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The Persecuted Church

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Short history of Felix Manalo

The founder of the Iglesia Ni Cristo organization was Felix Manalo.  Born On May 10, 1886 to a Catholic family, near Manila in the Philippines. His name Felix (happy) was chosen from the roster of saints from that month. He was baptized a Catholic, his mother a devout Roman Catholic who had Felix attend Catechism class where he learned the fundamentals of the Roman Catholic faith. When he became a teenager he went on a spiritual quest through five known denominations. He became a follower of the ''Colorum'' spiriting sect in the Philippines which was secretive and had pilgrimages to a sacred mountain. He left the Church as a teenager. In 1904 after witnessing a debate between a Roman catholic priest and a Protestant minister on the use of images, he joined the Methodist Episcopalian Church, attended their Seminary and became a pastor. Iglesia puts it this way "He found that the arguments of the Protestant minister' seemed nearer to the biblical truth, than the pointless rambling of the priest." (GOD'S MESSAGE 1 July - September 1994)

Manalo's studies were interrupted by the death of his mother, when he returned he then began studying at the Presbyterian Bible School until he came upon the Christian Mission group (Church of Christ), where he studied at the Manila College of the Bible for four years. From this group he learned to respect immersion in baptism and received the idea of restoring the New Testament Church. He became a local evangelist in a band called the "Society for the propagation of the Gospel." He also at this time married Tomasa Sereneo of Paco manila. In 1911 Felix Manalo attended a 7th day meeting to debate Mr. L.V. Finster a missionary of the 7th day Adventist church on their stance that Christians are under the law. He lost the debate with Him and admitted Finster was right and soon he left the Christian Mission group converting to Seventh Day Adventism. This became his last association with any establish church. While he was in Adventism he began to think of starting his own church. During this time his wife died and he then eloped with Honorata de Gusman a 7th day Adventist. In 1913. He was disciplined for his elopement and there were hints of moral indiscretion.  

While there is not any proof of the accusations Iglesia tells it this way "Brother Felix remained with the Adventists until the time that he began to question their observance of the Sabbath during Saturdays. When the Adventists failed to respond to his queries, he resigned as minister and member in 1913." (GOD'S MESSAGE July - September 1994)

After leaving the Seventh Day Adventists, Felix Manalo claimed to experience a call like the ancient prophets. Manalo then closed himself in with his Bible for three days and when he emerged he gave his shoe business to a friend, took his wife and began his mission to start a new church. "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 1 July - September 1994) Like many others before him he has fallen into the trap since none are perfect by his own judgment he is to restore the true church.  

In 1913 he started his own group which he incorporated in 1914 having 12 or more converts, various accounts differ.

Iglesia likens their leader to Moses or the apostle Paul. "Brother Felix joined other churches and religious beliefs in preparation for his God-given mission. In this respect, he was akin to Moses (who lived first as an Egyptian prince and as a wanderer in the wilderness before he led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt) and Apostle Paul (who was formerly a member of the Jewish sect and a persecutor of Christians before being sent to evangelize the Gentiles). Brother Felix wandered into different religions always examining, in the light of scriptural truth, their various doctrines and religious practices" (GOD'S MESSAGE 1 July - September 1994 p.10)

According to reports and what is left out of the history from Iglesia's own printings is, in 1919 Manalo left the Philippines wanting to learn more about religion leaving his church in the hands of his assistant ministers. He went, to all places, America, to study with Protestants, the very ones Iglesia would later declare to be apostates. It is for this reason the do not disclose this information. In California he reportedly enrolled in the Pacific School of Religion. This is five years after being called by God to be his "last messenger" Manalo goes to the U.S. to learn from apostates? this does not make sense. What could God's messenger learn from a group that, according to Iglesia, had departed from the true faith? (it has been reported the Seminary has no record of him as a student). During that year he was away they enjoyed growth until a schism was started by Teogilo Ora, one of its pioneer ministers. (at the time there were 3,000 members). The Church in Bulcan had only 15 of the 80 members remain.

Manalo did not believe himself to be God's final messenger back in 1914. He didn't use the last messenger doctrine until 1922. There seems to be several instances that could have influenced him on this. The official date for the registration of his church was July 27 1914 which was the date of the beginning of the first world war. They were first known as Iglesia ni Kristo with an "K" now changed to C. It was later after his apocalyptic influence from 7th day Adventism and all the education that he gave prophetic significance to this date. He claimed that it closed the period of the 6th seal as related to Rev.7. Another factor of his adopting the messenger doctrine is in response to a schism in the Iglesia movement. Manalo appears to have developed the messenger doctrine in an effort to maintain and re-assert his leadership in the church thereby keeping control.

When Manalo decided to start his own church he didn't begin with all current Iglesia doctrines and practices held. In the early days Manalo did not attack the deity of Christ. It was after 1930 he began to emphatically deny his pre-existence, his being the beginning in purpose with God.

The war years hindered their growth it was afterwards within a 30 year period that they went from a small congregation to almost 40,000 which became possibly the 2nd largest in the Philippines with only the Methodist as larger. There strength was strong indigenous character with a national speaking language. It appealed to the Filipino people. Even with a strong anti Catholic stance he attracted those that were looking outside that religion. By 1948 their membership was 60,000, in 1960 it rose up to 200,000. Today they are larger than any other Protestant denomination in the Philippines with only one larger the Roman church. Their foreign mission work began in the US Honolulu Hawaii on July 27 1968 by 1974 they had acquired 21 congregations in the US. This is the same date that Manalo used for his application of prophecy to himself.

The reason Iglesia is not better known, despite its numbers among their culture, is that the vast majority of Iglesia's members are Filipino which includes those in the U.S.. The only exceptions are very few non-Filipinos who have married into the Iglesia;  although they have focused as of late to outside their own people.

He returned to the Philippines after only one year. As Felix continued his leadership of the organization, the INC grew rapidly and spread throughout the Philippines. Felix Manalo again later traveled to the United States in 1938. During this trip he hoped to raise enough funds to build a main chapel for his church in Manila.  As they grew they have accumulated much wealth.

According to the INC he was unable to fulfill this desire because of bad health which forced him to return to the Philippines. Felix Manalo died on April 12, 1963. Many thought the church would splinter with his leadership,  but he prepared for this. More than 10 years earlier, on January 28, 1953, his son Erano Manalo (KA Erdy) was selected to be his successor as Executive Minister and leader of INC, He is the 5th child born to Felix and Honorata. It was Erano who wrote a 64 page booklet attacking the Deity of Christ called Christ-God; investigated—false. So began their systematic campaign of attacking the Church and her doctrines he held from the apostles.

What has become increasingly apparent is that they attack by writing in their publications and public pronouncements, but when someone challenges their beliefs they are labeled as attackers of God's (new) Church and considered unworthy to be noticed. They continue to have a strong hold on their members and have no intention of reforming to become orthodox.

   

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