By Abner Galino
IGLESIA ni Cristo (INC) expatriates, particularly here in Los Angeles, have remained intact amid a developing crisis within the hierarchy of the biggest and most powerful home-grown church in the Philippines.

A devout INC member, Erwin Arrieta, declared that the church would even become stronger after the crisis was over. “Ang turo hindi naman nag-iiba, yun pa rin. Kaya kahit ano man ang problema, hindi maaapektuhan ang simbahan lalo pang titibay. (The doctrine remains the same. The church will remain strong despite the crisis.),” Arrieta explained.

Arrieta added that the incident in Manila even validates the fidelity of the INC church to its doctrine. “Pinapakita lang na walang sinisino ang simbahan. Pag lumabag ka sa patakaran, ititiwalag ka kahit na sino ka pa,” Arrieta pointed out.

Arrieta is part of the INC southern California district which is composed of about 47 congregations distributed through the states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

Another INC member who requested anonymity, agreed with the assessment of Arrieta. According to her, INC members are focused on the teachings of the church and not on the personalities or people that run it. She expressed sadness over the turn of events though. “Siyempre nalulungkot tayo para sa kanila, mga kapatid sila at ina ni Ka Eduardo,” she added.

The source said that she welcomes a thorough probe on the corruption and abuse allegations made by Ka Angel Manalo, the brother of INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, and other ranking ministers.

According to her, the INC always takes effort to find consensus within its ranks and she believes that the church would seriously take actions to address the issues.

Another INC member, who also refused to be named, said the dispute between the ranking members of the church has been going on for some time. He revealed that the issues raised by the expelled members were earnestly being discussed in the leadership of each of the church’s congregations here in the US for some time already before they became public.

Meanwhile, an expelled member of the INC also predicted that the crisis would not likely affect the strength of the church. She discounted the possibility of a major split in the INC. “Galing ako doon so alam ko kung gaano katibay ang paniniwala nila sa simbahan nila. Kaya sa palagay ko, dadaan lang yan,” she added.

The source has joined a non-denominational church, popularly known as evangelicals, after she was expelled.
“I am trying to be spiritual without being religious,” she said.

Weekend Balita has been trying to get an official statement from any of the INC congregations here in southern California but has been unsuccessful.
On Thursday (Manila time), INC Executive Minister Ka Eduardo has expelled his brothers, sister and mother for allegedly causing division in the church and moving to take over the leadership of the organization.

Eduardo said the crisis was brought about by doctrinal differences and denied the allegations of corruption.
Those who were expelled were Cristina Villanueva Manalo (mother of Eduardo and known as Ka Tenny), Felix Nathaniel Manalo, Marco Eraño Manalo, and Lolita Manalo Hernandez.

The dispute exploded into public awareness when Ka Angel and Ka Tenny published a video on the internet asking for help, claiming their lives were in danger. The two also claimed that some INC ministers had been abducted.

The public had an impression that they were being held by unknown armed group at the family residence at the back of the INC main church in Quezon Quezon City. However, it turned out that it weas not the case when officials of the Quezon City police came to investigate.

Ka Angel later met the press at the gate of the INC compound and explained that they were not challenging the authority of his brother but were simply protesting the alleged doctrinal violations, abuses and corruption of the people who surround the INC executive minister.

Among the issues he raised was the construction of the mega-structure in Bulacan which was known as the Philippine Arena.

As this developed, an INC minister Isaas Samson came out and told the media that he was supposedly placed under “house arrest” by armed men because he was suspected of running a blog that revealed alleged abuses and corruption in the INC.

Samson claimed that computers and electronic gadgets in the house, including that of his son’s, were confiscated. He claimed that he and his family “escaped.”

INC spokesman Edwil Zabala denied Samson’s allegations and confirmed to the media that the minister has been expelled for disobedience.