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Promotion of Social Justice and National Liberation: Integral Dimension of IFI Mission of Evangelisation
By Noel Dionicio L. Dacuycuy
Delivered at Aglipay Central Theological Seminary, Urdaneta City on 3 August 2005, in commemoration of the 103rd proclamation of the IFI.

Today is the 103rd commemoration of the proclamation of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). It is widely and popularly known as ―the only living tangible result of the 1896 Philippine Revolution‖, therefore, it should be understood that the IFI is:  First of all, a result of the Filipino’s cry for freedom and liberty against foreign and feudal oppressions in order to institute the fundamental and structural changes in Philippine society; and,  Secondly, as a fruit of people’s relentless drive to free the Christian faith from abuses and corruptions in order that God’s Reign in which the kingdom values of love justice, peace and abundant life permeate in all aspects of human and social relations among the Filipino people. Accordingly, the IFI as ―a congregation of new men and women‖ imbued with the missionary zeal to preach the totality of the Gospel of Christ. In this regard, it is appealing to note the solidarity greetings of Bishop Christopher Epting in the IFI’s Centennial Mass, he says, ―As we (ECUSA) were blessed to share with you the gift of apostolic succession in the historic episcopate, so you have shared with us the inseparable nature of the gospel from the struggle for justice and peace in this world. And just as you have been faithful in preserving the apostolic ministry…so I ask you to pray for us that we may always faithfully proclaim the gospel in such a way that it truly is good news to the poor.‖1

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Conclusively, these remarks of Bishop Epting would accentuate the historic and unique contribution of the IFI to the worldwide Christianity— the proclamation of the Gospel. Thus, the ―Promotion of Social Justice and National Liberation as an Integral Dimension of the IFI’s Mission of Evangelisation‖ I have been chosen as the theme of my lecture this morning to describe the multifaceted involvement of the IFI in the quest for national liberation and social justice. The Focus: “Integral Dimension of IFI Mission of Evangelisation” This lecture focuses on the essential nature of the indispensable standpoint and vigorous participation of the IFI in the promotion of social justice and national liberation in evangelisation. Thus it seeks to integrate (―integral‖) the various dimensions of church mission as understood from a Christian perspective; ―integral‖ implies the direct participation or active involvement of the IFI in the quest for social justice and liberation. In this regards, it attempts to clarify the notion that there is no unbridgeable gap between mission and nationalism as experienced by the IFI in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. Accordingly, it is an exposition of IFI mission as a mission to preach the totality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The treatment thus serves to present evangelisation as ecclesial mission of proclamation of the Gospel of total and integral salvation. Thus, it gives emphasis that the living legacy of the IFI is its incessant involvement and persistent involvement in the liberating praxis of the Christian faith—the integral dimension of mission of evangelisation. In other words, it is a contextualisation of the faith in the history of the Filipino people. It is not only a superficial process of transformation of some religious customs in evangelisation, but also a historical process, which involves a complete viewpoint and socio-political praxis through integral mission of evangelisation.

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The IFI’s Nationalist Heritage: “Experience and Perspectives” Visualizing the 3rd day of August 1902 at the Centro de Bellas Artes when Isabelo ―Don Belong‖ de los Reyes met the union leaders and delivered a strong anti-friar speech to proclaim the establishment of a Filipino Catholic Church independent from Rome. The Filipino people and the Filipino church, at that moment, were confronted with two revolutionary possibilities: (1) the creation of a ―free‖ Filipino community dedicated to the worship of God in truth; and (2) the participation in, and perhaps even the leadership of, the Filipino liberation movement against American imperialism. Looking at the very centre of Don Belong’s proclamation address, rather than organizing a movement to defend human rights and to work for social justice towards national liberation, Don Belong and our forefathers resolutely opted for the establishment of a community of people who promised to reflect upon their own attitudes and to live according to their duties as Filipino Christians. As such, the IFI served as the ―living spirit‖ of the Filipino people in search for peace in our country based in justice. It creates the community of God’s people needed for a new society. It fosters the type of conversion required so that today’s oppressed will not become tomorrow’s oppressors. Thus, it began its ministry as a ―prophet‖ of hope. But in order to understand better this hope of the Filipino people, it is worth quoting the primary object of the IFI, ―to restore the worship of the one true God and the purity of the holy teachings of Jesus Christ‖. 2 With this, ―God’s Kingdom‖ made it the very centre of the IFI’s mission of evangelisation. It was not satisfied with a theoretical and utopian proclamation. It exercises a ministry of denunciation and annunciation. It took a clear stand on the problems of his time. It stresses that ―the

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Kingdom of God would come with the triumph of the poor with the abolition of private property and (the institution of) the common ownership of goods‖. It asserts that it is not a mere utopian dream because the community of the first Christians who practise it (Acts 4:32, 34–34) and the criterion of the would-be disciples of Jesus (Luke 14:33). In like manner, the IFI’s ecclesiastical wealth and even the private wealth of those who enter the ministry were pooled together to the treasury of the church. And this teaching was extended to the laymen by forming secular societies to observe this discipline.3 Thus, we shall consider two important ways in which the IFI strove to bring about God’s Kingdom and man’s liberation as the integral dimension of evangelisation. 1. The Promotion of Social Justice. The incessant participation of the church in the struggle of the Filipino people for liberation was understood as an act of confessing the faith—a significant witness of the incarnation and the sacrament of salvation amidst of social injustices. In an interview by the Herald Magazine in 23 September 1933, Aglipay asserts the participation of the church in politics ―for it is part of our national life and any political changes that take place here (in politics) are unlikely to affect the affairs of the Church.‖ Intertwined with this, the IFI stressed its concern for liberty and human freedom rooted in Jesus’ teachings of social justice. Epistola VI explains that a person with all its rights and liberty—a perfect and admirable creation of God (Genesis 1:31). And this freedom is not only a dimension of man’s subjectivity to God. But it is a liberating praxis—a power that transforms the world in accordance to God’s purposes. 2. The Struggle for National Liberation. In the promotion of social justice in evangelisation, the IFI did not only talk of revolution but even participated in the revolution for national liberation. Aglipay explained in

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the Manifesto of 22 October 1898 that the revolution waged by the Filipino people was to redeem the country from slavery. It was the last recourse of the Filipino people in order to achieve social justice. Thus, Aglipay challenged the patriotism of the Filipino people and the clergy for direct participation in the war of independence.4 The church argues that revolutions are perfectly providential (Epistola II), but forewarns that ―Revolutions are never made by halves…half measures are counterproductive and lead us to nothing but ruin‖ (Epistola VI). Thus the revolutionary struggle waged by the Filipinos is a struggle for social justice and national liberation. Irrefutably, the integral promotion of social justice and national liberation as mission of evangelisation is the commonly known the IFI’s nationalist heritage. From the hindsight of the experience and perspective of its history, this nationalist heritage of the IFI is intimately connected with the proclamation of ―God’s Kingdom‖ in the world. Thus, the IFI showed that evangelisation is not merely a passive proclamation of salvation, but also an active promotion of social justice towards national liberation. Therefore, it gave us the power to dissent and to disobey; the church invited us to become free and to exercise a prophetic mission in our daily activities. In this way, the prophetic vision of God’s kingdom will be incarnated in life and the political standpoint, challenged by meaningful criticism, will not give birth to new forms of oppression. As such, it is in this way that we can work fort God’s kingdom and man’s liberation—the integral dimension of the mission of evangelisation. The Mission of Evangelisation: IFI’s Nationalist Heritage The obedience to the faith implies a proclamation of God’s salvific activity. This proclamation is called mission. The church’s obedience to evangelisation imprints the assertion of the Christian faith in the society.

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Thus, it offers an alternative order of society. This also affirms, as it has been substantiated by the IFI’s experience, that the Christian faith and church mission has political repercussions, whether by action or by omission. The church always has an influence on society, but this is oriented by faith. 1. The Call. It is the challenge of the IFI that if the church is truly interested in human dignity and all the rest that can be summed up under the word salvation, then it needs to be vigorous in the critique of the social system of the society. It must search for a way in which it can lead the quest for social justice and the struggle national liberation in its integral mission of evangelisation. For the issues of social justice and national liberation are not merely political but also religious issues. It implies that the church should supply the ethical values through evangelisation that could sustain the patriotic sentiments of the struggling people. And these ethical values should be ingrained in the norms of society in order to constitute a basic ingredient of human freedom and liberation for the greater glory of God. 2. The Salvific Mission. The IFI’s understanding of mission

encompasses more than the biblical narratives in Matthew and in Luke. It claims that mission is the divine salvific activity wherein the IFI is a witness of it. In other words, it is continuing God’s creative and redemptive activity towards the fullness of the kingdom. In this divine salvific activity is the proclamation of ―life in its fullness‖ (John 10:10) and the restoration of the image of God (Genesis 1: 27) in humanity. As such, salvation should be viewed in the wider political, cultural and economic perspective. Thus the ethical outworking of salvation is the creation of a new world by the emancipation of humanity from social injustices. In other words, it is an integral and social salvation. This accentuates the IFI’s perspective that salvation has a communal dimension. It demands the de-privatisation of

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salvation. As such, it is no longer being regarded as primarily an individual interest, but of social importance. It is a collective endeavour. What is also apparent from this view is that humanity is the subject of mission. 3. The Criteria of Evangelisation. The core significance in the IFI nationalist heritage is that the dignity of the human being as ―created in the image of God‖ is the sole criteria of the church’s integral mission of evangelisation. In like manner, ―life in its fullness‖ should become the criteria of judgement for the church’s involvement and active participation in the quest for a just society and in the struggle for liberation. This perspective is also a critique, therefore, of the church that became a ―supermarket‖ of sacraments. It is a reminiscent of the Hebrew prophets that emphasised the encounter with God through neighbourly relationship guided with justice. They give priority to social justice in historical action over the ceremonial purity. And for them, devotion to the Lord is closely linked with social justice (Amos 5:21-24). 4. The Theological Tenets. Foremost, evangelisation is the

proclamation of salvation. Salvation is ―life in its fullness‖. With the experience and perspective of the IFI, three theological tenets are drawn out for discussion: (a) the quest for social justice, stewardship of creation; (b) national liberation, the temporal fulfilment of the Kingdom; and (c) social transformation, a continuing salvation in history. The Quest for Social Justice, a Stewardship of Creation Humanity is not simply a being in the world but rather it comes into being with the world. Thus it has the privilege to direct its history in accordance to its own understanding and interpretation of its mission entrusted by God, and responds actively and effectively with its faith. In like manner, God manifests himself through the salvific activity. It is not a

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forever-static act, but a continuing process wherein the humanity participates. This participation is called stewardship of creation. Primarily, man was created in God’s own image (Gen 1:26-27) to assume responsibility to the goal of creation, and to transform (recreate) the world as a reflection of its relationship with God. The Exodus demonstrates the liberating role of God. However, man is not a mere spectator but has a role to perform. The liberating experience of God’s people manifests the link between the salvific activities of God and the role of humanity in the divine intervention. It is a creation of a ―new order of creation‖. It affirms that the creative work is linked with the redemptive act of God (Isa. 41:20; 43:1,7). It also leads to a new relation with God. Thus, the quest for social justice and the struggle for national liberation are both perceived as a continuing work of creation and a salvific activity in accordance with God’s purpose. In like manner, the building of a just society are inherent to human redemption, which is moving towards its complete fulfilment in the redemptive work of God that embraces the whole of humanity and all human history. National Liberation, the Temporal Fulfilment of the Kingdom At the heart of the biblical faith lays the expectation of the Kingdom of God, which must not be understood merely as the salvation of certain individuals but rather the reign of God over the entire creation. Thus, the presence of the Kingdom of God is perceived as the dynamic reign of God in history. So, the kingdom in Jesus and the Hebrew prophets is potentially-actually present in the historical experience of the people. It refers to the historical redemption of humanity. Jesus did not ―spiritualise‖ the eschatological promise. But he gave the meaning and fulfilment ―today‖ (cf. Luke 4:21). Thus the struggle for national liberation and

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democracy is in its definitive purpose a temporal fulfilment of the kingdom. However, this does not mean the fullness of the kingdom but a foretaste of it, because the Kingdom of God is a divine gift from God to the world. Social Transformation, a Continuing Salvation in History The continuous intervention of God in human history that warrants temporal progress is a continuation of the work of redemption. Any activity contrary to the purpose of God is SIN. In like manner, a sinful social situation is a rejection of God’s sovereignty. Thus sin may not only be considered simply as an individual or interior reality of a person, but rather it is social. It is a breach of relationship between God and his people, and among the people themselves. As such the fundamental obstacle of relationship is sin, which is also the root of all misery and injustices. The gospel message of Jesus on human liberation from social injustices typifies this concept of sin. Thus, liberation from poverty and oppression is to be free from sin. A sinful situation needs change. Theologically, it is called

conversion. Politically, it is radical reform. Sin demands salvation or liberation. But if sin is a lack or absence of an affirmative relationship in a society, there is no means of removing something non-existent. So, liberation from sin in unjust social relations can be nothing other than the creation of new ties among the people. This is possible only by means of shaping a new order of society. Thus, liberation from sin means a radical change of an unjust social system of society. In other words, it simply means social transformation. Although social transformation is not the coming of the Kingdom of God, it is a salvific activity wherein the grace of God is at work. It is an essential segment of salvation history.

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The Challenge: “The IFI to drink from its own well” The world today is marked by the emergence of liberation movements persistently challenging imperialist globalisation for it craftily ploys a plutocratic social system. Imperialist globalisation also creates a global community after the image of capital and the ethics of the market dictates the meaning of human life. As such, it is totally opposed to God’s kingdom. This sacrilegious social system challenges the very core of the Christian faith that the entire humanity is created equal in the image of God, and that the Creator God is the centre of human life. Hence, the IFI is challenged to become relevant in the society as to proclaim the sovereignty of God over the entire creation. Explicitly, the IFI made ―God’s kingdom‖ the very centre of its mission of evangelisation. From its integral ministry, it is very clear that the IFI gave emphasis in man’s responsibility and participation in building up the kingdom. It is also constitutes an urgent call to bridge the gap between the ideal and reality, and to transform today’s society into a world of justice, peace and brotherhood. Thus, the proclamation of the IFI was a vision of total and everlasting salvation of the Filipino people. Likewise, it constrained inbuilt tension between God’s gift and man’s action, between the present and the future, the material and spiritual. Accordingly, the challenge for the IFI ―to drink from its own well‖ is very significant today. Ambrosio Manaligod persuades the church by these challenging words, St. Bernard of Clairvaux said; “A people must know how to drink from their own well”. That well is the people’s past and present historical experience for it is there where they encounter God. As Jews, the disciples drank from their experience as God’s chosen people in the Old Testament; as followers of Christ, they drank from the preaching of Jesus, his passion and death, his resurrection and ascension to heaven.

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Should I not dare say you also must know how to drink from your own well; the past and present historical experience of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, as People of God in the Philippines?5 As such, I am calling as to persuade each and one of us ―to drink from our own well‖—the historical experience of our church. We should continue to promote social justice and national liberation as an integral dimension of mission of evangelisation while awaiting the fulfilment of God’s kingdom. Together, let us continue build the living church for God and country. Mabuhay ang Iglesia Filipina Independiente.


Endnotes: , Bishop Christopher Epting was the Presiding Bishop's Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA), ―Philippine Independent Church celebrates its centennial‖, in News Briefs, Episcopal News Service; available from http://www.episcopalchurch.org/ens/2002-188.html; accessed, 14 august 2002.
1 2 3 4 5

DRC, First Part, Chapter I, Section 1.; Epistola VI. DRC, Second Part, Chapter I, Section 1. Manifesto: Al Pueblo y Clero Filipinos, August 19, 1899).

Message delivered by Fr. Ambrosio Manaligod, S.T.D, of the Roman Catholic Church on the occasion of the 49th Msgr. Gregorio Aglipay Death Anniversary Commemoration at the Cathedral of the Holy Child, Taft Avenue, Manila on 01 September 1984.

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