The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is an indigenous Protestant church followed by a large and highly visible 2.3% minority of Filipinos. It was founded by Felix Manalo Isugan (1886-1963), who had been raised in the Roman Catholic Church and as a teenager became a member of a variety of Protestant churches and explored indigenous belief systems before founding the INC. Manalo was a charismatic leader who is believed by church members to be God’s final prophet on earth, and whose legacy remains strong in the INC. The INC appealed to Filipinos disenchanted with the Catholic Church in the late Spanish colonial and early American period, and continues to dispute basic Catholic doctrine including Trinitarianism, the divinity of Christ, infant baptism, and Papal authority. The INC maintains that it is the only “true” Christian church through which salvation is possible.
The INC rapidly expanded during the Philippine religious revival following World War II. Unlike the Aglipayan Church, the INC is a global phenomenon with branches anywhere where large Filipino populations reside, and includes more limited membership from other Southeast Asian countries. The INC has considerable and controversial influence in the political life of the Philippines—encouraging bloc voting for chosen politicians—and impacts civil society across education, health care, sports, environmental activism, the media, and in the delivery of social services. It is also recognized for church buildings’ distinct architectural style and the visual impact they have had on the Philippine landscape.
Massimo Introvigne, “Iglesia ni Cristo,” Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements, ed. Peter Clarke (Routledge: New York, 2006), pp. 292-293.
Robert R. Reed, “The Iglesia ni Cristo, 1914-2000: From Obscure Philippine Faith to Global Belief System,” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde, Vol. 157, No. 3 (2000), pp. 561-608.