Social media breaks INC 'mentality of exclusivity'
MANILA, Philippines – An Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) member once wrote on MovePH anonymously as the homegrown church was celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014.
When we verified her identity, we learned she’s a young student whose father is an INC minister. Malaya dela Cruz (her pseudonym) asked that her real name be concealed for her protection because her views in the article departed from the ties she thought had bound the church for almost a century – the "mentality of exclusivity."
But through a blog post, she found courage to articulate what she couldn’t air freely.
"We’re prohibited to participate in any form of social mobilization or unions because it’s against the unity of the church, even if such actions address concerns that directly affect the welfare of members,” she wrote.
Her blog was challenged by another INC member.
"Do we not practice transparency and accountability in the Church? Do we not state our whole name and affix our signature in reports of wrongdoing inside the Church, before an investigation is done to prove if the reports are true?" Romy Antonette Peña asked dela Cruz.
Social media resurrected questions like these after it paved the way for the revelation of a controversy that is now shaking the pillars of the century-old faith.
YouTube video appeal
On Wednesday, July 22, the younger brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo and his mother sought refuge on YouTube as they revealed their lives are "in danger".
Appealing for help via a 1:54-minute video, the widow of Ka Erdy Manalo, who led the INC for 46 years, Tenny pleaded in Filipino:
"I am appealing to our brethren in the church to help us because there is a threat to our very lives. Please help my children, Angel and Lottie, and their companions. Let us also help the ministers who were taken and until now, have not yet been found. Let us show mercy to them and their families."
Call to mobilize
The post on social media exposed deep fissures in the INC and in the Manalo family, which has led the powerful church with an estimated 1.37 million followers as of 2013. Overnight, they also deviated from an INC practice that has attracted corporations and politicians: prohibition to attend protests and solid political support without negative campaigning. (INFOGRAPHIC: What you should know about the Iglesia ni Cristo)
The appeal is an attempt to mobilize supporters to rally behind the embattled Manalos.
A website supposedly put up by incdefenders.org called on INC members to gather on Tandang Sora Avenue near their central temple in Quezon City starting Wednesday night, July 22.
A Facebook user named Sher Lock also called on INC members to flock to the seat of the church in Quezon City, providing directions and relevant updates to those who would respond.
As news on the appeal spread online and in other media, the INC announced the expulsion of Angel and Tenny, suggesting they created "divisions in the Church.”
Many netizens who claim they are INC members defended their church, taking the issue as a mere test of faith (READ: Faith in action: The practices of Iglesia ni Cristo)
so sad about the news but whatever happens, i will always be a member of Iglesia Ni Cristo. Pls don't criticize.— feliz era (@FelizzzEra) July 23, 2015
Sa mga taong nagsasabi ng masama sa Iglesia ni Cristo. Sana po huwag nyo na lang ipost sa mga social sites. Give respect. Thank you.— AMAZING 5 YEARS (@jadineBerReid) July 23, 2015
Watta good trial,not just for Manalo clan but also for Iglesia Ni Cristo members. Remember, God is bigger, WE are stronger than anyone else.— Johayra (@omojoyjoy) July 23, 2015
But social media also amplified allegations about corruption in the INC, subjecting the secretive church and its leaders to greater public scrutiny:
Eh may corruption. Ano kaya sasabihin ng mga kasapi ng Iglesia Ni Cristo?— Dito (@randomloric) July 23, 2015
Bakit magulo na sa Iglesia ni Cristo? Nakakaawa yung mga tiniwalag, may banta pa sa buhay nila.— Baaaaam-finity ∞ (@BaaaaamPanis) July 23, 2015
Past midnight Friday, July 24, Angel surfaced with allegations of corruption within the INC group led by his elder brother Eduardo: "The doctrine of the Iglesia ni Cristo is now damaged. In the same way that you looked up to us before, now you can see there are many anomalies. There are many acts of corruption in the Church. That's what we want to avoid." – Rappler.com