Iglesia ni Cristo

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Iglesia ni Cristo
Seal of the Iglesia ni Cristo
Seal of the Iglesia ni Cristo
Classification Nontrinitarianism, Unitarianism, Restorationism
Governance Hierarchical/Monarchical
Leader Eduardo V. Manalo (Executive Minister)
Region 102 countries and territories; 114 nationalities[1]
Headquarters No. 1 Central Avenue, New Era, Quezon City, Philippines[2]
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[3] as of March 2014
Members No official count
Ministers 7,205[4]as of 2009
Aid organization Felix Y. Manalo Foundation, Inc
Unlad International, Inc
Tertiary institutions 2
Other name(s) INC, Iglesia, English: Church of Christ, Spanish: Iglesia de Cristo, German: Kirche Christi, French: Eglise du Christ
Official website www.incmedia.org inc.kabayankokapatidko.org

Iglesia ni Cristo[5] pronounced [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,[6][7][8] who become the first executive minister. By the time of his death in 1963, the Iglesia ni Cristo had become a nation-wide church with 1,250 local chapels, and 35 large concrete cathedrals.[9] 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,[10] whereupon his son, Eduardo V. Manalo, succeeded him as executive minister.[11] In 2000 the Philippine census by the National Statistics Office found that 2.3 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 (80.9%) and Islam (5.0%), respectively.[12][13]

The Iglesia ni Cristo proclaims itself to be the one true church and claims 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.[7][14][15] INC doctrines cite that the official registration of the church with the Philippine government on July 27, 1914, by Felix Y. 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 church being reestablished in the Far East [16][17] and the coming of the Seventh seal marking the end of days.[2][18] Since February 1939, the church has been publishing Pasugo[2] (English: God's Message) in both Tagalog and English.[19] As of 2010 the God's Message Magazine also features a Spanish Section and in 2012 it has a German and Japanese Section.

History[edit]

The historical context of the Iglesia ni Cristo lies in a period of the early 20th century characterized by a variety of rural anti-colonialism movements, often with religious undertones, in the Philippines. United States missionary work was exposing Filipino culture to many alternatives to the Roman Catholic Church, which had been installed under Spanish rule.

Background[edit]

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. He started seeking through various denominations, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1904, he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church,[20] entered the Methodist seminary, and became a pastor for a while.[21] Manalo left the Methodist church in 1913, and associated himself with atheist and agnostic peers.[6][22]

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.[6][7]

Iglesia ni Cristo's first chapel in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila.

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.[6][20][22] Expansion followed as INC started building congregations in the provinces in 1916.[23] The first three ministers were ordained in 1919.[7]

In 1922, the INC's first schism, led by Teofilo Ora, one of INC's first ministers,[2][19] resulted in the loss of several congregations, along with their church buildings, in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija.[21] Ora founded Iglesia Verdadera de Cristo which was later changed to Iglesia ng Dios kay Kristo Hesus.[24]

The Iglesia ni Cristo chapel in Cebu.

By 1924 the INC had about 3,000 to 5,000 adherents in 43 or 45 congregations in Manila and six nearby provinces.[22] By 1936 the INC had 85,000 members. This figure grew to 200,000 by 1954.[23] 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.[22][25] Adherents fleeing for the provinces away from Manila, where the Japanese forces were concentrated during the World War II, were used for evangelization.[22] 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.[23][25] 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.[9] Felix Y. Manalo was a recognized and highly respected religious leader of the Philippines.[26]

Expansion[edit]

The Central Temple built in 1984.

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.[16] The INC started operating a radio station in 1969.[23] 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. Fifteen years later, the 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.[22]

Conflicts with Members Church of God International[edit]

Since 1980, there have been conflicts between the INC and the Members Church of God International (MCGI) when MCGI Presiding Minister Eliseo Soriano started his radio program Ang Dating Daan (ADD). Through his program he discussed biblical issues and "exposed" what he believes are wrong doctrines of other religious groups, including those of INC. In 2001, after twenty-one years of reticence, the INC launched its own program, Ang Tamang Daan, as a direct response for the first time to Ang Dating Daan, featuring video footages and recordings of ADD hosts as issues were tackled. The INC program also presented hundreds of contradicting doctrines of MCGI. Over time the animosity between the two groups has intensified, and their relationship has been severely strained.

MCGI programs eased in criticizing the INC and slowly started focusing on general preaching. The Ang Tamang Daan in turn changed its format and has since introduced new hosts, and currently advocates the general doctrines of INC as with its other programs. Criticism from both sides have since receded but it ended up on the part of INC to file several libel cases against Eliseo Soriano.[27][28]

Present[edit]

Eraño Manalo died on August 31, 2009.[10] His son, Eduardo V. Manalo, succeeded him as executive minister upon his death.[11]

On August 17, 2011, INC led the groundbreaking of the Philippine Arena- on a 75-hectare field straddling Bocaue and Sta. Maria, Bulacan. The 55,000-seater multi-purpose structure, touted to become the world's largest indoor domed arena (by seating capacity), is expected to be completed in time for the INC's centennial celebration in July 2014. Other major projects of the church as part of its centennial celebration are the EVM Convention Center and Iglesia Ni Cristo Museum along Central Avenue, Quezon City, the Legal and Finance Department Building and the Pilar Manalo-Danao Multi-Media Center inside the INC Central Office Complex in Quezon City, the 20,000 seat Philippine Stadium, and the Philippine Sports Center. INC is also constructing the new College of Evangelical Ministry along Central Avenue. Three levels higher and more than double the floor space of its four-story predecessor.[29] The first INC School of Ministry outside the Philippines was set up in Sacramento, California on December 2013. Eduardo Manalo has ordained 2,248 new ministers within four years from the time he assumed his office.

In September 2011 the INC bought 59 parcels of land 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.[30]

On February 28, 2012, the INC held simultaneous Grand Evangelical Missions (GEM) across the Philippines.[31] According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a prayer rally held in conjunction with the event was intended to be a rebuke to President Noynoy Aquino and they quote an insider of the INC as saying the rally was a “show of force to deliver a strong message” against perceived mistreatment against INC members from the Aquino administration.[32][33] The INC administration said that their GEM has nothing to do with politics. According to them they have been doing the activity since its establishment in 1914. "This religious activity is one of the means by which the Church propagates the teachings of God in the Bible that members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo believe to be essential for man’s salvation.", the INC spokesperson added.[34]

On November 27, 2012, the grand press launch for Ang Sugo: The Last Messenger was held at the Quezon City Sports Club, a film dramatizing the life of Felix Ysagun Manalo, and the growth of the Iglesia Ni Cristo to be released in 2014 in conjunction with the INC centennial. It is scheduled to be the largest and the most expensive movie in the history of the Philippine movie industry with over a US$7.5 million budget appointed for the production.[35][36]

Administration and organization[edit]

The INC Central Office as seen from a spire of the Central Temple
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 8, 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.[37] Along with other senior ministers which comprises the Sanggunian or Church Economic Council, the executive minister forms the Central Administration of Iglesia ni Cristo .[38] All church ministers are male, however, there are a large number of female church officials. Ministers are encouraged to marry for the purpose of obeying the command to marry and multiply.

The Felix Y. Manalo National Historical Landmark

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.[39][40] 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.[22] There were about 5,000 Iglesia ni Cristo locales in 96 countries in 2008.[23] 200 of these congregations, including 150 in 39 U.S. states, were outside the Philippines in 2001.[22] All locales were directly managed by Felix Manalo until 1924 when the first ecclesiastical district was organized in Pampanga.[7]

Architecture[edit]

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.[41] Meanwhile, Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita, an anthropologist from Ateneo de Manila University,[42] 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."[22] 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.[7]

2013 photo of Iglesia ni Cristo Temple (view from Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City foot bridge).

The Central Temple which opened in July 27, 1984, can accommodate up to 7,000 persons, and cost about US$2 million.[43] 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.[22] 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.[41]

Beliefs and core values[edit]

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.[16]

Because of a number of similarities, some Protestant writers describe the INC's doctrines as restorationist in outlook and theme.[44] 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.[45]

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.[46]

Bible[edit]

The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that the Bible is the sole basis of all their beliefs and practices. The following are some of their fundamental teachings which they believe are based on scriptures.[47]

God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit[edit]

The Iglesia ni Cristo believes in the absolute oneness of God the Father who is the Creator and is the only true God. They believe this is the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.[47] Thus, the INC rejects the trinity as a heresy.[2][22] They believe that this position is attested by Jesus Christ and the Apostles.[7][48]

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)[48]

The church believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God[47] and the mediator between God the Father and humanity,[22] 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 divinity. 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.[21] 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".[2][49]

One church[edit]

The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that it is the one church founded by Jesus Christ.[47] 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.[2][21][22] For example, its founding in July 27, 1914, is one day before the beginning of World War I.[18] They believe that the church was apostatized by the 1st[19] or 4th century due to false teachings.[7][14] The INC says that this apostate church is the Roman Catholic Church.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.

Isaiah 43:5 (New International Version)[50]

They believe that the Iglesia ni Cristo is the fulfillment of the passage above while "east" refers to the Philippines where the Church of Christ would be founded.[7][18][19][21][22] The INC teaches that its members constitute the "elect of God" and there is no salvation outside the Iglesia ni Cristo.[22][38] Faith alone is insufficient for salvation.[2][14] 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"[51] 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"[52]

Felix Manalo on the cover of Pasugo

Baptism[edit]

The church believes that baptism is done by immersion in water, and that it is necessary that people be baptised in the Iglesia ni Cristo to become disciples of Jesus Christ.[47]

Eschatology[edit]

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 would 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 would be rewarded by living in the Holy City 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).[2]

The church believes that God set a day where He will judge all people. They believe that this day is also the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.[47]

INC divides time into three periods: 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.

Resurrection[edit]

The church believes in resurrection. They believe that those who belong to Christ will be resurrected, to be with Christ forever, and those who do not after 1000 years, to be cast into the lake of fire.[47]

Felix Manalo[edit]

Felix Manalo is said to be the restorer of the church of Christ, and "God's last messenger" (sugo in Tagalog).[19][21]

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 of time 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)[14][53] Felix Manalo is from the Philippines, which they say is in the ‘center’ of the Far East.[54] 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.[55][56]

Manalo is also portrayed as the fulfillment of several passages in Isaiah and other books of the Bible.[7][22] Manalo's titles are "ravenous bird from the east" (Isa. 46:11), "worm Jacob" (Ps. 22:6-7), "one shepherd" (John 10:6) 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.[18] 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." His influence within the church caused people from other religions to call INC and its members "Iglesia ni Manalo" (Tagalog for Church of Manalo) and "Manalistas", respectively,[22] labels INC members consider as both pejoratives and blasphemous.[citation needed]

Opposition from Apologetics Groups[edit]

The Iglesia ni Cristo has come under fierce opposition from apologetics groups and other mainstream religions mainly due to disagreements over their doctrines and beliefs regarding the interpretation of the Bible.

Catholicism[edit]

Karl Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers claims 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, although he did reveal the extent of his studies concerning the church save for his own account of the 1990 debate he had with Jose Ventilacion, an INC minister.[57][58] Catholicism and Protestantism remain among the predominant religions in the Philippines especially in Luzon and Visayas islands.[59] Keating also states that the INC began as a Protestant sect, comparing its doctrines with those of the American Campbellites saying it "heavily borrowed" from the latter.[57] Keating criticized the Iglesia ni Cristo for teaching that the Whore of Babylon is the Roman Catholic Church and that the Beast of Revelation is the Pope, a belief shared with some other Christian religious organizations,[60][61] and an assertion which the Catholic Church denies. Keating says this INC position is based on a Latin-language version of gematria, in which numerical values of the letters in a name or phrase are added to find a number with symbolic significance. When applied to an alleged title of the Pope, Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God), the resulting number is 666, which is one of several alternative numbers known as the "Number of the Beast." Keating says the Iglesia ni Cristo also claims that "Vicarius Filii Dei" is engraved on the Pope's tiara[62]. The INC's source for this claim is a Seventh-day Adventist Church book.[58][63][64] "Vicar of the Son of God" is not among the many official titles traditionally used for popes, neither past nor present, although Vicar of Christ one of the most prominent papal titles.[65][66]

Evangelicals[edit]

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 say that the INC intentionally misinterprets and misappropriates verses to agree with their doctrines and that they use fallacious arguments against other religions,[67] stating: "Unfortunately they ignore the whole history of the Church in the zealous rebuttals against Catholicism. Nothing is out of reach of their researchers to demean and belittle. Some of the greatest scholars in languages and history are ignored or misrepresented as they present what they believe is correct. I suspect that many know better in what they teach."[68] They also reject the INC's doctrine that one can only be saved if they are a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo.[69]

According to The Bereans Apologetics Research Ministry, some of the beliefs of INC are contrary to mainstream Christianity.[70] The Bereans also refute the INC belief that Felix Manalo is the "angel from the east" in Revelation 7:1-3, since the "angel from the east cried with a loud voice to the four angels"(Rev 7:2) but according to them Manalo was never consulted by the Big Four (Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Orlando) and Manalo was never involved in ending World War I.[71]

Charles Caldwell Ryrie[edit]

Charles Caldwell Ryrie has criticized the INC for misquoting his Ryrie Study Bible regarding John 1:1 in the May/June 1984 issue of the Pasugo.

"In the annotations of his Ryrie Study Bible he had this to say about the phrase in John 1:1 and the Word was with God. In this verse the Word (Christ) is said to be with God (that is, in communion with and yet distinct from God). Therefore, when Dr. Ryrie says, that the Word is distinct from God he is saying the Word is not the same, but rather separate or different from God." (Pasugo 1984, pp. 14-15)

Ryrie has been quoted as saying, in a letter to Robert Elliff, the author of the book, Iglesia Ni Cristo: The Only True Church? "Anyone can look in my Study Bible and see how conveniently this author [the INC] omitted the last phrase in the note of John 1:1. The full note reads: “In this verse the Word (Christ) is said to be with God (i.e., in communion with and yet distinct from God) and to be God (i.e., identical in essence with God).” If that is not clear enough to say that I believe in the full deity and equality of Christ, let anyone read the notes at John 10:30 and 20:28. The doctrinal summary in the back of the Bible under Trinity is also quite clear. "[72]

Practices[edit]

Iglesia ni Cristo congregations in Punta, Santa Ana, Manila

Worship and prayer[edit]

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[73] Both God the Father and Jesus are worshiped.[74] 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.[14] 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).[7] The church teaches that willfully forsaking the worship service is a grievous sin,[75] thus members are expected to attend the congregational worship services twice a week without fail.[76]

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.[77] Prayers recited in rote repetition are not observed.[78]

The August 1939 issue of Pasugo

Evangelism[edit]

Since February 1939, the church has been publishing Pasugo[2] (English: God's Message) in both Tagalog and English.[19] 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.[7] Issues contain articles which detail INC doctrines and refute doctrines which it considers as heresy, such as the Trinity.[14][21] 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.[22] For the year 2009, there more than 4,152,546 copies of Pasugo distributed worldwide.[79]

In the Philippines, radio and television programs are produced, and they are broadcast on 1062 kHz DZEC-AM radio, INC Radio-DZEM 954 kHz, the Net 25 television station operated by Eagle Broadcasting Corporation, the broadcast division of the Iglesia ni Cristo and INCTV Philippines, the sister station to NET 25 also owned by the INC.

In North America, a television program called The Message is produced in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is currently aired in the United States and Canada and some parts of Europe. Each 30-minute program is hosted by one of a panel of INC ministers, who share the main beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo with a television audience.[80] The INC use to maintain an hour long time slot on The Filipino Channel and airs two among many of its programs including the INC Chronicles and Ang Tamang Daan. It has since stopped and instead INCTV began broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on DirecTV channel 2068.[81] Live streaming of INC Programming is now available at www.incmedia.org

The Iglesia ni Cristo congregation in Waipahu, Hawaii, United States

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.[82]

Outreach[edit]

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.[83]

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 the 4th of February 2011, and in the United States on the 17th of May 2012. The institution is also recognized in Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Russia.[84]

The INC also established the Unlad International, Inc on 2012.[85] 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.[86]

On February 15, 2014, INC bagged another two Guinness world records when they conducted a world wide 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.[87]

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.[88]

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 could 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.[89]

Political involvement[edit]

INC members are noted for bloc voting in Philippine elections,[90][91][92][93] although INC has the biggest conversion turn-out, between 68 and 84 percent of its members voted for candidates endorsed by its leadership, according to comprehensive surveys conducted by ABS-CBN.[94] This is in part due to their doctrine on unity. Some reports say that the INC can deliver a minimum of 5 to 8 million members of voting age,[95] although people believe the actual figure is closer to 3 million.[96] 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.[97][98] Michael Defensor, Ralph Recto, Vicente Sotto III in 2007 and Ruffy Biazon in 2010 were endorsed by INC but lost in the senate election.[99][100] INC endorsed Rafael Nantes and Jamie Eloise Agbayani but lost in the 2010 Quezon and 2007 Pangasinan gubernatorial elections respectively.[101][102]

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 political influence. Not all candidates in Philippine politics however embraced support from INC. Diosdado Macapagal has refused INC's support during his runs for Vice President in 1957, and re-election for President in 1965 – in which he lost to Ferdinand Marcos. In the 1969 presidential election, INC supported Senator Sergio Osmeña Jr. earlier in the campaign but has swung behind Marcos who won the election.[103] The INC supported Ferdinand E. Marcos until he was ousted in 1986.[104]

In 2002 the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that INC leader, Eraño Manalo himself wanted to support Panfilo Lacson.[105] Eraño saw that Lacson will likely succeed Estrada.[105] This worried Arroyo during her 2001-2004 term as President.[105] But that did not prevent President Arroyo from courting the church. The church eventually offered their support for Arroyo’s presidential campaign in the 2004 elections.[106] Arroyo dismissed rumors that she paid off the INC to support her candidacy. In an open letter to the INC which was read in all INC chapels across the country, Mrs. Arroyo said "I would never taint their (INC) sincerity by offering money for it".[107]

The support of the INC was reportedly sought out for passage of the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008. 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 President Arroyo to the bill.[108] 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.[109]

On July 27, 2008, on the occasion of its 94th Anniversary, lawmakers, governors, mayors, councilors and other government officials cited the meaningful role of the Iglesia ni Cristo in Filipino society. Rep. Annie Susano of Quezon City's second district where the INC's executive offices are located, along other government officials said that the INC continues to contribute not only to the spiritual development of the Filipino but also in shaping the country's destiny. Susano said INC also plays a crucial role in improving the socio-economic condition of its followers and other Filipinos, at home and abroad.[110] A year before, on the same date, President Arroyo declared July 27 of every year as "Iglesia Ni Cristo Day" to enable millions of INC followers in the Philippines to observe the occasion with fitting solemnity. President Arroyo’s proclamation was based on a resolution of the House of Representatives authored by Rep. Annie Rosa L. Susano.[110] On July 8, 2009, Arroyo declared that July 27 of every year as "Iglesia Ni Cristo Day" making it an official national working holiday.[111]

In 2010 Iglesia ni Cristo declared support for Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas for president and vice president respectively. Aquino won the election but Roxas lost to Jejomar Binay.[112] In 2010, Iglesia ni Cristo withdrew their support from President Noynoy Aquino.[113]

Geographic distribution and membership[edit]

  Countries and territories with official INC presence
  Countries and territories with no official INC presence

According to the official INC website, the Iglesia Ni Cristo membership comprises 114 nationalities. It maintains 5,545 congregations and missions grouped into 117 ecclesiastical districts in the Philippines and 102 other countries and territories[3] As of 1996 the membership of the church puts it between 4 to 10 million.[a] In 2000 Philippine census by the National Statistics Office, 2.3 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.[12] The majority of INC members are Filipino ex-Catholics, while most non-Filipino members converted prior to marrying Iglesia ni Cristo people.[19] The earliest non-Filipino converts were American soldiers stationed in the Philippines.

Membership is conferred through immersion baptism of adults. 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.[117] Members who are not living in accordance with the church's teachings may be excommunicated or expelled from the Church, and thus lose salvation (as opposed to the perseverance of the saints). Grounds include marriage to members of other faiths.[2][38]

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, as they are called within the Iglesia ni Cristo, 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 (Church of Christ). 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 of the lessons, the students enter their probationary period during which they are obliged to attend fifteen once a week group prayer meetings, wherein they are taught to pray and are guided in their adjustment to the INC lifestyle. When the sixth month comes, the 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 Q&A they are asked questions about the teachings of the church. Newborn children of members are instead "offered" or dedicated to Christian service during the worship service. The child offering in the INC is done through a prayer led by an ordained minister of the INC.[118]

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 expelled from the INC. Certain violations, such as eating blood,[b] or marrying or having a romantic relationship with a non-believer may result in mandatory expulsion (excommunicated).[119][120]

Criticisms[edit]

They have been criticized by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) for their political influence.[121] According to PCIJ, the INC's use of its clout mirrors the way in which the Catholic Church has tried to influence the Philippine government.[121]

Ross Tipon[edit]

The main accusation of restraining press freedom arises from the church's legal action against the publication of writer Ross Tipon's book, The Power and the Glory: The Cult of Manalo. The INC says the book contains "outright blasphemy" against Manalo by likening the INC to a criminal syndicate.[122][123] Tipon, represented by lawyer Fervyn Pinzon, said stopping publication of the book infringes on his right to free speech. An attorney representing the INC, Abraham Espejo states "direct assault on freedom of religion and seeks to destroy the image of the INC" and "The publication of the criminal manuscript will trigger social unrest, Millions of people may come out in the streets and this may lead to violence." The INC seeks PHP1,000,000 in damages from Tipon and the unknown publisher.[122]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Church does not publish its membership statistics. Estimates from other sources vary. In 1996, Catholic Answers stated that membership was then estimated to be between 3 and 10 million world-wide.[114] In 2007, Adherents.com asserted that the number of adherents was ten million, citing the 1996 Catholic Answers source with the 3–10 million estimate in support.[115] In 2012, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the membership amounted to 1.8 million, attributing that number to the Philippine Census in the year 2000.[116]
  2. ^ Pig blood is a major ingredient of Dinuguan, which is a popular dish in the Philippines.

References[edit]

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