During dinner with a fellow minister and his family, joined by 3 head deacons, 2 finance officers and 2 choir members, somebody broke the ice and asked the question: "What does expulsion really mean anymore...?" The discussion that ensued after that lasted a long time, long after we have consumed the delicious midnight dessert that was served. Initially, I just leaned back on my seat and listened to them as they passionately expressed their differing opinions on the subject. About an hour later, it seemed as though the increasingly heated discussion has reached a crescendo that even the homeowner’s dog, Lee, has started to join in, overpowering everyone with her audacious bark. My fellow minister and I took that as our cue to jump in, get to work and put on our ministerial hats. Q&A followed afterwards on this and other topics. Clearly, these brethren have been starved for a forum such as this where they can speak openly, ask questions that have been festering in their minds, voice out thoughts they have repressed for fear of reprisal, and get clarity on various issues now confronting the Church.
On the drive home some hours later, I thought about writing this article because I know that a number of you have probably asked the same question that started this discussion, whether quietly in your minds, or openly with a few trusted friends.
The dawn of awareness
Whether they admit it or not, the Church Administration knows that a steadily increasing number of brethren are becoming AWARE of the disheartening state of the Church. Initially, the Church Administration thought they could simply blow it off, that given time, it would just die a silent death. They were wrong, of course. When it finally occurred to them that instead of going away, awareness has begun to spread even more quickly, largely due to exposes in A.E.’s blogs, their knee-jerk reaction was to require all Ministers and their families to deactivate their social media accounts. In addition, brethren, especially officers, were prohibited from reading the notorious blog. To their everlasting consternation, the unexpected (or expected, depending on your point of view) happened. Reverse psychology kicked in, more and more brethren got curious, and word spread like wildfire to brethren in the provinces and abroad, resulting in a sudden surge in the blog’s readership!
INC declares martial law
When it became evident that censorship was not working, the Church’s Council of fierce wolves decided it was time to bare their newly sharpened claws and fangs. On July 16, 2015, they quietly declared martial law. Ministers who were suspected of either being A.E. or assisting A.E., were rounded up by armed men, interrogated, held against their will with their respective families and watched 24 hrs a day, while being re-programmed. There was widespread harassment, coercion, blackmail, character assassination, interrogation and expulsion of ministers and lay members, here and abroad, who were identified or assumed to be A.E. sympathisers. The family of Bro. Erano at #36 Tandang Sora were openly and viciously persecuted. Even poor Sis. Tenny was not spared from the Council’s wrath. Neither was Bro. Marc. This blatant display of aggression petrified a lot of ministers and brethren. Their goal of instilling FEAR into the minds and hearts of ministers and members worked. But only for a time…
A minister’s dilemma
For a minister, in addition to the moral and spiritual dilemma arising from loss of “karapatan” or office, there’s also a practical side that requires thoughtful consideration, especially if one has a family to provide for. Loss of "karapatan" means loss of all the material benefits that come with a position in the ministry, including weekly allowance, housing, vehicle if senior level, and medical and educational assistance, among others. For older ministers whose lifelong training is rooted in the ministry or for those who possess no other skills to sustain himself and his family, or are too old to retrain, the thought of life outside the ministry is unnerving. Further, because they know how powerful and spiteful the current Church Administration is, as observed from the various heinous acts committed against other ministers who have stood up for the truth, their fear is further amplified.
The scheming Council of “Christians” play into this fear. They want ministers who might be considering “defection” to see how difficult they can make it for them to survive outside the ministry. This is how the Council is able to reign in the ministers who are starting to show signs of unrest. (It actually reminds me of livestock owners before “cruelty to animals” became a crime, who used an electric cattle prod, a stick with low-current electric shock at the tip, to move their herd in the direction they want it to go.) Once these ministers (who are treated like cattle) are brought back into alignment, they are challenged to prove their loyalty and oneness with EVM by restoring their rights to go on social media. There, they do what they have been programmed to be: like salivating mad dogs who unleash their fury against anyone known or suspected of exposing secrets the Church wants buried. “Good” performance is recognized and rewarded. The meaner and more vicious they attack, the better incentives they get from the Council. Indeed, the best of the lot have been rewarded with brand new automobiles, funded by brethren’s offerings!
As we know though, this is only half of the story because not all ministers can be bought; some actually do possess integrity. Some may pretend to play along and display what the Council wants to see, but one day, when the Holy Spirit comes knocking on their hearts, they too, will stand up to look the Devil courageously in the eye and say “Boo, I am no longer afraid of you!”
Continuing global awareness – Where is the money???
Awareness has indeed spread worldwide among the brethren, in different districts, and in every continent where the Church has a presence. Try as the Council might, they cannot stop the brethren from becoming AWARE of the irregularities and anomalies in the Church. Though some may still be silent, they are, without a doubt, AWARE. How can they not be? Financial mismanagement in the Church is too plain to see. How can a lay member, especially the older ones, not help but wonder what has become of the offerings painstakingly and prudently watched over by the two previous Church administrations? Where is the money??? Why have we, under the current administration, resorted to bank borrowings in the BILLIONS of pesos that require us to dish out MILLIONS PER MONTH IN INTEREST alone? Why are we selling Church properties, even chapels, in order to raise funds? Why are we closing down locales and extensions abroad because we could no longer afford to pay rent? Why do we persist on shaming the Lord by building chapels the size of a bird house, which some has mockingly referred to as “kapilyetas”, when what appears to be an Olympic-size swimming pool graces the Central mansion which itself rivals the homes of the rich and famous? Why is this mansion being expanded even more when a number of chapels remain in a state of disrepair? Why are locale funds depleted all the time that brethren, especially officers, feel so squeezed, even threatened with not being allowed to perform, if they do not give COMPULSORY “voluntary” special, special, special offerings? Brethren are not blind. They see first-hand the outrageously lavish lifestyle of the Council members, ministers who hold the highest offices in the Church, who should have been models of Christian simplicity and austerity but who instead, strut up and down like proud peacocks, appalling in their arrogance and pomposity. Can they blame the brethren then for wondering if the extravagant lifestyle and possessions of these Council members are financed by a combination of members’ hard-earned offerings and corruption, sourced from inside and outside the Church? https://soundcloud.com/antonio-ebangelista-613096727/audio-recording-general
Exploitation of Fear of Expulsion
So why is it that despite being AWARE, some brethren have chosen to remain SILENT? Is it because they are cowards? No, I don’t think so. It's because these silent brethren are afraid of being expelled. Indeed, THE FEAR OF EXPULSION RUNS DEEP IN MOST OF THESE BRETHREN. UNFORTUNATELY, IT IS THIS FEAR WHICH THE CHURCH COUNCIL EXPLOITS TO FORCE THE BRETHREN INTO BLIND SUBMISSION. BUT LET GO OF THIS FEAR AND THERE WILL BE NOTHING LEFT TO HOLD THESE BRETHREN OVER. This why the Church will do everything in its power to make sure fear of expulsion remains supreme in the hearts of all brethren.
DEMYSTIFYING THE POWER OF EXPULSION
It is important to understand the basis of this fear. Only if we have knowledge and understanding of it can we finally CONQUER it.
The greatest fear of any "faithful" Iglesia ni Cristo member is to be removed from the Church roster (expulsion). Why? Because from the time we were indoctrinated (if we are converts), or since our formative years (if we are born in the Church), we were taught to safeguard our membership in the Church. It is our most precious possession in this life because it is that membership that will guarantee our place in God’s kingdom come Judgment Day.
God’s Divine Exception
Apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:21-24 (RSV), has this to say:
"21 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,"
As you will notice, during the Christian era, for man to attain salvation, he has to be part of Christ’s body, the church. But why does man need to be reconciled to Christ first? It is so that man can be presented holy, blameless and irreproachable before the sight of the Lord. Is membership in the Church alone ENOUGH to assure us of salvation? No. Because a condition was attached to the promise of salvation as mentioned in the verse, i.e., "provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard".
The argument frequently used by those who have chosen to suffer in silence is that they do not want to risk their salvation because membership in the Church is a prerequisite to salvation. While this is true, salvation by virtue of membership is only valid IF the gospel received from our Lord Jesus Christ is preserved. If not, this is what Apostle Paul warns us in Galatians 1:8 (NIV):
"8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"
The Humility of Apostle Paul
Apostle Paul was one of those entrusted by God to administer His flock in the land of the Gentiles. He was, by all accounts, a learned man of high stature and most of all, the quintessence of HUMILITY. Being a man, he knew he was neither INFALLIBLE nor PERFECT. He knew that without God’s guidance, it was possible for him to err in judgment and may thus, lead the flock astray.
As a preacher, he did not demand from his followers ABSOLUTE BLIND OBEDIENCE. On the contrary, as part of his admonition to the flock to safeguard their faith, he cautioned them to cast away any gospel different from what was taught by God and our Lord Jesus Christ, even if it came from him (as their administrator), or an angel from heaven, lest they suffer the consequence of being under God's curse. He didn’t dare assume that he was incapable of making mistakes that can jeopardise the Church. Instead, he opened himself up to scrutiny to ensure that his administration is still in accordance to the will of God.
The Humility of the last two INC Administrations
That same HUMILTY that was found in Apostle Paul was also found in Bro. Felix Y. Manalo, who preached:
“Huwag ninyong paniwalaan si Manalo, si Manalo ay tao ding katulad ninyo. Ang inyong Paniwalaan ay ang mga aral ng Diyos na nakasulat sa Biblia.” (Don't believe Manalo, Manalo is a man just like you. Believe in the teachings of God written in the Bible).
The message was clear. Bro. Felix, like Apostle Paul, knew that he wasn’t Christ’s equal. He presented himself as a man with many faults and shortcomings, and therefore, should not be followed blindly. Like Apostle Paul, he taught that man should follow the divine teachings written in the Bible instead because that and only that can be the basis for man's salvation.
Bro. Eraño G. Manalo, too, had that same humility when he issued this challenge to the brethren: "Ang INC ay walang UTANG sa kahit anumang bangko...ang INC ay hindi nagsasanla ng mga titulo ng lupa para lamang makakuha ng pondo...bukas ang opisina, at kapag nakita kayong kahit isang titulo ng lupa na may marka ng pagkakasanla... maghiwa-hiwalay na tayo..." (The INC has no loan at any bank. The INC does not mortgage land titles just to raise funds... the office is open and if you see even one title that has a mark of being mortgaged… we shall part ways) (Video).
Bro. Eraño never claimed perfection in his management of the Church. With God’s guidance, he sought out to bring the Church to a state of financial stability and built up a reputation that was beyond reproach. And achieved just that. And yet, Bro. Erano invited the brethren to his office to demonstrate that his administration had nothing to hide and that its records may be examined to prove how carefully he had managed the Church’s finances. He equated mortgaging Church property to financial mismanagement. That was the essence of his challenge. If anyone finds a single mortgaged property, then he was willing to step down because he had failed to do his job. That was the yardstick by which he measured his effectiveness as Church leader. He was entrusted to protect the Church and sound financial management was a big part of it. If he failed there, his conscience would not allow him to continue on.
Oneness with The Most Important Human Being on Earth
Now compare the humility and modesty of the two previous administrations with these adulations that border on reverent worship. The object of this idolatry, the current administration, may or may not have directly ordered this veneration but his not putting a stop to it and his overt delight in the attention, speak volumes. We even seldom see the name of "Iglesia Ni Cristo" and even the original logo of the church in our events and gatherings.
During worship services, WebEx sessions, GEMs and other Church activities, the recurring theme is centered on: ABSOLUTE OBEDIENCE to THE MOST IMPORTANT HUMAN BEING ON EARTH, ONE[ness] WITH EVM, and COMPLETE SUBMISSION TO THE CHURCH ADMINISTRATION.
Apostle Paul’s Warnings Fulfilled
Unlike during the previous administrations, members are now forbidden to think. Try approaching your locale or district minister about the issues that are in every member’s mind and you will find yourself branded as a Defender, complete with the consequences of being labeled as such. Try speaking the truth and you can very well expect a libel suit. Or try inquiring about Church loans, or looking into allegations of financial irregularities and corruption, and you might as well go into hiding or risk getting kidnapped, detained and subjected to all the other horrific acts already mentioned above. This is the hallmark of the current administration. It will be his lasting legacy, what he will be remembered by long after he’s gone, i.e., the Executive Minister who slaughtered ministers and members including his own family, who plunged the Church into billion peso debt, who sold chapels and other Church properties to finance a lavish lifestyle, who couldn’t get enough cash out of brethren he had to invent the notion of “special, special offerings” in order to meet interest and other obligations on yet-to-be-explained bank loans, who sold the once-sacred practice of bloc voting to “cooperative” and power-hungry politicians, who had an insatiable craving for useless Guinness records that he drained locale and district coffers instead of spending money on chapel maintenance and repairs, and lastly, the one who threw BILLIONS of pesos into the building of a colossal blunder called “The Philippine Arena”!
In less than seven years, the current administration has managed to destroy what those before him have conscientiously and meticulously built. The current dismal state of the Church is a testament to the fulfillment of Apostle Paul’s warning: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"
For departing from pristine doctrine and practices, for destroying the Church that was entrusted to him, for dealing with His flock harshly, THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION IS NOW UNDER GOD’S CURSE. THEREFORE, WHATEVER EXPULSIONS ARE MADE UNDER THIS ADMINISTRATION WILL NO LONGER BE SANCTIONED BY GOD!
Turn Fear into Gladness
Is there anything left to fear then when what matters is not what is sanctioned here on earth but what is sanctioned in heaven? If a member is expelled by an administration under God’s curse, for boldly standing up for what is true and for continuing to adhere to God’s pristine doctrines, that member remains in God’s grace and his name will continue to be listed in the book of heaven, the only book that matters in the end. Whatever persecution this member suffers in the hands of the accursed Church Administration, he will endure because God will be with him the whole time. He will continue to be a part of His nation. God will listen to his prayers. He will not forsake him.
In God’s own time, the dark cloud that now hangs over the Church will be lifted to reveal a broken Church ready to be healed by God’s loving hands, restore back into its once holy state. After this happens, all services done inside His Church through our Lord Jesus Christ will once again be rendered valid and fruitful. We will once again feel the Holy Spirit inside the worship halls. When we seek Him there, we shall find Him. But until such time, we have to stand firm and allow for God’s justice to work its way into the Church and into our lives. Remember that God has hand-picked each one of us to become instruments of good. We should rejoice, we should be glad. We may suffer for a short time, but the reward is ours in the end.
~ Antonio Ebangelista
“They tried to bury us…they didn’t know we were seeds.”
This is my STAND: “Let me Make Myself Clear”
Our Standard: Let this be a CLEAN FIGHT even if THEY FIGHT DIRTY
Philippine Daily Inquirer Article: “Antonio Ebangelista writes Philippine Daily Inquirer, Warns Iglesia Elders”
Para sa lahat ng mga MINISTRO: FOR IGLESIA NI CRISTO MINISTERS
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