felix Y. Manalo (FYM) Foundation, the INC's arm in executing the Lingap sa Mamamayan and other related programs, was formally registered in the Philippines on February 4, 2011, and in the United States on May 17, 2012. The institution is also recognized in Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Russia.
The INC also established the Unlad International, Inc in 2012. It is the INC's arm in providing sustainable livelihood to its members.
On July 7, 2012, the INC Lingap sa Mamamayan was conducted in the slums of Parola in Tondo, Manila and was awarded three Guinness World Records for breaking records in the most people involved in a dental health check, the most blood pressure readings taken in 8 hours and the most blood glucose level tests in 8 hours.
On February 15, 2014, INC bagged another two Guinness world records when they conducted a worldwide charity walk simultaneously on 135 different sites scattered in 29 countries. The INC holds the records for the Largest Charity Walk on a Single Venue when 175,509 members of the church finished the 1.6 km walk in Manila; and for the Largest Charity Walk in 24 Hours (Multiple Venues) when a total of 519,521 participants finished the charity walk in different parts of the world. The proceeds will be used for the housing and livelihood projects of super Typhoon Haiyan survivors.
On February 22, 2014, INC conducted another Lingap sa Mamamayan at its first resettlement project in Barrio Maligaya in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija. Coinciding with the barrio's 49th anniversary, the INC bagged another world record after setting the record for the most number of hunger relief packs distributed within eight hours. A total of 302,311 hunger relief packages were given.
On March 14, 2014, after conducting a worship service in Tacloban, Leyte, INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo, led the groundbreaking ceremony of EVM Self-Sustainable Community Rehabilitation Project in Sitio New Era, a 3000-hectare property of the church in Brgy. Langit, Alang-alang, Leyte. The project which costs more than one billion pesos includes at least 1000 housing units for the survivors of super typhoon Haiyan. Garments and dried fish factories, and eco-farming project are also included to provide livelihood to the community. More than 150,000 hunger relief packages were also given which contains 3 kilos of rice, canned goods and instant noodles aside from the free medical and dental services conducted that day.
Administration and organization
|Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Ministers|
|Name||Tenure of office|
|Felix Y. Manalo||July 27, 1914 – April 12, 1963|
|Eraño G. Manalo||April 23, 1963 – August 31, 2009|
|Eduardo V. Manalo||September 7, 2009 – present|
Iglesia ni Cristo has had three executive ministers (Tagalog: Tagapamahalang Pangkalahatan) that lead the church administration in overseeing the faith of the brethren. Eduardo V. Manalo, as the current executive minister, serves as the church's leader, and, in this capacity, manages the administration of the church. Along with other senior ministers which comprises the Lupon ng Sanggunian (literally translated as Committee of Advisers) or Church Economic Council, the executive minister forms the Central Administration of Iglesia ni Cristo . All church ministers are male, however, there are numerous female church officials. Ministers are encouraged to marry for the purpose of obeying the command to marry and multiply.
The Central Office in Quezon City is Iglesia ni Cristo's headquarters. The central office is one of several structures inside the central office complex. It houses the permanent offices of the central administration and most of the church's departments. It is here where about a thousand INC professionals and volunteers hold office. Built in 1971 for US$473 thousand or ₱22 million. The building is currently estimated to be worth US$21 million or ₱1 billion. It was formerly located in Manila during its early years, then in San Juan, and later in Makati before moving to its present site. It houses the offices of INC's administration.
Administration and ministerial work are delegated into ecclesiastical districts (termed divisions prior to 1990) which are led by district ministers (formerly, division ministers). Ecclesiastical districts comprise 30 to 120 congregations (referred to as locales) on average. The ecclesiastical district's range is generally a single province of the Philippines; however, populous provinces often have more than one ecclesiastical district. All locales were directly managed by Felix Manalo until 1924 when the first ecclesiastical district was organized in Pampanga.
As of 2014, INC oversees 100 ecclesiastical districts in the Philippines and 22 more districts throughout the world. In American continents— Hawaii-Pacific, Pacific Northwest, Southern California, Northern California, Northern Midwest, Southern Midwest, Northeastern Seaboard, Southeastern Seaboard, Western Canada and Eastern Canada; In Europe & Africa— United Kingdom, Northern Europe and Southern Europe; In Australian continent— Australia East and Australia West; and in Asia— China, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia I, Southeast Asia II, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. INC also set up two main offices outside the Philippines; in Burlingame, California, USA and in Heathrow, London, United Kingdom.
Iglesia ni Cristo church buildings primarily serve as places of worship and are used for other religious functions. These are described by Culture and customs of the Philippines, a book published by Greenwood Publishing Group, as structures "which employ exterior neo-Gothic vertical support columns with tall narrow windows between, interlocking trapezoids, and rosette motifs, as well as tower and spires." There are multiple entrances leading to the main sanctuary, where males and females sit on either side of the aisle facing a dais where sermons are made. The choir loft is located behind the dais, and in larger churches, baptistry pools for immersion baptism are located at the back of the church. Meanwhile, Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita, an anthropologist from Ateneo de Manila University, said that INC churches can be uniquely identified for "its exuberant use of fanciful forms and ornaments [and a] brilliant white facade whose silhouette is a cusped Gothic arch or a flattened Saracenic arch." The distinctive spires represent "the reaching out of the faithful to God." Churches were started to be built in this style during the late 1940s and early 1950s with the first concrete chapel built in Sampaloc, Manila in 1948.
“… churches constructed by the Iglesia ni Cristo are always expensive and resplendent and usually appear impressive and overpowering even to the nonbeliever.”
— The Iglesia Ni Cristo, 1914-2000: From Obscure Philippine faith to Global belief system, p. 581 
The Central Temple which opened on July 27, 1984, can accommodate up to 7,000 persons, and cost about US$2 million. The Central Temple features octagonal spires, "fine latticework" and ribbed windows. Recent buildings are variations of Carlos A. Santos-Viola's designs on the Central Temple. These are designed to accommodate 250 to 1,000 persons while larger churches in Metro Manila and provincial capitals can accommodate up to 3,000 persons. Prominent architects, such as Juan Nakpil (a National Artist of the Philippines for architecture) and Carlos Raúl Villanueva, had been involved in designing INC churches while the Engineering and Construction Department of INC, established in 1971, oversees the uniformity in design of church buildings.
INC churches outside the Philippines which were acquired from different religions undergo intensive renovations to meet the standard of their worship services. Since most of INC churches abroad were acquired from different religions, there is significant variation from one house of worship to another.
Geographic distribution and membership
According to the official INC website, the Iglesia Ni Cristo membership comprises 114 nationalities. It maintains 5,545 congregations and missions grouped into 122 ecclesiastical districts in the Philippines and 102 other countries and territories. Catholic Answers, a Catholic apologetics group, estimate INC membership to be at minimum of 3 million members worldwide.[b] In 2010, Philippine census by the National Statistics Office, 2.45 percent of the population in the Philippines are affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo, making it the third largest religious denomination in the Philippines after the Roman Catholic Church and Islam, respectively.
Social influence in the Philippines
Ever since former Philippine president Manuel L. Quezon created a lasting friendship after asking Felix Manalo for advice, the INC has been known for its strong social influence. INC members are noted for bloc voting in Philippine elections, with conversion turn-out between 68 and 84 percent of its members voting for candidates endorsed by its leadership, according to comprehensive surveys conducted by ABS-CBN. This is in part due to their doctrine on unity. Recent estimates say that the INC can deliver a minimum of 1.37 million members of voting age (61% of 2.25M based on 2010 census). INC vote seems to be only significant in close-run elections, noting that some INC-supported candidates lost in the election. Businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. lost to Fidel Ramos in the 1992 Philippine presidential election. In 2010 Iglesia ni Cristo declared support for Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas for president and vice president respectively. Aquino won the election but Roxas lost to Jejomar Binay.
The support of the INC was reportedly sought out for passage of the bill for the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. In 2008, the INC and the Catholic Church were pitted against each other when health advocate RH Advocacy Network (RHAN) sought the support of the INC to counter the firm opposition of the Catholic Church and former Philippine president Gloria Arroyo to the bill. Representative Janette Garin of the first district of Iloilo said the INC's stand could determine if the bill gets passed in the House of Representatives. She said the opinion of the Iglesia ni Cristo is “important” in determining the fate of House Bill 5043.
On June 12, 2009, former Philippine president Arroyo approved Republic Act No. 9645, an act that declares July 27 of every year as "Iglesia Ni Cristo Day", an official national working holiday, in recognition of INC's exemplary feat of leading its members towards "spiritual enlightenment" and good citizenry. The act is a consolidation of House Bill No. 5410 and Senate Bill No. 3281. On July 2, 2014, Philippine president Aquino made a proclamation through Proclamation No. 815 to declare the year 2014 as "Iglesia Ni Cristo Centennial Year". The proclamation was issued to "enhance public awareness" on the contributions of INC to national development.
On July 24, 2014, the Philippine government, through the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, installed a “national historical marker” inside the INC Central Office grounds along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City. With the historical marker installed inside the INC Central Office, the site has now become part of “historical ground” recognized by the Philippine government which mandates its preservation.
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism described INC as a "most powerful union" in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera, a Doha-based broadcasting network, described INC as a "state within a state", saying that it is "an autonomous entity of its own, taking care of its members in remote areas where government presence is scarce, and plugging the gaping hole in terms of basic services that remain woefully lacking in many communities in the archipelago". Furthermore, it was described that the INC "have expanded their influence beyond their membership, and so the group today can be considered to be at par with political parties or national political groups." The inaugural ceremony of INC's Ciudad de Victoria according to them resembled a state visit more than a simple religious gathering.
The Iglesia ni Cristo has been criticized because of their doctrines. Let Us Reason Ministries, an online apologetics research group, opposed the INC for holding the belief that it has the sole authority from God to interpret and preach the Bible, while other religions do not. They also reject the INC's doctrine that one can only be saved if they are a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Karl Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers says that the INC engages in anti-Catholicism and anti-Protestantism in its God's Message magazine. Keating views the church as being built on a set of anti-Catholic doctrines, and that their lessons, as well as their God's Message magazine are dedicated more to debunking Catholic and Protestant beliefs and doctrines. Meanwhile, the sect "Ang Dating Daan" has a history of conflicts with the INC.
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