The Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), the country’s most dominant religious group other than the Roman Catholic Church has gone a long way. It has evolved to become like a prototype of sorts that other sects tried but fell short of emulating.
From the time it was established in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila on July 27, 1914, the INC has grown beyond many thought it would. Its community grew from a handful of adherents to what it is today – largest entirely indigenous-initiated religious organization in the Philippines comprising roughly five million members or roughly five percent of the country’s population.
The figure does not even include believers scattered in 150 countries across the globe.
Founded by Felix Y. Manalo, or Ka Felix who served as its first Executive Minister, INC has had its share of ups and downs too. However, not even the toughest controversies coming its way was enough to delude a religious organization embarking on core values.
Ka Felix, who hailed from Barrio Tipas of the old Taguig town in the Province of Morong (now Rizal), started carving his core values during his formative years.
It was at this time that Ka Felix displayed an independent and nationalistic stance reflective of the Gomburza, the three martyred Filipino priests whose deaths awakened the resentment of the Filipinos against the Spanish friars and authorities. Interestingly, Ka Felix was 10 years old when Jose P. Rizal was executed in Bagumbayan, and a budding teenager when the Philippine Revolution broke out.
Then a teenager, an extremely curious Ka Felix started finding answers to questions about his religion. He was a Catholic by birth.
The formation of the Philippine Independent Church led by a Catholic priest, Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, and a Filipino nationalist, Isabelo de los Reyes, in 1902 after the Philippine Revolution, paved the way for him to stand by his conviction to find a religion that will truly practice the teaching of Christ, the true Church of Christ. Initially, he joined the seminary of Methodist Episcopal Church where he became a pastor, but left and later on joined the Presbyterian Church.
Still unable to find the ideal religious community at par with his high standards, he also got affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist in 1911 before he finally thought of forming a religious community, embarking on a faith where preachers do what they teach.
Without any particular religious affiliation, he went on hibernation where he spent his time reading all the religious references and spiritual books he could gather. To cut the long story short, Ka Felix, then a married man, found every reason for him to form a religious faith. Hence, the INC was born in Punta, Sta. Ana in Manila.
Despite odds, Ka Felix began preaching his faith, together with his wife. He registered INC at the Bureau of Commerce and declared himself as its founder and first Executive Minister. Through dint of hard work, he expanded his congregations in Manila and the surrounding provinces.
From a busload of the congregation, INC rapidly grew to 100,000 before the war broke out in 1944. The rest is history.
Fundamentals of INC
Iglesia ni Cristo is embarking on a faith largely evolving on the Holy Bible, which it regards as the sole basis of its faith, belief, and practice.
Interestingly, INC found it logical and moral to come up with fundamental scriptural teachings, which somehow made the INC close to an ideal religious community where preachers do what they are teaching and believers do their share by emulating virtues while forbidding what is deemed “un-Christian.”
- Defining GOD — Citing the Holy Bible, particularly the Books of John [Chapter 3, Verses 1 and 3] and the Corinthians [Chapter 8 Verse 6], INC also embarks on “absolute oneness with GOD” as it clearly defines who the Almighty Creator is, Jesus Christ and the apostolic community.
- The Son of GOD — Further, the INC firmly believed that Jesus Christ, who was made to save mankind, is with all certainty the “Son of God.”
- The Church of Christ — Taking a cue from the Books of Matthew, Acts and Ephesians of the Holy Bible, INC categorically refers to the Church of Christ as the only refuge of people wanting to be saved. It is for the Church that Christ gave his life and thus, it is this Church that will save when Judgment Day finally comes.
- Judgement Day — INC believes that Judgment Day is inevitable and that God has appointed a day when He will finally be judging all people through his son, Jesus Christ. Judgment Day, according to the Holy Bible, would have the Second Advent of Christ — or simply the end of the World.
- Baptism — INC observes the biblical way of Baptism by way of an immersion using pristine water, just the way a biblical man by the name of John did to Christ and his fellow apostles. It is only through Baptism that one gets to be cleansed of the sins so that we may be saved when the end of the world finally comes.
- Resurrection — Just like Jesus Christ, every man who believed in GOD that there is life after death. The Resurrection of Christ in itself is a proof that the dead will rise, but only for those who believed and stood by the moral teachings of the Iglesia Ni Cristo or the Church of Christ.
INC’s Core Values
History saw many other religious organizations disintegrate over issues hounding leadership and its failure to practice what has been taught. But not the INC, which has braved the storms for the last 107 years and is still growing strong up to this day.
But what exactly is INC steadfastly doing to prevent it from ending up the way other disintegrated religions did?
- Unity — INC is known for solidity. Its unity has been tested in many instances. Dissenters came and left but failed to inflict a dent on their Church. INC is one in faith and practice. Its unity remains intact through a centralized form of administration ensuring adherence of its members and congregations to the same Biblical lessons and Church rules. It is this unshakeable unity that also attracts many politicians – both local and national – to court the INC for its much sought-after solid vote in every political exercise.
- Morality and Holiness — INC is also known for its high moral standards. Believers’ lives are basically revolving on the teaching of the Bible as their way of life. INC constantly reminds its community of the purity of life among its members. As for those stubborn enough, INC does not consider persecution. It however has a set of rules from where erring members are meted corrective measures.
- Peace and Order — Chaos and disorder are unacceptable in the INC community. INC gets to maintain peace and order in their organization using a formula that does not require too much complexity. The formula embarks on respect and adherence to the rules and regulations. Among its salient clauses include restrictions from joining any circle espousing violence of extra-legal means.
- Lawfulness and Discipline — INC has high regard for law and discipline anchored on the apostolic teachings, which include submission to authorities, just like what a part of the Bible says, to wit: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” — Titus 3:1; and “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” — Pet. 2:3.
- Brotherhood and Equality — Discrimination and racism are unacceptable. INC sees to it that members, regardless of economic status, gender, race, and age, treat each other as brothers and of equal rights, respect care, love and dignity, in the same manner that GOD looks upon men as equal and all sons and daughters.
- Sanctity of Marriage — Taking a cue from a Bible verse which states that nobody can separate a man and a woman who joined together before Him, INC stood firmly against divorce, annulment, legal separation even as the religious organization regards marriage as sacred and inviolable. INC offers a long list of solutions and guidance for couples facing marital issues.
- Family First — INC gives a premium on the importance of family. In fact, INC has always considered the family as the basic unit of its organization, in the way family is deemed as such by society in general. For INC, the stability of the Church is largely dependent on the stability of the family forming part of the continuously growing community. As Ka Felix would fondly say — The home is where religious education begins via Christian parenting where in love is first taught to the younger people in the family.
Not a Political Bloc
While many are living on the wrong impression which tends to show the Iglesia ni Cristo, which has a base membership of no less than five million faithfuls, as a political bloc, the truth is — it’s not.
INC strictly stands by the Separation of the Church and the State.
INC upholds the Democratic ideals of their Church separate and far from the State and that it promotes peaceful and legal means, the right and freedom of its members and congregations to conduct worship and other religious activities as provided for and protected by the fundamental Philippine laws.
To make it simpler, everyone is welcome to listen and take part in these religious gatherings but no way for the INC to become part of the government — or the politics hounding the government.
107 years later
In commemoration of the INC’s 107th founding anniversary, Executive Minister Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo led a Thanksgiving worship service on July 24, 2021 at the INC Central Temple in Diliman, Quezon City which was live-streamed throughout the world.
During the worship service, Ka Eduardo led the dedication of three worship service buildings, bringing the total of number of “bahay sambahan” (church houses) built or renovated during the COVID-19 pandemic to 143.
The six newly-built or renovated INC houses of worship are located in Marabulig II, Isabela; Old Centro, Isabela; Sta. Maria, Quirino; Naawan, Cagayan De Oro; Makrham, Ontario, Canada, and in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.