The Iglesia ni Cristo church, well-known for its monetary strength, discipline, and political clout, marked its 100th anniversary on Sunday, July 27, 2014. Reports say that close to two million followers joined the celebration held at the group’s newly-inaugurated complex, the Philippine Arena.
Prior to the anniversary, the organization took reporters from the AFP on a tour of the massive Philippine Arena complex, also called the “City of Victory.” Church spokesman Edwil Zabala told the reporters that: “The pace of the spread of Iglesia… has exploded,” as they were shown around the 55,000-capacity indoor facility.
Established in Manila in 1994 by Felix Manola, the INC is the strongest local religion in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. It has since been established worldwide in more than 100 countries; with churches bearing the INC hallmarks of pointed, soaring spires.
INC’s doctrines and practices are rooted in a severe adherence to the Bible, and the church believes that only its members are eligible for salvation.
The church is also known for its extensive missionary work; more so than the Catholic Church, perhaps.
“One has to respect how much more aggressive the INC is in expanding and sustaining itself,” Louie Checa Montemar, a political science lecturer at Catholic De La Salle University in Manila, told the AFP.
As a result of its solid following, numbering in the millions, INC carries significant financial and political strength in the country. Its political strength is based on a church ruling that all members must vote in national elections in line with the endorsement of the church’s leader.
The new arena, located in Bulacan, north of the capital city of Manila, was built at a cost of $175 million, and was – according to Zabala – financed entirely by “offerings of the brethren.”