Here are some facts on the Iglesia ni Cristo, a little-known but significantly large (5-10 million) religious group based in the Philippines:
- The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) also known by its English name as Church of Christ, is a religious organization registered as a sole corporation in July 27, 1914, in the Philippines.
Iglesia doctrine is based on the Bible and the ?prophetic interpretations? of church founder Felix Y. Manalo, who left both the Catholic and the Protestant churches before founding the INC in 1914?.Manalo's son Eraño is now the powerful executive minister of the church, while grandson Eduardo is deputy executive minister. They and 11 other senior ministers compose the "Central Administration," which issue edicts that church members are compelled to follow. Pasugo, the church's official publication, asserts the church's fundamental article of faith: that INC members constitute "the elect of God" and that God listens to them alone. To them, there is no salvation outside the Iglesia. As Fernando Elesterio wrote in a dissertation submitted to De la Salle University: ?It is this exclusivist attitude, generated naturally by the teachings of the ministers, that bestows on the members a sense of security and even of pride in their organization?? The church's Internal Constitution lays down strict rules of behavior for its members. Drunkenness, adultery, and disobedience of church teachings are punishable by expulsion. Church members are also not allowed to join unions, making them ideal recruits for certain business establishments. "The church itself is a union, a most powerful union," said a senior INC member. The INC was founded on the eve of the World War I with only four ministers and 12 disciples. By 1936, it had grown to 300 ministers and evangelists with 500 churches and 350 chapels on Luzon island, according to the Encyclopedia of the Philippines?The INC?says it has churches in 66 countries?[due to the secretive nature of the group, the exact world membership numbers are not exactly known, but it is estimated anywhere from 5-10 million, probably having greater numbers than the WTBTS] (Malou Mangahas and Avigail M. Olarte, A Most Powerful Union, PHILIPPINE CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM, 2002.)
- Manalo claimed to be the angel and Messenger of God in these last days, according to Revelation 7:2-3 and Revelation 14:9-11. He is also said to be the servant of God Almighty of Isaiah 41:9-10. (CT Russell believed that he was the Seventh Messenger of Revelation 10:7 and according to early versions of The Watchtower, "Russell is the servant of Matthew 24:45-47." ?WT 11/1/17, p. 6159)
- According to the magazine, God?s Message of Oct 1991, pp 14, 15, Manalo was "a messenger from the ends of the earth" Is. (41:9-10), and "the ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my cousel from a far country" (Isaiah 46:11-13, KJV), called to preach the Gospel of Christ as a ravenous bird, actively snatching God?s people from the clutches of false religions. As prophesied by Isaiah 43:5-6, the Iglesia ni Cristo is to be instrumental in the bringing in and gathering of God?s sons and daughers from the "Far East" and the "Far west". Manalo and the Iglesia ni Cristo are said to fit these prophecies because their message arose from the Philipines, a group of islands situated near the geographical center of the Far East. Citing Isaiah 24:15, they assert that they have given glory to YAHWEH in the east, "in the islands of the sea."
In November 1913, Brother Felix locked himself in his dimly lit room and began poring over all the religious literature he had accumulated. For three days and three nights, he immersed himself in an intensive study and reflection of the doctrines of various churches and compared their beliefs with the Bible. His exhaustive study of religions and the Bible led him to the conclusion that none of the existing churches then remained faithful with the biblical truth. Therefore, none of them is the true religion. His meditations assured him that God was commissioning him to preach the true Church of Christ. (God's Message [Iglesia ni Cristo publication], Jul-Sep 1994, p.11-12.)
- Before one can become a member, he/she must undergo the twenty-seven "Bible Study" lessons from a book called the "Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo". An INC minister is available for twenty four hours a day for the student during this time, except during worship service hours. After completing these lessons, the successful student must undergo a trial period of six months. Having passed the trial period, the prospective convert is baptized in a pool of water by immersion after reciting an oath with raised right hand. Henceforth, the new convert is required to fill out a 201 file (Individual membership record file), assigned a deacon (if male) or deaconess (if female) who becomes his/her overseer/watcher. As a member, church services and functions are now mandatory. Each absence triggers a visitation by his/her assigned deacon/deaconess to ascertain the cause/s. Selected lesson summaries:
LESSON NO. 2 - The true God. Summary of the lesson: The Iglesia ni Cristo believes in the teachings taught by the Bible that the Father Who created all things is the only true God. There are no three persons in one God; thus, reject the belief in the so-called Trinity. The Bible also prohibits worship of images or idolatry." ( Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo, Erano G. Manalo (1989), p.4.)
LESSON NO. 3 - The true religion Summary of the Lesson: The commonly accepted belief that all churches belong to God is false. Christ founded only one true Church--the Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo). Therefore, we value the Church because herein are we able to do the kind of service acceptable to God and through which we shall be saved." ( Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo, Erano G.Manalo (1989), p.8.)
LESSON NO.4 - The Church of Christ. Summary: Although many people know that the Savior is Jesus Christ, they still do not know how Christ affects the saving act and which Church He will save. The Church of Christ is the Church that He will save (Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation) because He made this Church His body and heads it Himself -- before God, the Church and Christ are one new man (Eph.2:15 NKJV); Col.1:18 NKJV). This is the reason why Christ is able to answer for the sins of His Church without violating God's law, that whoever commits a sin, the same must die for that sin (Dt.24:16). Hence, false is the belief that salvation can be attained by means of faith in Christ alone even without membership in the Church of Christ. The Church is necessary not because it saves but because it is the entity that Christ will save (Eph.5:23 TEV). ( Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo, Erano G. Manalo (1989), p.12.)
LESSON NO. 5 - History of the Church built by Christ in the first century. Summary: The Church built by Christ during the first century was apostatized (Acts 20:29). This was led away by false prophets which arose in the Church after the time of the Apostles (Mt.24:11 RSV), and those who remained firm in the faith were slain by ravenous wolves (Mt.7:15). The fulfillment of the prophesied false teachers who will lead the Church away are the Catholic priests. They introduced false teachings (1 Tim.4:1,3) into the Church until the Church became the Catholic Church--a church essentially different from the Church of Christ as described in the Bible. ( Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo, Erano G. Manalo (1989), p.16.)
LESSON NO. 7 - The Origin of other Churches. Summary: We should not be surprised at the number of churches today that are not of Christ. It is not Christ who established them but the enemy or the devil (Mt.13:24-30,36-39 NKJV). These churches that do not belong to Christ are the Catholic Church and her offsprings, the various Protestant denominations and sects. We should not be deceived. Only one Church belongs to Christ, the Church of Christ. ( Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo, Erano G. Manalo,1989,p.28.)
LESSON NO. 8 - Not by Faith Only. Theme: Salvation Cannot Be Attained By Faith Alone. Summary: Many Protestant groups uphold the belief that faith alone in Christ is sufficient for salvation. They have excluded other necessary conditions such as baptism (Mt.16:15-16), Church Membership (Jn.10:9,Acts 2:47, 20:28 Lamsa), suffering for Christ's sake (Phil.1:29), works (Js.2:14,17,20), preaching by the messenger of God (Acts 16:32-33), remaining in the true church (Jn.15:5-6), holding firm and obey Gospel (1 Cor.15:1-2 NIV), enduring & remaining till end (Mt.24:13). Their faith-alone concept of salvation is in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible where we can find pronouncements that man is not justified by faith only (Js.2:24). ( Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo, Erano G. Manalo, 1989, p.32.)
LESSON NO. 9 - One Organized Church. Theme: The true believers in Christ are in one organized Church, the true Church of Christ. Summary: Those who do not give value to the Church have two ways of denying the necessity of the Church of Christ. One way is by stating bluntly that the Church is not necessary for salvation. They say that it is enough to accept Christ as one's personal Savior. They say that those who stress the need for the Church consider the church as another Savior. Another way is by saying that the Church consists of all the people who believe in Christ whatever church they belong to. Consequently, they say it is futile to try to find out which organization is the true Church of Christ, since all these churches are of Christ. ( Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni Cristo, Erano G. Manalo, 1989, p.36.)
- Like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Iglesia claims that Jesus Christ is not God but a created being.
- The Iglesia ni Cristo teaches that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force?a power sent by the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
- Manalo?s influence by the Seventh Day Adventists can be seen in the Iglesia ni Cristo?s belief in "soul sleep," which is the belief that at death, the souls dies. There is no consciousness after death.
- INC takes particular pride in its unity?the unity of love and sense of community among its members as well as doctrinal uniformity:
The church strictly upholds unity in its doctrines because it is one body (cf Ephesians 4:4). There is no conflict nor disunity in the teachings of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. (Pasugo, December 1996, page 3)
Unity in the Iglesia Ni Cristo ... transcends and encompasses all aspects of the life of an Iglesia Ni Cristo......(
Pasugo, January 1976, p. 5)
The INC provides for the welfare needs of its flock, such as jobs and housing for its poorest members. The INC is run like a tightly knit family, where members look out for one other. It also offers the rewards of the other life, promising that?salvation will be granted [to] believers. (Malou Mangahas and Avigail M. Olarte, A Most Powerful Union, PHILIPPINE CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM, 2002.)
- Iglesia ni Cristo's Law of Increasing responsibilities teaches that in the Iglesia ni Cristo, obligations, duties, and responsibilities of members increase as the "day of judgment" nears. Obligations and duties for church members have progressively increased throughout the history of the church
The day of Judgment is, therefore, very near, indeed closer to our time because it is in these last days that ?these things? prophesied by Christ have been realized. (Pasugo: God's Message, May 2003.)
- The Iglesia ministers are trained for years in the art of compelling people to reject their own religious pursuasions and become INC members. Addionally, INC members shower potential recruits with friendship and attention (love bombing) to induce them to begin their "bible studies." Another strategy used is to scare recruits into "taking seriously" the Church?s message.
- Officers of the church are in charge of sub-organizations tasked with specific responsibilites. Officers receive no compensation or payment whatsoever in their work for the Iglesia ni Cristo. Usually, more than 50% of the members of the congregation are officers. It is always reminded that being an officer is a virtue that all should strive for. These officers are marshalled by the resident minister to work in getting new recruits.
- One week before the annual bible exposition (B.E.) or grand evangelical mission (G.E.M.) conferences, the officers are required to do seven days devotional prayers nightly in the chapel. Attendance is monitored through signing an attendance sheet next to one's officer's name. Ostensibly, the aim of the devotional prayer is to harness the powers of God so that people will heed the invitations.
- Each member periodically buys multiple copies of God?s Message, one of the Iglesia ni Cristo?s official magazines (currently the price is $2.50 each issue), to give to potential converts. Another official magazine the Iglesia ni Cristo publishes is called Pasugo.
- The Iglesia ni Cristo also spreads its message through the wide use of television and radio programs, and video productions.
- Additionally, recruitment is done through social projects such as the cleaning of public parks, blood drives, and food donations to victims of calamities. These projects are financed by the members themselves.
- It is common knowledge in the Philipines that the church trains excellent orators to present their rebuttals against the teachings of the Churches. Every speaker seems to model the leadership, using stereotypical gestures and content developed over the years. They present their challenges in the same fashion as JWs but with more visible intensity and passion.
- A major reason why INC has not received proper exposure is that their printed materials are difficult to obtain and very few people leave the church to speak out. The lack of "official" INC information has made research hard to come by.
- The INC refuses to report in detail its annual income and expenditures.
- According to ex-members, obedience and faithfulness to the Iglesia ni Cristo is always stressed in the training and meeting sessions. Such obedience is likened to the "obedience until death" as exemplified by Christ's obedience to God until death on the cross. Faithfullness is stressed to be supreme over all things in this world, i.e., over any governments, over any civil and military authorities, and over any members of their own families that may interfere or become enemies of the group.
- Requirements for salvation in the Iglesia ni Cristo:
- baptism (Mk.16:15-16)
- Church of Christ membership Acts 2:47 NKJV
- suffering for Christ's sake (Phil.1:29 NKJV)
- necessity of preaching by a messenger of God
- remaining in the true church (Jn.15:5-6 the vine is said to be the true church!)
- holding fast and obeying the gospel
- enduring and remaining until the end (Matthew 24:13).
- According to ex-members, members are taught to give complete trust to those who are over them. To question any area of doctrine or authority is grounds for being expelled.
I wish to remind our reader that it has never been the norm of preaching by the Iglesia ni Cristo ministers to explain Biblical citations through their own private interpretations, much less superimpose their personal views and conceptions. ( Pasugo, January 1970, page 1)
No, it is beyond man's power and intelligence to study and understand the truth, which is God's word (John 17:17), by himself, without the guidance of God's messenger. (Pasugo, November 1973, p. 19, 20)
The Bible or the word of God is a "mystery which was kept secret." Thus, it is no ordinary book that could be understood or interpreted by just anybody who can read. This is why the apostle Paul quipped: "Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the thruth." (II Tim. 3:7, Ibid.) But many people have thought that they could understand the Bible by themselves. Thus the proliferation of numerous self-proclaimed preachers, all claiming to have understood the Bible and trying?( Pasugo, Oct 1995, p.4.)
Without being given understanding or revelation, one can never know the mystery of God?s words and can never come to know the truth. This compels us to ask further, "Who, then, is given understanding of God?s words and, therefore, can preach them?" The Lord Himself, further clarified: "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure." (Jn. 3:34)
Those sent by God?His inspired messengers?are the ones exclusively given the understanding of His words: they speak God?s words. On the contrary, thos who are not sent cannot preach the true gospel. They cannot lead man to the true understanding of God?s words and, eventually, to salvation. Apostle Paul wrote: "And how shall they preach unles they are sent?..." (Rom 10:15)
Only those sent by God can preach His words for to them has been revealed His mystery?( Pasugo, October 1995, p.4)
God?s persistence in sending messengers is proven by the list of men whom He commisioned to preach His words from different dispensations of time?Noah in the era of the patriarchs, Moses and the proophets of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles at the beginning of the Christian dispensation, and Brother Felix Y. Manalo in these last days, to name a few. God did this because, "he had pity on his people and on his swelling place (II Cron. 36:15,ibid.) --( Pasugo, May/June 1990, p.5.)
Therefore, even if there are translations of the Bible that contain mistranslated verses, the commissioned preachers of God can identify them because they have been given God's Spirit for them to understand His will written in the Bible. (P asugo, March 1996, page 3)
When Noah said that there would be a great deluge; did everybody believe him? No, actually only eight people were saved! Now the Iglesia ni Cristo says, come into the fold and you shall be safe! (an Iglesia ni Cristo website?s invitation)
No, it is beyond man's power and intelligence to study and understand the truth, which is God's word (John 17:17), by himself, without the guidance of God's messenger. (Pasugo, November 1973, p. 19, 20)
For opposing the Administration of the Church is tantamount to opposing not only Christ but also God. (Pasugo, January 1976, p. 190)
So we should therefore demonstrate complete submission, obedience and loyalty to the Administration...(
Pasugo, January 1976, p.1)
- According to an INC "apostate" website, Ministers, Deacons and Deaconesses have openly admitted the Iglesia Ni Cristo Administration has instructed them to visit the homes of members to look for irregularities, signs of members celebrating non-sanctioned worldly holidays such as Christmas and having religious artifacts in the home as well as anything else the church might not approve of. Reports of such members are made to the Central Administration.
- The INC keeps a file of its members? personal information, such as full legal name, date of birth, place of birth, Social Security Number, name and address of employer, length of time employed, position, residential address, do you own or rent, names of children living in the household and other personal information. They also required a 2"x2" color photograph is attached to each profile. This information is entered into a computer profile database to monitor and track each member of the church.
- The Iglesia Ni Cristo Administration recently conducted a special worship service worldwide which compelled the membership to take an oath part of which stated, "I will value the Church of Christ and I will submit to the authority of its Administration at all times."
- The church is tolerant over moderate drinking and smoking.
- The "time of the end" began in 1914 with "the outbreak of a war of global proportions (cf. Mt. 24:6-7)." On Choosing The True Religion. God?s Message, October ? December 1991, pp. 14,15. (This is the year when God allegedly commissioned Felix Manalo to begin preaching the true Gospel).
- According to an INC "apostate" site, exposure of inconsistencies in the church over its representation of its history, human failings, and its claim to divine commission by God routinely causes ministers to shift the attention from such allegations to 'protecting the flock? from 'persecutions.' The following are typical answers given to the membership in response to such "bad press":
- "We must ignore these 'persecutors' and hold steadfast to our faith--this is a test we must endure"
- "You've been in the church for many years. You've expended a lot of effort, time and money on it. Are you letting these enemies take your name from the 'book of life' and put your efforts to waste?"
- "The bible prophesied such men who will try to separate the 'chosen ones' from Christ's 'true church.' You must stand firm and steadfast to your membership--do not pay attention to those evil men! They are instruments of satan who are here to snatch away your chance to the 'holy city!'"
- "Keep away from those evil people! They are merely trying to pull you to the fire with them!"
- "To listen to them (Iglesia critics) is akin to playing with fire! Keep away from those followers of satan! If you don't, your name may be removed from the book of everlasting life!"
- "You've already found the 'true church.' If you leave now, the bible says you'll be worse off than one who never found it!"
- "Our evil enemies will just fall to shame like those in the past! Don't waste your time on them."
- "Everything these 'enemies' are saying are part of the persecutions, trials, and tests that we must endure to finish the race to the 'holy city'! You must hold steadfast and resist these evil men!"
- "They are using 'earthly wisdom'--not divine wisdom which brothers Felix and Erano Manalo had."
- "The bible says those who reject God's messengers will be condemned! Those evil enemies along with any member they manage to convince will suffer come judgement day!"
- "If you listen to them and separate from the 'Church of Christ,' you'll be like a dog eating its own vomit!"
- According to Non Iglesia ni Cristo Association < members.tripod.com/~janchung/table_of_contents.html >, former members are vilified. General membership is deprived of accurate information about other faiths and most especially about former members and their real reasons for leaving. It states,
They decrease the likelihood of members re-investigating and discovering how deceitful Manalo's doctrines have really been all along. Done by causing irrational fears about supposed consequences of separating from Iglesia or talking to INC ?detractors?--many of whom are there to inform them of Manalo's deceptions in the first place.