19 April 2010
QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The American occupation was a period of diverse and dynamic religious experience in the Philippines. While the politicians saw the occupation as a way to expand democratic principles, leaders of various denominations saw it as an opportunity to advocate their beliefs. Such was the religious climate that pervaded the archipelago when Iglesia ni Cristo began. Felix Manalo was the founder of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) or Church of Christ, formerly called Iglesia ni Kristo (INK). He was born on May 10, 1886 at Calsada Tipas, Taguig, Rizal. Manalo was raised as a Catholic, but joined other prominent denominations, such as Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian Mission, Seventh Day Adventist, and the colorum religions of Mount Banahaw, before deciding to establish the INC on July 27, 1914 in Punta, Santa Ana, Manila. Felix Manalo died in 1963 and was succeeded by his son Eraño. Eduardo V. Manalo, the current INC leader, took over when his father, Eraño, died in 2009.
The church administration is centralized; the ecclesiastical and local congregations are managed from a central office located in Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City. It has approximately 5,000 congregations in the Philippines and more than 600 in other 98 countries. Scheduled days of worship are Thursdays and Sundays, and the Thursday sermon is continued during Sunday service. Male members sit to one side of the chapel and the women, to the other. Three consecutive absences from the service will prompt the deacon to investigate the cause of absence.
Some of the important celebrations of the INC include the Santa Cena, during which the faithful eat unleavened bread and drink wine; Pasasalamat (thanksgiving) of the church, celebrated during the month of December and Pasasalamat of Manalo, held on the day following the founder’s birthday.
Members may be expelled if they are found to drink excessively, engage in immoral acts, marry outside the church, apostatize, and disagree with administrative policies. Not to have voted for the political candidates that INC chose is also cause for expulsion.
The INC is known for bloc voting — the reason politicians seek the endorsement of the church leader, who provides church members a list of endorsed candidates before election day. This practice represents the unity within the church.