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 what 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.
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? Here are some of the INC’s core values:
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.
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.
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.