Christian Church History in the Philippines
5121, Roman Catholicism in the Philippines
In 1521, the Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan, under Spain’s service (Spanish Expedition), was on a mission to discover the “Spice Islands.” He came across the island of Cebu and met Rajah Humabon.
The Rajah had an ill grandson whose recovery was credited to Magellan. Humabon allowed himself and 800 of his subjects to be baptized in gratitude. After Magellan died, Spain sent Miguel López de Legazpi and introduced Christianity.
Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion in the country and the fifth-largest Christian country globally.
Protestant Reformation and the Great Awakenings
Roman Catholic Priest Martin Luther began to “protest” the teachings of the Pope in 1517. It fuelled a movement known collectively as the “Protestant Reformation.” It shook the Catholic foundation of Europe and gave birth to several protestant denominations.
Out of this movement came the “trans-denominational movement” that introduced what we generally know now as “Evangelism” (public preaching of the gospel) led by “Evangelical Christians.”
Evangelical preachers like George Whitefield began the “spiritual revivals” in Britain and its thirteen colonies between the 1730s and 1740s. America became the beacon of these revivals (or awakening) known as the “Great Awakenings.”
1898, Missionaries in the Philippines
Several Protestant missions from the USA and Europe came to evangelize the Philippines. From 1898 to 1930, these mission agencies made a comity agreement that included Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, to name a few.
Eventually, the agreement became intricate, and a split happened because of differences in personality and cultural tensions.
1900s, Iglesia Evangelica and Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Following Spanish rule, American Christian missionaries established churches and schools in the country. The first wave of American teachers who arrived were mostly ministers who went to many lowland barrios instituting a new public education system. At the same time, some of them exerted influence on the government administration. [Salazar, Severino]
God’s deep calling became evident in April 1901 when American missionaries met and formally organized a common name for all Protestant churches—Iglesia Evangelica (Evangelical Church). Their mission was to disciple Filipinos, emphasizing a deeper relationship with Christ as their savior.
In August 1902, Gregorio Aglipay, an activist priest from Ilocos Norte, and Isabelo de los Reyes, head of the General Council of the Union, formed the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or later became known as the Aglipayan church.
Aglipay wanted a Filipino church, free from Rome. The movement deposed and arrested Catholic bishops and friars accused of abuse and corruption. They also sequestered their properties, labeled as church properties.
About 25 to 33 percent of the population joined the movement but eventually declined. They are associated with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.
In 1913, Felix Manalo founded the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) as a “sole religious organization.” Manalo claims he was tasked to restore the “one true church of Jesus.” Like the Roman Catholics, INC assumes there is no salvation outside their church. The rest of the other churches are apostates. [Meimban, Obar]
1921, Government Registration
Nineteen independent denominations were formally registered with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and important splits occurred among the major groups. It gave birth to smaller denominations.
The unity of the churches was still a goal, and in 1929, the United Brethren, Presbyterian, and Congregational Churches formed the “United Evangelical Church” in the Philippines.
During World War II, the “Evangelical Church of the Philippines,” which combined thirteen denominations, was formed. However, the Methodist, Episcopal, Unida, and other independent churches refused to join.
The United Evangelical Church (UEC), the Philippine Federation of Evangelical Churches (PFEC), and the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Cristo formed the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches, now called the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
A group of Christian leaders mostly coming from non-denominational and independent Christian churches formed the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches* (PCEC) in 1965.
Today, it is one of the largest Christian groups in the Philippines and is involved in evangelism and politics, among others.
Religious Demographics in 2018
|Denomination||Percent population out of 106M in 2018|
|Agnostics or Atheists||1.8%|
Religious Demographics as of 2000
|Denomination||Percent out of 77M in 2000|
|Iglesia ni Kristo||2.3%*|
|Agnostics or Atheists||1.7%|
* Index Mundi
* Christian Believers may refer to ‘Born-again Christians,’ Evangelical Christians, or Believers.
Growth of followers of Jesus
(Born again Christians and non-traditional Catholics)
Christian Believers, Mega-Church Movements from the 1960s to 1990s
This period can be considered the spiritual revival or the “Great Awakening” in the Philippines because of the birth of megachurches, independent of each other but united in one purpose. Given that the Catholic population of the Philippines is more than 80%, statistics give us approximately 95% of Filipinos adhere to the Judeo-Christian faith.
|Founded||Church Movement||Denomination Influence||Est. Members in 2018|
|1962, Missionaries Vince and Lucy Apostol (Reformed Church in North America) began in Negros Island. Today, it has over 50 congregations.||The Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines (CRCP)||Presbyterian||5,000|
|1978, founded by Eddie Villanueva through a Bible Study.||Jesus Is Lord Church (JIL)||Pentecostal – Evangelical||2 Million*|
|1978, founded by David and Patty Jo Yount.||Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF)||Conservative Baptists||10K|
|1980, 1980, started by Gerry Holloway through a Bible Study.||Word for the World Christian Fellowship (WWCF)||Evangelical||20K+|
|1982, founded by Butch Conde through discipleship.||Bread of Life Ministries (Bread)||Evangelical||30K|
|1984, founded by Peter Tan-Chi through a Bible Study.||Christ’s Commission Fellowship* (CCF)||Evangelical||60K|
|1984, started by Steve and Deborah Murrell.||Victory Christian Fellowship (VCF)||Pentecostal – Evangelical||30K|
|1984, founded in 1947 by Frank Porada of the Free Gospel Missionary Society.||Church of God World Mission (COG)||Pentecostal – Evangelical||30K|
|1985, founded by Eduardo “Ed” Lapiz through a Bible Study.||Day by Day Christian Ministries (DBD)||Non-denominational||30K|
|1987, originally founded by American missionaries in 1899.||Presbyterian Church of the Philippines||Evangelical||15K|
|1991, American missionaries Paul and Shoddy Chase began missionary work in Samar in 1981. They moved south of Manila and founded Alabang New Life.||New Life||Pentecostal – Evangelical||10K|
|Others||Calvinists, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Adventist, and full gospel churches.||1 Million|
|Others (Non-traditional Catholics)||Charismatic groups remain under the Vatican but are considered followers of Jesus.||5 Million|
|Others||Religious organizations claim to follow the Judeo-Christian Bible “Christians but with questionable doctrines.||2.5 Million|
* Membership as of 2017 was 5M, according to JIL founder, but we could not verify actual data. CCF membership steadily rose, with more than 1M followers on Social Media in 2018 from 300,000 in 2016.
Church Umbrella Organizations
NCCP GROUP MEMBERS
Apostolic Catholic Church (ACC)
Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC)
Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP)
Evangelical Methodist Church in the Philippine Islands (IEMELIF)
Philippine Independent Church (PIC)
United Ecumenical Church (UNIDA)
Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP)
The Salvation Army (TSA)
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)
United Methodist Church of the Philippines (UMC)
PCEC GROUP MEMBERS
* Information not available.
Reformed Protestant Churches in the Philippines
Bastion of Truth Reformed Churches (BTRC)
Berean Protestant Reformed Church – Philippines (PRCA)
Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines
Presbyterian Chuch Denominations
Reformed Baptist Association (REBAP Luzon).
– Cubao Reformed Baptist Church
– Grace Baptist Church of Los Baños (Laguna).