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Iglesia ni Cristo

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Iglesia ni Cristo
Seal of the Iglesia ni Cristo
Seal of the Iglesia ni Cristo
Classification Restorationism
Theology Unitarianism
Governance Hierarchical/Monarchical
Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo
Region 102 countries and territories[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
Punta, Santa Ana, Manila, Philippines
Congregations 5,545[3] as of March 2014
Members No official disclosure of number of members
Hospitals New Era General Hospital
Aid organization Felix Y. Manalo Foundation
UNLAD International
Tertiary institutions New Era University
Other name(s) INC, Iglesia
Official website www.incmedia.org www.iglesianicristo.net

Iglesia ni Cristo[4] (Tagalog pronunciation: [ɪˈgleʃɐ ni ˈkɾisto], abbreviated as INC; English: Church of Christ) is an international Christian denomination that originated in the Philippines. It was registered in 1914 by Felix Manalo,[5][6][7] who became its 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 and Protestant sects, are apostates.[6][8] INC doctrine cites that the official registration of the Church with the Government of the Philippine Islands on July 27, 1914, by Felix Manalo—upheld by its members to be the last messenger of God—was an act of divine providence and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy concerning the reestablishment of the Church of Christ in the Far East [9][10] concurrent with the coming of the Seventh seal marking the end of days.[2][11]

By the time of Manalo's death in 1963, the Iglesia ni Cristo had become a nationwide church with 1,250 local chapels, and 35 large concrete cathedrals.[12] His son Eraño Manalo became the next church leader and led a campaign to grow and internationalize the church until his death on August 31, 2009,[13] whereupon his son, Eduardo V. Manalo, succeeded him as executive minister.[14] 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.[15][16]

History

During American colonial rule over the Philippines, there were a variety of rural anti-colonial movements, often with religious undertones,[17] and American Protestant missionaries introduced several alternatives to the Roman Catholic Church, the established church during Spanish colonial period.[18]

Background

Built in 1937, the former chapel of the Punta, Manila congregation is now an INC museum[19]

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 (also called 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,[20] entered the Methodist seminary, and became a pastor for a while.[21] He also sought 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.[5][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.[5][6]

The 2,300-person capacity INC house of worship in Pasay was built in 1955 during the time of Felix Manalo.

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 his native Taguig to evangelise; there, 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, at the Bureau of Commerce as a corporation sole, with himself as the first executive minister.[5][20][22] Expansion followed as INC started building congregations in the provinces in 1916.[23] The first three ministers were ordained in 1919.[6]

By 1924, INC had about 3,000 to 5,000 adherents in 43 or 45 congregations in Manila and six nearby provinces.[22] By 1936, 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][24] 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, his son Eraño began taking leadership of the Church. Felix Manalo died on April 12, 1963.[23][24] 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.[12] Felix Y. Manalo was a recognized and highly respected religious leader of the Philippines.[25]

International expansion

The 7,000-seater Iglesia ni Cristo Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines

On July 27, 1968, Eraño G. Manalo officiated the inaugural worship service of the church in Ewa Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii—the first mission of the church outside the Philippines. The following month, INC established the San Francisco congregation. 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.[9]

In 1965, INC launched its first resettlement and land reform program in Barrio Maligaya, Laur, Nueva Ecija. INC started operating a radio station in 1969 while its first television program aired in 1983.[23] The Ministerial Institute of Development, currently the New Era University College of Evangelical Ministry, was founded in 1974 in Quiapo, Manila and moved in Quezon City in 1978. In 1971, the INC Central Office building was built in Quezon City. In 1984, the 7,000-seater Central Temple was added in the complex. The Tabernacle, a multipurpose, tent-like 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 INC.[22]

Twenty-first century

The house of worship in Washington DC, USA is one of the most expensive buildings acquired by INC outside the Philippines worth $9.2 million ($10.6M or roughly PhP470M including restoration).[26]

Eraño Manalo died on August 31, 2009.[13] His son, Eduardo V. Manalo, succeeded him as executive minister upon his death.[14]

On February 28, 2012, INC held its largest Grand Evangelical Missions (GEM) simultaneously on 19 sites across the Philippines.[27] In Manila site alone, more than 600,000 people attended the event. According to INC, they held the simultaneous GEMs nationwide as part of their campaign for the intensive propagation of "God’s words".[28]

The first INC School for Ministry outside the Philippines was set up in Sacramento, California in December 2013. On April 25, 2015, coincided with the dedication of the 600-seater worship building in Daegu, South Korea, Manalo led the oath-taking of 729 newly graduates of Bachelor in Evangelical Ministry as new regular evangelical workers. It is by far the largest batch of evangelical workers in INC history.[29]

On July 21, 2014, President Benigno Aquino III and INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo led the inauguration of Ciudad de Victoria,[30] a 140-hectare tourism zone in Bocaue and Santa 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.[31]

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.[32] For the worship service conducted for the INC centennial, INC secured two Guinness World Records for the largest gospel choir with 4,745 members[33] and largest mixed-used indoor theater for the Philippine Arena with 51,929 attendees.[34]

PhArenaDroneShot.JPG


“… the Philippine Arena is an establishment, is a marker, of what they are (Iglesia ni Cristo) right now in the 21st century. “They’re not a religion in the Philippines. They’re a religion in the world.”

— Jayeel S. Cornelio PhD, sociologist of religion, Ateneo de Manila University [35]

Within the span of five years (July 2009 to July 2014), INC has ordained additional 2,740 new ministers and enlisted about 9,000 new ministerial students, opened 220 new local congregations, 191 new locale extensions, 17 new ecclesiastical districts, and dedicated 603 new worship buildings (51 outside the Philippines).[36] Two main offices (Burlingame, CA, USA; Heathrow, London, UK) and 11 administrative infrastructure projects were also inaugurated in the same period.[37]

2015 Iglesia ni Cristo leadership controversy

In July 2015, it was reported that Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Manalo, the brother of Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo and their mother, Cristina "Tenny" Manalo, the widow of former executive minister Eraño Manalo, uploaded a video to YouTube alleging that the INC administration had threatened their life and that there has been a mass kidnapping of ministers. Former INC ministers Roel Rosal, and Isaias Samson, Jr., a former editor of Pasugo magazine, both stated that the Sanggunian (the top administrative council of the INC) unlawfully kidnapped and detained ministers along with members of the founding Manalo family in order to censure knowledge of the alledged "corruption scandal" surrounding the INC's chief auditor, Glicerio B. "Jun" Santos, Jr.[38]

The Iglesia ni Cristo, however, denies the claims of kidnapping and has expelled Angel and Tenny Manalo for what they have described as creating schism in the church and power grabbing.[39] Samson was expelled the next day for a "refusal to submit to authority."[40] While Samson held a press conference testifying to his abduction and escape from the compound,[38] Angel Manalo later recanted his statement and said that there were no threats of violence and nobody was being held hostage.[41]

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 biblical prophecies that Jesus Christ's church would re-emerge in the Far East.[9] Because of a number of similarities, some Protestant writers describe INC's doctrines as restorationist in outlook and theme.[42] 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 INC to be "children" of the "apostate" Roman Catholic Church.[43] 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.[44]

Bible

The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that the Bible is the sole basis of all their beliefs and practices.[45]

God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit

The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that God the Father is the Creator deity and the only true God. INC rejects the traditional Christian belief in the Trinity as heresy,[2][22] adopting a version of unitarianism. They believe that this position is attested by Jesus Christ and the Apostles.[6][45][46]

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)[46]

The church believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God[45] 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 upon him the titles "Lord" and "Son of God". The church sees Jesus as God's highest creation, and denies the deity of Jesus.[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][47]

INC believes that the Holy Spirit is the power of God and also not a deity, being sent by God the Father and Jesus Christ to guide God's people.[48]

One, true church

Iglesia ni Cristo flag (the colors represent faith, hope and love while the seven-branched candelabrum or menorah represents the church in the Bible)

The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that it is the one true church founded by Jesus Christ[45] and was restored by Felix Manalo in the last days. They believe that the first century church was apostasized in the 1st[49] or 4th century due to false teachings.[6][8] INC says that this apostate church is the Roman Catholic Church. Meanwhile, its reestablishment is seen as the signal for the end of days.[2][21][22]

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.[6][11][21][22][49] INC teaches that its members constitute the "elect of God" and there is no salvation outside the Iglesia ni Cristo.[22][50] Faith alone is insufficient for salvation.[2][8] 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

INC houses of worship in Commonwealth, Quezon City and Gibraltar, Baguio City

Felix Manalo is said to be the restorer of the church of Christ, and "God's last messenger" (sugo in Tagalog).[21][49]

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)[8][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.[6][22] 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.[11] 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."[22]

Baptism

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.[45] 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.[57]

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 or Bible Student (Tagalog: Dinudoktrinahan) and taught the twenty-five 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 (Tagalog: Sinusubok) 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.

Excommunication

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] being absent for too long without any solid reason during worship services, or marrying or having a romantic relationship with a non-member may result in mandatory excommunication.[2][50][58][59]

Eschatology and resurrection

INC believes that a person is composed of a body ("vehicle"), soul ("individual") and spirit ("life" or fuel). 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, and Jesus Christ. 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.[45]

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.

Practices

Worship and prayer

The church conducts regular worship services, one during the week, and one during the weekend, conducted in the local languages (providing sign language interpreters and translators in some congregations). It consists of singing of hymns, prayers, studies of the bible, collection of voluntary offerings, and benediction.[60][61] Both God the Father and Jesus are worshiped.[62] 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.[8] 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 worship services (Tagalog: Pagsamba ng kabataan or PNK) are held every weekend. They use similar lessons as the standard worship services taught using the Socratic method (question and answer).[6] The church teaches that willfully forsaking the worship service is a grievous sin,[63] thus members are expected to attend the congregational worship services twice a week without fail.[64]

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.[65] Prayers recited in rote repetition are not observed.[66]

Evangelism

INCTV Channel-49 and INCRadio 954 kHz, the official religious channel and radio station of Iglesia ni Cristo.

Since February 1939, the church has been publishing Pasugo[2] (English: God's Message) in both Tagalog and English.[49] As of 2010, the God's Message Magazine also features a Spanish section and in 2012 it has also German and Japanese sections. Felix Manalo wrote its first editorial where he stated the publication's purpose, including the propagation of the faith.[6] Issues contain articles which detail INC doctrines and refute doctrines which it considers as heresy, such as the Trinity.[8][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 were more than four million copies of Pasugo distributed worldwide.[67]

In the Philippines, through the Christian Era Broadcasting Service International Incorporated (CEBSI Incorporated), 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[68]

INC holds 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 (English: My Countrymen, My Brethren), which incorporates outreach missions to its evangelical missions.[69]

Outreach

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.[70]

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.[71]

INC also established the Unlad International, Inc in 2012.[72] 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.[73]

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. 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.[74]

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, 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.[75]

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.[76] On January 23, 2015, Manalo inaugurated the livelihood and housing project.[77]

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
INC Europe Main Office in Heathrow, England, the United Kingdom.

Iglesia ni Cristo has had three executive ministers (Tagalog: Tagapamahalang Pangkalahatan) that lead the church administration in overseeing the faith of the members. Eduardo V. Manalo, as the current executive minister, serves as the church's leader, and, in this capacity, manages the administration of the church.[78] Along with other senior ministers which comprises the Church Economic Council (Tagalog: Lupon ng Sanggunian), the executive minister forms the Central Administration of Iglesia ni Cristo .[50] All church ministers and evangelical workers are male, however, there are numerous female church officers. Ministers are encouraged to marry for the purpose of obeying the command to marry and multiply, and to become effective counselors to church members with family-related problems.

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 some of the church's departments. It is here where about a thousand INC professionals and volunteers hold office. Built in 1971 for 22 million (US$473 thousand), the building is currently estimated to be worth ₱1 billion (US$21 million).[79][80] It was located in Manila during its early years, then in San Juan, and later in Makati, before moving to its present site. INC also has two main offices outside the Philippines; in Burlingame, California, USA and in Heathrow, London, United Kingdom.[81]

Ecclesiastical districts

Administration and ministerial work are delegated into ecclesiastical districts (termed divisions until 1990) which are led by district ministers (formerly, division ministers).[22] Ecclesiastical districts comprise 15 to 70 congregations (referred to as locales) on average.[81] All locales were directly managed by Felix Manalo until 1924 when the first ecclesiastical district was organized in Pampanga.[6] INC oversees 129 ecclesiastical districts, 101 in the Philippines and 28 more districts throughout the world:

Architecture

Iglesia ni Cristo Central Office Complex in New Era, Quezon City, Philippines

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, a baptistry with pools for immersion baptism is located at the back of the church.[82] Meanwhile, Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita, an anthropologist from Ateneo de Manila University,[83] 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."[6] Prominent architects, such as Juan Nakpil (a National Artist of the Philippines for architecture) and Carlos A. Santos-Viola, 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.[82]

The first chapel was built on Gabriela Street in Tondo, Manila in 1918, fashioned out of sawali (woven leaf panels), nipa and wood, typified the style and materials of the early chapels. After World War II, INC began to build concrete chapels, the first of these in Washington (Maceda), Sampaloc, Manila completed in 1948. Next came the chapel and former official residence of the executive minister in San Juan, Rizal (now San Juan City, part of Metropolitan Manila). The complex in San Juan was designed by Juan Nakpil.[84] The Central Temple which opened on July 27, 1984, can accommodate up to 7,000 persons, and cost about US$2 million was designed by Carlos A. Santos-Viola.[85] The Central Temple features octagonal spires, "fine latticework" and ribbed windows. Recent buildings are variations on the designs of 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]

INC churches outside the Philippines which were acquired from different religions undergo intensive renovations to meet the standard of their worship services.[86] 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

  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 129 ecclesiastical districts in the Philippines and 102 other countries and territories.[3] Catholic Answers, a Catholic apologetics group, estimated INC membership to be at minimum of 3 million members worldwide.[b]

In 2010, the Philippine census by the National Statistics Office estimated that 2.45% of the Philippine population is affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo, making it the third-largest religious denomination in the country after the Catholic Church and Islam, respectively.[15]

Social influence in the Philippines

Felix Manalo's birth site was recognized in the Philippines as a National Historical Landmark

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.[88] INC members are noted for bloc voting in Philippine elections,[89][90][91] 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.[92] 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).[15][93][94] 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.[95][96] 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.[97]

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.[98] 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.[99]

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.[100] In the last quarter of 2013, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) had issued 100-Peso banknotes with an overprint of the Centennial logo of the INC to commemorate its 100th founding anniversary. The commemorative banknotes were printed, distributed and circulated throughout the country.[101] 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.[102]

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.[103]

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism described INC as a "most powerful union" in the Philippines.[104] 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.[105]

Reception from other religions

Karl Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers said in 1990 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 than to explaining their own positions.[106]

Let Us Reason Ministries, an online apologetics research group, has challenged the Iglesia ni Cristo's doctrines that one can only receive salvation if they are a member of the INC, and for saying that the INC has the sole authority from God to interpret and preach the Bible, while other religions do not.[107] They also say that the Iglesia ni Cristo fallaciously misinterprets Biblical passages in order to suit their doctrines.[108]

In a 1984 issue of the Iglesia ni Cristo's God's Message magazine, authors quote Charles Caldwell Ryrie's commentary in his Ryrie Study Bible on John 1:1 as being an example of a Protestant theologian supportive of their nontrinitarian doctrine that Jesus Christ is distinct from God. However, Ryrie has stated that the quotation was taken out of context, and that he believes in the Trinity.[109]

Meanwhile, the Members Church of God International, another Christian denomination based in the Philippines, has had a history of conflicts with the INC.

Notes

  1. ^ Pig blood is a major ingredient of Dinuguan, which is a popular dish in the Philippines.
  2. ^ 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.[87]

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External links