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The Iglesia ni Cristo (pronounced [ǺɑgleȓǠ ni kȎisto]; Tagalog for Church of Christ; also known as INC, formerly called Iglesya ni Kristo or INK) is a Christian religious organization that re-emerged in the Philippines. Felix Y. Manalo officially registered the church as a corporation sole with him as executive minister on July 27, 1914. The INC's official doctrine is that Jesus Christ is the founder of the INC and that Felix Manalo was sent by God to reestablish the Christian Church to its true, pristine form because the original church was apostatized. This apostatized church is the Catholic church, and present catholic dogma, such as the Trinity, as proof of this apostacy. The organization does not submit to the dogma of the Trinity, nor the dogmas that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are Gods.
The historical context of the Iglesia ni Cristo lies in a period of the early 20th century characterised by a variety of rural anti-colonialism movements, often with religious undertones, in the Philippines. At this time, U.S. missionary work was exposing Filipino culture to many alternatives to the Catholicism installed under earlier Spanish rule. In search of the truth, Felix Manalo as a young adult, drifted from one religious organizations to another, becoming well versed in the teachings of each one of them. But one after another he found each one lacking the substance he was searching for. Frustrated, he even tried atheism and agnosticism, but these too did not fulfill his needs. One day, using the literatures from the different religions he joined, and the bible, he locked himself in a room and began his personal search for the true religion. After three days and three nights, he emerged with what would be the basis for the teachings of Iglesia ni Cristo
Iglesia ni Cristo's first chapel The INC began with a handful of followers on July 27, 1914 in Punta, Santa Ana, Manila; with Manalo as its head minister.Manalo propagated his message within his local area, growing the Iglesia ni Cristo and converting members of other religions. The Catholic church dismissed the INC then and believed it would fail. Catholic clergy attributed in growth to novelty of Protestantism, which was brought to the Philippines by the Americans. They believed that Manalo would not stand against the theological sophistication of Catholic orthodoxy; however, INC continued to grow even through World War II. In 2005, after 91 years the Roman Catholic church formally acknowledged the existence of the INC, calling it an "emerging" influential religious group. The INC has come a long way since it's inception. Today, INC ministers are as sophisticated as any other Christian preacher able to argue scriptures in original Greek. The financial discipline taught throughout the church has been a centralized effort of followers and church officers. With Manalo's effort to create an organized and systematic organization, the church has become one of the largest and most respected groups in the Philippines.As membership increased, he delegated others to spread the teachings of the INC and it eventually spread throughout the Philippines and to other countries.When he died in 1963, his son Eraño took over duties as executive minister and later on, his grandson Eduardo V. Manalo became the deputy executive minister. In July 27, 1968, Erano Manalo officiated the first worship service in Ewa, Hawaii thus starting the mission of propagation outside of the Philippine. By 2008, the INC had grown to more than 5,000 congregations in the Philippines, and more than 600 abroad.Congregations are called local congregation, or simply local. The INC has local congregations in 89 countries and territories with its members belonging to 102 nationalities and ethnic groups. According to various sources, including the 1997 Britannica Book of the Year, INC had a worldwide population of over one million members by the early 1980s. According the 2000 census of the Philippine National Statistics Office, over 1.76 million persons in the Philippines were are affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo as of that year or roughly doubling in size in a span of 20 years. Other sources places the number at 2.3% of the population in the year 2000. Some catholic publications put the number to be between three million and ten million worldwide making it even larger than the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has become the second largest religious organization in the Philippines and the largest independent church in Asia.
The Manila city government declared July 27th a holiday, and allowed members of the Iglesia ni Cristo paid leave, in order to celebrate the anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo. On July 27, 2006, the Philippine House of Representatives passed a resolution commending the INC on its 92nd anniversary. On August 2, 2007, Representative Carmelo Lazatin of the First District of Pampanga filed House Bill (HB) 1773 titled "Act declaring July 27 of every year as a special non working holiday in commemoration of the founding anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC)." which would make the day a national holiday much like Ramadan is for Muslim Filipinos and Holy Week for catholics. The Iglesia ni Cristo's architecture is notable for the narrow-pointed spires of its huge chapel buildings. In the Philippines, these are considered landmarks of major cities and provincial capitals, because of their distinct architecture. The INC has outreach programs, such as it's "Lingap sa Mamamayan(Care for the People)", offering free medical and dental services, community cleanups and tree planting projects. In California, Daly City twice declared a week in July as "Iglesia ni Cristo Week" in recognition of the efforts of the INC members in community service events such as community beautification projects, blood drives, and food distribution sessions.
Felix Manalo on the cover of the Pasugo It is an INC doctrine and a primary duty of members to perform missionary activities such as inviting people to Bible Studies and evangelical missions (known as Pamamahayag in Filipino), and to distribute magazines and pamphlets which are given to them by the administration. In the Philippines, radio and television programs are produced, and they are broadcast on 1062 kHz DZEC-AM radio, DZEM 954 kHz, the Net 25 television station operated by
Eagle Broadcasting Corporation, the broadcast division of the Iglesia ni Cristo and GEM TV, the sister station to NET 25, also owned by the INC and Iglesia Ni Cristo TV broadcast on cable. 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. The INC used to maintained 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 GEM-TV began broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on DirecTV channel 2068. The official INC magazine available to INC congregations worldwide is entitled God's Message or Pasugo. For many years the INC published the bilingual Pasugo for the Philippines and a separate all-English God's Message International Edition for usage abroad. In January 2004, the administration of the INC began to publish only one magazine both in the Philippines and abroad bearing the name God's Message. While predominantly English, the latest version contains a Filipino Section. The magazine consists of letters to the editor, news from locales worldwide, religious poetry, articles relating to INC beliefs, a directory of locales outside the Philippines and would also feature a schedule of worship services until recently.
Membership in the INC is conferred through baptism. 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 locale, the person is given the status of Doctrinal Instructee (DI), as they are called within the Iglesia ni Cristo, and taught the twenty-six lessons concerning fundamental doctrines of the INC. In the United States, there are an additional three lessons taught for a total of twenty-nine, which mainly contain information about the Church 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 twice 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 they are asked questions about the doctrines taught to them. Those who pass the screening are scheduled to be baptized.
Since understanding is necessary before being baptized in the INC, the minimum age for baptism is set at around eleven and at least the 6th grade. Newborn children of members are instead "offered" during the worship service. The child offering in the INC is done through a prayer led by an ordained minister of the INC. 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 or marrying nonmembers may result in mandatory expulsion.
Iglesia ni Cristo central office in New Era, Quezon City, Philippines The INC's Central Administration is the Iglesia ni Cristo Central Office, a large, secured complex nearly the size of Vatican City located on Commonwealth Avenue, New Era, Quezon City, Philippines. An editorial in the July 25, 2004 issue of Philippine Panorama Magazine described the complex as including the six-story Central Office Building, the 7,000-seat Central Temple, the Tabernacle (a multi-purpose hall), the 30,000-seat Central Pavilion, the College of Evangelical Ministry, the New Era General Hospital, and the New Era University. Contrary to claims, the Central Office is not the residence of the Manalos. It is in this building where Erano Manalo holds office.
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. While it strongly maintains a close "friendship" with incumbent administrations, the INC also sees to it that they do not lose "discreet connection" with
the opposition. It was well-known for its support of President Ferdinand E. Marcos until his ousting during the EDSA Revolution of 1986. INC members are noted for their bloc voting in Philippine elections, although INC has the biggest conversion turn-out, between sixty-eight and eighty-four percent of their members voting for candidates endorsed by its leadership, according to comprehensive surveys conducted by ABS-CBN. This is due to their doctrine on unity, which puts the penalty of expulsion on anyone swaying from the doctrine. Some reports claim that the INC can deliver 2 million members of voting age, although pollsters believe the actual figure is closer to 1 to 1.5 million. Some Philippine media credit the INC bloc vote for the presidential campaign victory of Joseph Estrada in 1998, and the election for the full term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004. This has given INC strong political influence on elected officials. Newspaper reports say that the Philippine Congress decision to uphold the decision on September 2005 rejecting the Arroyo impeachment complaint was swayed largely by INC influence. However, Behn Fer. Hortaleza Jr. claims otherwise. He wrote an op-ed piece for The Sun·Star Pangasinan claiming that Representative Joey Salceda "had wanted to pit the INC against the Catholic church by so timing the congressman's "news" with another expose on the bishops' receiving Pagcor "sin money" for their projects." Others, however, argue that the INC vote is only significant in close-run elections, noting that INC-supported candidates, Senator Sergio Osmeña Jr. lost in 1969 to Marcos and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. lost to Fidel Ramos in 1992, largely due to irregularities in counting the election returns in favor of Fidel Ramos, most numbers were changed with snopake. Other seemingly strong candidates do not believe this notion. In 2004, Fernando Poe suspended campaign stops in the provinces to attend a meeting called by Manalo. For their part, the INC leadership said members do not vote to ensure the victory of the candidate they vote for. Manalo said "BLOC VOTING is a manifestation of religious unity that is essential to spiritual salvation". Not all candidates in Philippine politics embraced support from INC. MacapagalArroyo's father, Diosdado Macapagal has refused INC's preferred support during his runs for Vice President in 1957, and re-election for President in 1965 – in which he incidentally lost to Marcos. The support of the INC is not only sought out during elections but even for passage of House Bill 5043 or “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008”. In 2008, the INC and the Catholic church were again 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 Philippine president Arroyo to the bill. 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.