Iglesia ni Cristo marks 50th year of overseas reach
MANILA, Philippines – The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) or Church of Christ on Friday, July 27, celebrated the 50th year of its expansion overseas, as it also marked its 104th anniversary in the Philippines.
INC Executive Minister Brother Eduardo V. Manalo is set to lead "the dedication of a new house of worship in Ewa Beach in Hawaii," said church-run Eagle News.
Ewa Beach is historic for the INC. It was there that the INC head's father, the late Executive Minister Brother Eraño G. Manalo, led the INC's first worship service outside the Philippines on July 27, 1968.
It was also there that the INC established, for the first time, a local congregation overseas.
"We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our first church abroad solemnly and joyfully. Our Executive Minister Brother Eduardo V. Manalo has expressed a desire for us to be introspective, to be thankful, and to fully contemplate the weight of this momentous occasion while at the same time being mindful of the challenge for continued growth and evangelization," INC general auditor Glicerio Santos Jr said in a statement quoted by Eagle News.
Nearly two weeks before this anniversary, the INC held an outreach event called "Lingap Laban sa Kahirapan" at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. Police said up to 120,000 people attended this July 15 event, where they availed of free dental and medical services.
The INC is an influential religious group in the Philippines. Registered with the Philippine government on July 27, 1914, the INC has grown to 2.25 million followers from only a dozen when it started. (READ: The rise of INC: 'Stricter religions grow stronger')
The INC has around 720 congregations across 78 nations and territories as of mid-2015, based on its online directory. Sociologist of religion Jayeel Cornelio pointed out in 2014 that the INC "has arrived not just in the local but the global stage, too."
The INC, however, has been hounded by accusations of corruption and extravagant lifestyles of some of its leaders, especially after a feud within the INC leader's family was made public in 2015.
Responding to its critics from within, the INC expelled ministers and members who exposed alleged corruption within the church. Expelled members Lowell Menorca II and Rovic Canono, as well as Menorca's mother Fredisminda, have sought refugee status abroad for fear of persecution in the Philippines. – Rappler.com