Renowned Catholic apologist Francis Raymund Gonzales (founder of 100% Katolikong Pinoy) hit the nail right when he said that Félix Manalo did not establish the Iglesia Ni Cristo on 27 July 1914. The INC sect was already in existence way before the said date. As a matter of fact, Manalo was already preaching his newfound doctrines in Santa Ana and Taguig a year earlier.
According to stories, Catholic-born Manalo underwent several religious conversions before finally making a hermit-like (but very brief) research sometime in November 1913 by secluding himself with religious literature and unused notebooks in a friend’s house in Pásay. This solitary confinement lasted for three days. After his self-imposed detention, he emerged from the room, announcing to everyone that he was the “restorer of the church of Christ”, “God’s last messenger”, and the “angel from the East” (Revelation 7:1–3). As a matter of fact, the first INC congregation, complete with an ordained minister, was already established in Santa Ana in 1913. And his first converts were baptized along the banks of the Pásig River on that same year.
So why in the world are they celebrating the centennial of their foundation today? Manalo merely registered his sect exactly 100 years ago with the Bureau of Commerce (today’s Department of Budget) to make the INC a legal entity. But that doesn’t mean that their group was established on the said date.
Because there is no record of the exact date when Manalo proclaimed himself as God’s final angel from the East, perhaps the INC leadership found it convenient to connect their sect’s foundation date to when their founder registered it with the Philippine government. In that regard, didn’t that act by Manalo make their group a worldy institution? And since INC members believe that the Bible is the only basis of their beliefs and practices, did it completely escape the minds of their ministers about what the Holy Book has to say regarding worldliness (Colossians 3:2, 1 John 2:15-17)?
Nevertheless, although I have no intention of greeting the INC today, it is not exactly my intention to spoil their party (if the abovementioned information disturbs our friends from the INC, there’s no one else to blame here but those who have planned out their centennial festivities). What I would really like addressed here is how we Filipino Catholics react towards and/or against this thorn on the side of our Faith. Many of those who react are active on social media, particularly on the Facebook page Exposing the Iglesia Ni Cristo Cult of Manalo which I follow. I am delighted to see how the administrators of this page expose many enlightening facts about the INC, and how its more than 5,000 followers take part in the discussion. Many of those who comment are even members of the INC themselves. In YouTube are many videos of debates between INC ministers and Catholic defenders. Outside of the Internet, I am sure that there are many other conferences between representatives of both the INC and the Holy Mother Church.
But that is the problem. I notice that many militant Catholics and defensive INCs do not take part in friendly dialogue anymore, judging from what I read or see on the Internet and various media. Whenever I read the comments of each post in Exposing the Iglesia Ni Cristo Cult of Manalo, for instance, disappointment mars my heart. Because there is little or no friendly dialogue at all. What I usually encounter are insults, calumnies, and downright mudslinging.
To my fellow Catholics, the point of all these efforts is for us to supposedly convert our INC brothers and sisters, to bring them to our fold, to have them believe in us because we believe, nay, we know, that we are on the right path to salvation, that ours is the true faith. Because if the sole purpose of such debates and social media groups is to simply antagonize and to attack the INC camp, then we have failed our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in helping Him spread the gospel to every nation and to all creatures (no pun intended, hehe!). Because with each calumny, each diatribe, that we happily hurl against the INC (as well as other sects), the more we create enmity and hatred, the more we widen the gulf that divides us, a gulf that isn’t supposed to be there in the first place.
So next time we engage the INC in a discussion, each time we create a clever meme or publish a new exposé, we have to keep in mind that our main objective is to make them realize the golden veracity of the Holy Mother Church. Because if we only generate more hateful comments and reactions from the other camp instead of making them realize that they are on the wrong side, then we have just showed the rest of the world that we are no better.