THE DECLARATION OF FAITH AND ARTICLES OF RELIGION (DFAR) OF THE IFI:
A DISCUSSION ON ITS HISTORY, DOCTRINAL TEACHINGS AND IMPLICATIONS TO IFI MISSION PERSPECTIVES
(An input shared by the Rev. Dr. Eleuterio J. Revollido to the leadership bodies of the Diocese of MOBUCA, April 24-25, 2009, DCENT Center, Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City)
It is a great privilege to be one of the resource persons in this important forum that aims to sharpen our understanding on the history, basic beliefs and teachings of the IFI as written in the Declaration of Faith and Articles of Religion (DFAR). I hope and pray that the two sessions given to me by Bishop Bert Calang inspire you in doing the task of mission and evangelism in your respective parishes after this discussion.
As I was advised, I divided my paper into two inputs. The first one is a historical discussion about the DFAR touching on: (a) the context, beliefs and nationalism during the Aglipay era, and (b) the context, beliefs and implications of DFAR in the IFI nationalist heritage during the De los Reyes, Jr.’s period. The second part is about the IFI’s faith perspectives, (doctrines) touching on the: (a) historical outline of IFI doctrinal development and (b) comments on some of the basic IFI beliefs and teachings and the challenges it bring in today’s IFI mission and evangelism programs.
INPUT I: DFAR: its history and implication to IFI nationalist heritage
The only way for us to appreciate the importance of DFAR both in its historical and doctrinal aspects is to make a comparative study about the thrusts and teachings during the Aglipay era in comparison to the beliefs and emphasis exemplified during the time of Bishop De los Reyes, Jr. Let us look first the period of Supreme Bishop Aglipay, its context, beliefs and nationalism.
A. AGLIPAY ERA
1. Context of Supreme Bishop Gregorio L. Aglipay, D.D. (1902-1940)
The thirty-eight year ministry of Supreme Bishop Gregorio L. Aglipay was entirely under the shadow of foreign control when the country was a colonial state of America. It was an era of suppressed nationalism characterized by the following: The colonial consolidation through the election of Filipino elites to political positions, the implementation of free market policies benefiting only the landowners, and the massive educational policy of the Americans conducted in the English language to bolster the hold of the U.S government on the popular mind in the country.
In the Church affairs, it was the heightening of the Protestant missionary work in the Philippines after centuries of strict restrictions imposed by the Spanish colonial authorities. It started after the colossal defeat in the mocked Battle of Manila Bay of the Spanish fleet by Commodore Dewey’s superior guns in 1898 that the Protestant Americans saw this as the “very hand of God”. It was also during this period that the third wave of Catholic missionaries arrived in the country to counter the missionary efforts of the Protestants and the schism brought by the IFI. From 1902 up to 1906, a good number of church buildings and conventos mainly in the north were taken by the IFI and administered by less than a hundred priests who joined Aglipay. In 1906 these buildings were returned to the Roman Catholic Church after the Supreme Court decision and in 1907 the Provincial Synod of Manila of the RCC declared the IFI as “synagogue of anti- Christ.” He made an attempt to dialogue with other churches for IFI recognition but the negotiations failed. In the entire period of his headship Bishop Aglipay actively involved himself in the struggle for the immediate and absolute independence of the country, allied himself with the radical parties and even run as president of the Philippines in 1935. It was in the above context where Supreme Bishop Gregorio Aglipay lived out his ministry as head of the IFI.
2. From Trinitarian belief to Unitarianism
The IFI was proclaimed by the Union Obrera Democratica under the leadership of Don Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr. on August 3, 1902. This separation was not that easy as it took Father Aglipay another month to accept the headship of the new church. It was only on September 22, 1902 that he issued under his own signature as Obispo Maximo the first of the Six Fundamental Epistles which gave form and organization to the IFI. On October 1, 1902, Pedro Brillantes took possession of St. James Church in Bacarra as his cathedral and announced himself as bishop of Ilocos Norte. He was consecrated in Bacarra by twenty four of his priests on October 1, 1902, and justified his act saying:
Without being either dependent or independent, I am merely Filipino, Catholic, Apostolic and Divine, and for this reason I shall be consecrated ritu divino et apostolico, I shall recognize the Pope if he recognizes me and gives up his diplomacy and his politics which are so oppressive to the Filipinos. If he turns away from his errors, I shall absolve him.
It was on this same occasion that the so-called Bacarra Formula was formulated by the Ilocano clergy subscribing their “faith in Peter…but not in his diplomacy or his politics or his despotism” and swore to “guard inviolate the Faith, the teaching of Tradition, the contents of Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, the Liturgy, the veneration of the Saints and especially of the ever Blessed Virgin Mary.”
There were two Constitutional Rules that governed the IFI during the time of Bishop Aglipay. The first one was some sort of a temporary constitution that was adopted on October 1, 1902 until it was changed with a more comprehensive and radical charter called Doctrina y Reglas Constitutionales of 1903. (DRC – Doctrine and Constitutional Rules). Not discrediting all that comes from the Roman Catholic Church, the DRC said, “we follow the same belief as the Romanists do, so long as it is not contrary to the pure Word of God, to nature, the sciences, and right reason.” With this perspective, the IFI defined its catholicity is this statement:
Our Church is Catholic, or Universal, because it considers all men without distinction children of God, and it bears the designation “Philippine Independent” to identify this association of free men who, within the said universality, admit servility to no one.
The shift of Bishop Aglipay’s belief from Trinitarian doctrine to Unitarianism 1 was traced by an Episcopalian historian, Bishop Whittemore when Bishop Aglipay started a pleasant relationship with William Howard Taft. He was a Unitarian and “when he came back to the Philippines in 1907, he brought with him much literature from the headquarters of the American Unitarian Association in Boston which reached Aglipay. His exalted position as President of the United States soon afterward lent prestige to the form of religion he espoused, and all this made an impression on Aglipay and De los Reyes”.
It was not very difficult for Aglipay to accept progressive beliefs especially alongside with his partnership with another radical personality like Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr. who wrote most of the radical writings in the early period of the IFI. As a revolutionary who was known for his liberal ideas, it was not a surprise for him to support modern and scientific thoughts.
It is a historical fact that Aglipay’s Unitarian beliefs were already in his pen and words before any personal contact with the Unitarian Association. Evidence could be seen in the development of his ideas drifting towards this direction as he defined the IFI in his 1912 Catechesis as:
An association of new men educated in the teachings of Jesus who seek God through the path of free science, and who adore him in Spirit and in truth.
In 1920 Bishop Aglipay went further in defining the IFI in his speech to the congregation in Batangas where he drastically removed the Name of Jesus in the whole statement, saying:
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente is the worship of God by means of good acts enlightened by modern science and free reasoning, which opens the heart to all men without distinctions of race and creed as children of only one Heavenly Father. And our Church comes to redeem the consciences darkened by so much deceit and exploitation under the pretext of Religion.
Bishop Aglipay found in the American Unitarian Association not just mere satisfaction of his liberal ideas and expression of religious freedom, but through them he established close allies in ventilating his nationalist craving and political agenda for an independent Philippines. The nationalist campaign for unconditional and immediate independence of the country that Bishop Aglipay longed for was later on brought by the Unitarians to the very heart of the empire that dominates the Philippines. They made a strong resolution regarding the Hare-Hawes Cutting Bill backing Aglipay’s position to set the definite date for Philippine Independence.
Unitarianism during the leadership of Bishop Aglipay did not come without any opposition. This was led by one from the original batch of clergy, named, Bishop Servando Castro from Ilocos. He was one of those in the original group of Catholic priests who seceded from Rome in 1902. Alarmed by the denial of the divinity of Christ and the “reform” of the Mass as simply a “brotherly meal”, he called for the return to Catholicity. He made his opposition in public saying that the people who were faithful to the Church should be opposed to the new doctrine.
3. Unwavering Spirit of Nationalism
Amidst the flirtation to Unitarianism by the leadership of the IFI, no one can deny their deep faith in God and their serious struggle for independence being guided by nationalist and radical constitutional rules. These nationalist principles were translated by Aglipay into an ethical guideline that was known as “Teachings of the IFI.” This early teachings were propagated to inculcate to the faithful a lived faith, Pro Deo et Patria (for God and Country). It was written in the 27th reading of the Novena for the Virgin of Balintawak by Supreme Bishop Gregorio Aglipay himself to wit:
“First: Love your God. Offer obedience to our God through goodness and act of mercy, helping with breadth, time and in the fullness of our ability those things that are for God and for the benefit of our soul. Because we do not live by bread alone but by the teachings about God and the life eternal. Not just on Sundays but if warranted in every hour that we need to remember and worship God in our hearts. Forsake evil works and desire but instead think that we are always in front of our loving Father, and in exchange of his infinite blessings the desire is for us not to commit sin, knowing that those acts are hated by God. For we are not in sin if we forsake sinister thoughts, bad feelings and evil ends.
Second: Love your neighbour. You shall not covet or do evil to your neighbour; but do to your neighbour those things you want them to do for you. Carry out all good things that you can master especially for the sake of the poor and the needy. Jesus told us that it is our innate responsibility to help those who are in need, as the scripture says, in the book of Proverbs 28:27, “He who gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”
Third: Be good always, trustworthy and do not be indecent.
Fourth: Be always worthy of respect. Kindness gives honour and greatness but for those who do not have these, it is better for them to die. Honour, charity and justice are attributes that make us different from animals and they are characteristics that will lift us up from our wretched state of being.
Fifth: Be industrious in our work. To labor is a stream towards prosperity that gives joy and honor to our needs. We should love our work and be industrious always.
Sixth: You shall not gamble and not to waste money. To avoid suffering from poverty and the practice of obscene dancing where only evil persons perform, you have to avoid vices for it will definitely destroy you.
Seventh: Study relevant readings. Teachings and other tools for our progress give wisdom to our mind and the knowledge that we need. We have to be diligent for our own benefit and for our neighbours, because God created us for this purpose. There is no more lamentable situation than to see a person who refuse to develop knowledge, the goodness of fortune and the betterment of family and children through honourable work.
Eighth: We need to be of great help for our country, to have an eager desire to defend her peace, her sovereignty and independence, and the rights and needs of the people without giving up her honor and without coveting and a shameful betrayal or selling of our own soul.
Ninth: Defend your freedom like a treasure given by the Creator. All goodness of behaviour and right conscience are already given in full. Freedom is an honourable goal that God is using to awaken us and uplift us toward greatness, the development of our knowledge, our society, our language and our total goodness.
Tenth: We never prohibit the reading of any books, whatever the objectives or even creed of the author, because in the comparison of books that truth will come out. But, those books that are indecent should not be in the hands of honourable people.”
B. SUPREME BISHOP ISABELO DE LOS REYES, JR.’S PERIOD
1. The Context of Supreme Bishop Isabelo M. de los Reyes, Jr., D.D. (1946-1971)
On September 1, 1946, Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. was elected as the fourth Supreme Bishop of the IFI. His ministry started on a different political context when almost two months earlier on July 4, 1946, the United States flag was lowered and the Republic of the Philippines was declared an independent nation. This new social condition on the other hand, did not silence the Filipino’s call for a nationalist agenda but it continued to be seen as a relevant issue amidst the given independence. It was because, as nationalist historians described it that “the Philippines went from colony to neo-colony: i.e., it achieved formal independence without eliminating foreign domination.”
The campaign for independence that consumed most of Bishop Aglipay’s ministry, being one of the leading nationalist figures of his time, and partly true with that of Bishop Fonacier’s, was totally absent in the ministry of Bishop De los Reyes. It was in his favor that he maximized this condition of independence to reach out to Churches and church organizations abroad, and brought the IFI into worldwide ecumenism.
Supreme Bishop Isabelo M. de los Reyes, Jr., served his office for 25 years. He was re-elected six times based on the 1947 Constitution and Canons that was approved during his term. He focused his ministry primarily on the internal affairs and needs of the IFI pertaining to: a) doctrine, by returning to the original belief of the Church in adopting the 1947 Declaration of Faith and Articles of Religion, b) canons, by approving the 1947 Constitution and Canons, c) liturgy, by supplanting the Oficio Divino by the Filipino Missal and the Filipino Ritual, d) organization, by strengthening the laity through the organization of the lay and women’s auxiliary, e) ecumenism, by signing Concordat relations with other Churches, f) formation, by training seminarians at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, and g) structural needs, by publishing an official IFI organ called, The Christian Register and the construction of new Cathedral and Central Office at Taft Avenue, Manila.
The substantial reform he initiated and the revitalization of both the clergy and the laity in terms of organization, education and mobilization were huge accomplishments. It was attributed to him the greatest achievement of introducing the IFI in the world through ecumenical council involvement, dialogues and concordat relationships. As a consequence, it cannot be denied that the fruits of his ecumenical efforts are being harvested by his successors. On the other hand, his pragmatic approach to ministry had resulted into sacrificing the spirit that gave birth to this Church, that is, the propagation and actualization of nationalism that during his administration was put into the periphery.
2. Gain in Orthodoxy but a great lost of IFI the nationalist heritage in the DFAR
Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. was one that led the IFI to return to orthodoxy and by declaring again the Trinitarian belief (DF # 1 Holy Trinity), and the Lordship of Jesus Christ (DF # 2) in this Church. This became part of the approved 1947 Constitution and Canons of the IFI that replaced the radical charter of 1903. The approval of the DFAR and the 1947 Constitution and Canons were the major requirements asked by the Episcopal Church for our bishops to receive the Apostolic Succession (i.e. the prayer and laying on of hands by bishops who received valid consecration) that was not present during the consecration of Bishop Pedro Brillantes in 1902.
This return to historic Christianity that was greatly emphasized in the DFAR was a significant gain in our faith perspective and had given great opportunity to the IFI to become part again of the universal church having the same belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and a significant occasion to join the fellowship of churches as ecumenical partners. The latter could be seen in our active ecumenical membership with:
a. Membership to the World Council of Churches – 1958
b. Concordat of Full Communion with the PECUSA – 1961 (later on with other Anglican Provinces)
c. Concordat of Full Communion with the Old Catholic Church – 1965
d. Founding Member of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines - 1963
But what we have lost as a Church in the DFAR should not be taken lightly. We actually lost the earliest documents and source of our nationalist heritage when our Articles of Religion # 20 declares that the DRC of 1903 and the Fundamental Epistles, “are not to be held as binding either upon the clergy and laity of this Church in matters of Doctrine, Discipline or Order, wherein they differ in substance from the DFAR…They are to be valued as historical documents promulgated by the Founders of this Church when they were seeking to interpret the Catholic faith in a manner understood by the people.”
3. Implication to the IFI Nationalist Heritage
The mellowing of nationalism in the IFI during the term of Supreme Bishop de los Reyes, Jr., was a reflection of the context, orientation, and interest of this particular leader. It was a context where the Philippines already granted her independence by the Americans. In addition, his background as a person was not an experience of struggle for sovereignty, but an orientation based on American world view he learned as a former US Naval personnel and an interest, not for social and political involvement but a traditional church based activities.
The effects of relegating nationalism could be seen in the teachings of the IFI during his period and the personal pronouncements he made. In 1961, while the IFI was preparing for the Concordat of Full Communion with the Episcopal Church in the USA, a new teaching in a form of a nine point guidelines was approved by the IFI authority for the guidance of the faithful. The guidelines admonish the membership through the following:
1. “They will worship God in His Church every Sunday and every major Holy Day, unless prevented by serious illness or other grave cause.
2. They will observe, in fitting manner, the Feasts and Fasts of the Church year; and will receive the Holy communion, with adequate preparation, at least at Christmas, Easter and Whitsunday, but preferably they will receive the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday and Holy Day.
3. They will say their prayers daily, in the morning and evening, and grace at meals.
4. They will take an active part, whenever, possible, in the activities and organizations of the local church, the diocese, and the national church and respond to all reasonable appeals of the Church on special occasions. They will, if able, subscribe to and read a Church paper, such as THE CHRISTIAN REGISTER.
5. They will see that their children are baptized in the local church on the nearest possible Sunday or Holy Day after birth; they will instruct the children in doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church; and they will see that the children are brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him when they reach years of discretion. And they will see that their children attend Church or Mission Schools, Sunday Schools, and Vacation Church Schools, if at all possible.
6. They will not marry outside the Church; that is, they will not have their marriage solemnized by some civil magistrate or be married in the non-Christian way, but by a priest of their own Church.
7. If at all possible, they will own a Bible and the authorized Prayer Book of their Church, and use these under the guidance of a priest.
8. They will ask the priest of their local church for a letter of transfer- of- membership when they move permanently to another place, and they will acquaint the priest of the new church of their presence and residence.
9. But above all, they will perform their duties toward God and their neighbors: Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all their heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like it; thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.”
Amidst the experience of gaining orthodoxy and active participation in the wider ecumenical fellowship of Churches it was unfortunate that the essence of Aglipayanism was lost during the Delos Reyes period. The absence of the nationalist principles and social justice values that was expected from a Church born out of people’s struggle were relegated into the periphery and presented the IFI “just like any other church,” This situation has been leading the succeeding Obispos Maximos and the whole IFI to rediscover her lost identity and in the course of history has to find again her soul in embracing the principle of Pro Deo et Patria.
INPUT 2 – DFAR: Doctrinal Discussion and its Implication to Mission
a. Historical Outline of IFI Doctrinal Development
We have mentioned earlier that the IFI maintained the Catholic beliefs and traditions after her separation from Rome or what the Bacarra Formula expressed as, “faith in Peter…but not in his diplomacy or his politics or his despotism” and swore to “guard inviolate the Faith, the teaching of Tradition, the contents of Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, the Liturgy, the veneration of the Saints and especially of the ever Blessed Virgin Mary.”
It was Bishop Aglipay who was influenced by the liberal and scientific thoughts of the time and by Unitarian personalities like the former US Governor Howard Taft and even by Don Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr. who wrote the Unitarian leaning Oficio Divino, that became the official liturgical book of the IFI. We have mentioned also that the Unitarian belief that was embraced by just few in the leadership at that time did not come unopposed as exemplified by the critical opposition led by Bishop Servando Castro. The eradiation of the Unitarian belief had started after the death of Bishop Aglipay in 1940 but the final blow happened in the approval of the DFAR under Supreme Bishop De los Reyes, Jr. in 1947.
Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. was one of the closest bishops to Obispo Maximo Aglipay. He was the one who accompanied the OM in his US and European tour in the 1930’s sponsored by the Unitarians. His role as an English interpreter and later on secretary to the OM gave him the advantage of knowing the internal and external affairs of the IFI. He attested that in the practice of Unitarian beliefs, “a small but highly influential minority within the church was contaminated with Unitarianism, though the overwhelming majority of clergy and laity remained loyal to their Catholic faith and practice.” Again in one occasion he made a sort of confession saying:
Deep in my soul I have always accepted the Apostolic and Catholic faith and I have done my best to preach it to my people. On the other hand, since my early childhood, I have entertained a deep hostility to the superstitions and commercialism...that characterized Roman Catholicism in the Philippines. And I have always believed that those nations that have a purified, reformed Christianity are the nations that have become truly great and civilized.
This confession of the OM could be one of the moving spirits that paved the way for the IFI to embrace again her original belief in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and to open herself into a deeper ecumenical journey. OM De los Reyes, Jr. made a cordial relations with the Bishop of the Episcopal Church Norman Binsted, a former prisoner during the Japanese occupation. Actually this could be considered just a continuation of the stalled communication between Aglipay and Brent of the Episcopal Church in 1902. Conscious of the “theological crisis” in the IFI, Binsted was the person to fulfill the desire of Bishop De los Reyes, Jr., to return to the historic Christianity and receive the Apostolic Succession. It was from this point that the Declaration of Faith and Articles of Religion (DFAR) and the 1947 Constitution and Canons were formulated and approved by the SCB and the General Assembly on August 5, 1947 as part of the requirements given by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA (PECUSA) for the granting of the bestowal of the Apostolic Succession to three IFI bishops. The DFAR and the new Constitution and Canons were imposed requirements to ensure that the Catholic doctrines and traditions are being followed in the IFI due to the doubtful declaration of faith in the 1903 Doctrines and Constitutional Rules and the Oficio Divino being formulated with Unitarian tenets.
One of the contending questions raised against the IFI was the validity of her Holy Orders. Historically, IFI bishops beginning from 1902 received their consecration from their fellow priests and this issue was used as ammunition by the Roman Catholic Church in attacking the IFI of having an “invalid order and sacraments”. This theological question could be answered only in an act coming from a Church outside of the Vatican having “valid consecration” like the Anglicans and the Old Catholic Churches in Europe to arrest the issue. It was on this background that the bestowal of the Apostolic Succession was realized on April 7, 1948 and received by Bishops Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., Manuel Aguilar and Gerardo Bayaca. The contents enshrined in the DFAR are the following:
We believe in
1. The Holy Trinity
2. Jesus Christ, the only – begotten Son of God
3. The Holy Spirit
4. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (elaboration in the 1976 Statement of Church Mission)
We hold to the following Articles of Religion taught by this Church:
2. Holy Scriptures
3. The Creeds (Apostles and Nicene Creeds)
4. The Sacraments
5. The Holy Eucharist
6. Sacred Ministry
7. Celibacy of the Clergy
8. Church Buildings
9. The Altar
10. Worship, Rites and Ceremonies
11. Language of Public Service
12. Purity of Life
14. The Blessed Virgin
15. The Saints
17. Attitude Towards the Roman Church
18. Attitude Towards Other Churches
19. Church and State
20. Doctrines and Constitutional Rules of the Church and the Fundamental Epistles
21. Addition, Amendments, Repeal
Let us now give some comments on the above beliefs and teachings.
1. Holy Trinity
“One God, true and living…in the unity of this Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity… the Father made of none…the Son neither made nor created…Holy Ghost…neither made nor created, nor begotten but proceeding.”
The belief in the Holy Trinity, first and foremost is simply a rendering of the Christian understanding of God. Second, this doctrine in its final and established form is the end result of an historical development. It is not given as such either in the Scriptures or in the creeds. Rather, it is a product, achieved after long discussion and argument, which is intended to explain and to state the meaning of scriptural and creedal language about God. Finally, the doctrine has to be understood in the light of the problems that gave rise to it. In short, it is God’s self-communicative nature as that is expressed in his own being – creating, redeeming and sanctifying
Gal. 4:6 / 1Peter 1:2 / 2 Thes. 2:13 ff. Trinitarian Way of Talking. An understanding of a believer is defined by giving an account of people’s relation to the Father, to the Holy Spirit, and to Christ. The Christian is one who in the power of the Spirit is reconciled to God by being identified in and with Christ. Not a doctrine at first, but the most essential factor in the evolution of the doctrine.
“Salvation is obtained only through a vital faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as Lord and Savior. This faith should manifest itself in good works.” (AR # 12 and our nationalism)
· Vital faith in Jesus Christ based on the creeds, i.e. the Apostles’s and the Nicene Creeds. (Apostle’s Creed is the ancient creed of Baptism while the Nicene Creed is the creed of the universal Church and is used at the Eucharist)
· Good Works which are the fruits of Faith cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by good works a lively Faith maybe as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
“The sacraments are outward and visible signs of our faith and a means whereby God manifests His goodwill towards us and confers grace upon us. Two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion commonly called the Mass ordained by Christ Himself, are held to be generally necessary to salvation.” (DFAR D-4) It is also establishing commitment and relationship.
“Baptism is necessary for salvation. It signifies and confers grace cleansing from original sin as well as actual sin previously committed, makes us children of God and heirs of everlasting life. It effects our entrance into the Church of God. It is administered with water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Through Baptism, God take us as His children and make us members of Christ’s Body the Church, and inheritors of God’s Kingdom. The outward and visible sign in Baptism is water, in which the person is baptized by a priest or a bishop In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Its inward and spiritual grace is union with Christ in His death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new in the Holy Spirit.
Required from candidates to Baptism, may they be they adults or infants, are that we renounce Satan, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Infants are baptized so that they can share membership in Christ and redemption by God. In behalf of infants, promises are made for them by their parents and sponsors, who guarantee that their infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow Him.
Confirmation, whereby, through the imposition of the Bishop’s hands, anointing and prayer, baptized Christians are strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and confirmed in the faith.
In Confirmation we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through the prayer and laying of hands by a bishop. It is required to those to be confirmed that they have been baptized, are sufficiently instructed in the Christian Faith, are penitent for their sins, and are ready to affirm their confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Penance, the sacrament of confession of sins as commanded by Jesus Christ, in which those who repent of their sins may confess them to God, may it be in private presence of a priest or in public confession with the community before a priest, and receive assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution.
3.5.4 Holy Eucharist
The Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, taken and received by the faithful for the strengthening and refreshing of their bodies and souls. Also called the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Divine Liturgy, and the Mass, the Eucharist is at the heart of Christian life. It is the act of (including liturgy of the Word) in which the central core of the biblical gospel is retold and re-enacted.
The outward and visible sign in the Eucharist is bread and wine, given and received according to Christ’s command, through a liturgy led by a priest or a bishop. Its inward and spiritual grace is the Body and Blood of Christ given to His people, and received by faith thus we receive from God forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment for eternal life. Receiving the sacrament in faith means that we should beforehand examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people.
3.5.5 Holy Unction
Holy Unction, whereby the sick, especially one in danger of death, is anointed with oil and with prayer. He receives, if necessary, remission of sins, the strengthening of his soul, and if it be God’s will, restoration to health.
3.5.6 Holy Orders
Holy Orders, a Sacrament by which Bishops, Priests, and Deacons by laying on of hands are ordained and receive power and authority to perform their sacred duties.
3.5.7 Holy Matrimony
Holy Matrimony, a sacrament in which a man and a woman are joined together in the holy state of matrimony. It is a Christian marriage, in which a woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.
4. Holy Scriptures / Bible
A. Living Word of God
It is commonly understood that the Bible is God’s living Word. A word reveals something of the one uttered it. Thus, when we say the Bible is the word of God, we are saying it reveals something of God – his/her purpose and will, nature and characteristics. Indeed, the Bible is a faithful witness to God’s revelation. The Bible is living (alive), because even if it was written thousands of years back, still it has a living message for us today. It speaks to our own historical experiences.
B. Affirmation of Faith
The Bible is an affirmation of faith of particular people with a particular culture and historical experiences, which are quite similar to ours. It is a written product of life, experience and faith. Before it was put down into writing, the people of God lived out their faith in their own concrete historical situations.
The biblical people lived their religion within the drama of life long before there was a written Bible. From out of this lived faith, some of their inspired writers put together their traditions and wrote books which we now call the Old Testament. I a similar way, the early Christians lived out their faith in Jesus for the span of about a generation. Then some inspired writers, such as Paul and Mark, out of the faith of the early Christian communities, began to write literature which we now call the New Testament.
C. Protest Writing
The Biblical writings are also written protest against existing social order: the abuses and oppression of the empires (cf. Ex.3), the idolatry ands apostasy of the monarchs (cf. Micah 3), the hypocrisies of the religious leaders (cf. Amos 5, Mtt. 23), etc. The people of God protested against existing social order due to their vision of the reign of God, “the new heaven and the new earth” (cf. Isa. 65)
D. Minority Report
The Bible is a minority report. It was written in the perspective of a persecuted minority who struggled so much to be faithful against the empires that dominated their land and people. They viewed this historical events in the light of their faith in God. For instance, The Exodus may not be great events for the Egyptians, but it was the foundation event for the Israelites. In the same manner, events in the life of Jesus may not be significant for the Romans and the Jews, but they were great events for the Christians.
The Bible is not a book. It is a library. It is a collection of books by different authors who wrote with different purposes and for different readers in the whole span of approximately 2000 years. Often, within a given book there are, in turn, different layers of traditions.
F. Language of Relationship
The language of the Bible is a language of relationship and not of science. In scientific knowledge, which seek to convey information the words say exactly what they signify. In the language of relationships they seek to convey something else. The Bible is concerned to teach us certain things but above all it seeks to enable us to enter into a relationship with God. There are certain images or expressions in the Bible which are not to be understood in a scientific sense, as information but which we have to interpret as though they were addressed to us. They speak to us in terms of our own experience.
5. Sacred Ministry
From apostolic times there have been three Orders of Ministries in the Church of God: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. These Orders are to be reverently esteemed and continued in this Church. (DRAF B-6)
The Church is organized hierarchically in the visible ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, by means of an unbroken line of apostolic succession and such ministers are ordained through the apostolic laying-on of hands. (SCM I-1&2)
Jesus is the source, medium, and message of our ministry. Jesus, as the Scriptures attest, is also a prophet in the tradition of the Old Testament. Heir to this tradition, He ‘lived in the midst of His people’ (Jn 1:14) sharing their pains, anxieties, and hopes; as a testimony to His liberating love for His people ‘He offered His life’ for them (Jn 15:13).
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente, professing and proclaiming faith in Jesus, affirms her pastoral and prophetic ministry to all people of God in a situation of socio-economic and socio-political crises at a global scale.
4.7.1 Bishops, priests, and deacons (from Constitution and Canons 1977)
‘By Your Holy Name, O Lord God, we place upon the head of this your new shepherd, this miter, token of his high office and ministry; and grant, O Lord, that by your almighty mercy, he may exercise his powers with holiness, wearing the miter as the worthy successor to the apostles, adorn with virtue, purity, zeal, and wisdom, that he may inspire your sheep to obey your holy commandments and that he may be inspired to lead an exemplary life’. (Filipino Missal, 1947)
The bishop is the Chief executive, spiritual leader, and chief pastor in the diocese. The episcopate represents the church’s catholicity.
Definition according to ordination rites…
Chief executive and spiritual leader in the parish…
- To baptize
- To administer Holy Unction
- To solemnize marriage if authorized by the civil government
- To perform service
- To bless houses, buildings, and objects according to the ritual and local custom
- to have public procession outside the Church
To be defined according to rite of ordination…
Deacons are ordained by the bishop. His duties are those of an assistant to the parish priest.
4.7.2 Women priesthood
Women ordination to diaconate was approved by SCB in 1989, priesthood in 1996, and consecration to episcopate in 2004. In 2009, action on women consecration to episcopate was rescinded (?)
The Pauline theology on Equality in Christ: filled with holy inspiration, Paul declares that our unity in Christ, by virtue of our baptism, breaks and overcomes all barriers of race, gender, social status, and cultural boundaries (1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:26-29), thus putting women in equal footing with men in the communion of saints and in the saving mission of the Church. In the Holy Eucharist, men and women share the same bread and the same cup. In the exercise of the diverse spiritual gifts, all, without exception, are expected to render work of service to equip the saints and build up the faithful community in the service of the Kingdom of God.
The concern for women’s ordination is not merely a demand for more positions in decision-making or more power in Church administration. But it is on the recognition of women’s theological and spiritual contribution as an integral part of the historic ministry. Equally, it is to free the women from the stereo-typed roles in the Church with misogynistic arguments, which religion and patriarchal society have assigned on them.
The ordination of women into the historic ministry is a very effective icon, symbol, and foundation of the IFI’s cause to engender a future society in which it avows to become the sacrament of the full personhood of all people, and affirms itself a collegiality of the faithful in the grace of Christ.
4.7.3 The Obispo Maximo
The Obispo Maximo… definition according to the rite of installation…
The Obispo Maximo is the primate of the Church representing the collegial unity of the Body of Christ. His office is supported by national officers namely the General Secretary, General Treasurer, and General Auditor
Leadership in the Church is vested in the Supreme Bishop who is the Spiritual Head, Chief Pastor, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Church.
The English word ‘saint’ is derived from the Latin epithet sanctus, which represents the Greek hagios and the Hebrew qadosh. These words, sanctus, hagios, qadosh, were applied to God himself, to people, and to things. When applied to people and things they meant hallowed, consecrated, set apart for a sacred purpose or office, made ‘holy to God’; they did not of themselves necessarily connote that high moral quality which is now inseparable from such words as saint or holy when applied to a person. The original usage continues in some connections: the pope of Rome is not the only Christian bishop who is referred to as ‘his holiness’ in virtue of his office; Jerusalem is the ‘holy city’; Westminster Abbey, Cathedral of the Holy Child or any house of worship, is called holy place.
Holiness or sacredness, as a state of dedication to God’s service, is illustrated by the earliest Christian use of the noun ‘saint’. St. Paul, for instance, addresses himself to the saints in Achaia, at Ephesus, at Philippi, at Colossae: and by ‘saints’ he means all the members, the faithful, of the Christian communities in those places, God’s holy people, the new Israel. The virtue, the doing of good and avoidance of evil, required of them (1 Cor. 6, 9-11; Col. 3, 5-8) is a consequence of their state of sanctity, of their having been called to God’s service: they have to live ‘as become saints’ (Eph. 5,3).
Paul and the other earliest writers refer to the saints only collectively, and the term came to be applied especially to particular categories among the faithful: to those who had died ‘in the Lord’, to the martyrs, and to the first monks. At the same time ‘saint’ in the singular began to be used individually of persons distinguished among their fellow Christians for the degree of their devotedness to Christ and as commanding the public veneration of the faithful.
Holy Scriptures teach us that events take place in the natural world, but out of its established order, which are possible only through the intervention of divine power, like the incarnation of Jesus Christ; so called miracles, based not on well-authenticated facts but on merely fantastic rumors, are repudiated. Belief in unsubstantiated miracles leads to pagan fanaticism and is to be condemned as destructive to the true faith. (DFAR B-16)
7. Church and State
We hold that the Church is politically independent of the State, and the State of the Church. The Church does not ally itself with any particular school of thought or with any political party. Its members are politically free and are urged to be exemplary citizens and to use their influence for the prosperity and welfare of the State (DFAR B-18). This official stand is congruent with the exhortation of St. Paul to Christians in Rome on the importance of each one’s submission and payment of taxes to governing authorities (Rom 13:1f).
In the exhortation, we also realize that there also are clarified the standards of service and responsibilities of governing authorities. These are the following: 1) rulers hold no terror for those who do right but for those who do wrong, 2) He is God’s servant to do you good, 3) and is an agent of wrath to the wrong-doer, 4) who give their full time to governing. These qualities describe the governing authorities established by God.
As shortfalls and failures of governing authorities recur throughout human history compromising the welfare of peoples, the Church also subscribe to events when governing authorities are opposed, criticized, or rebelled, such as when Jesus called King Herod a ‘fox’ (Lk 13:32) and the teachers of the law and Pharisees ‘hypocrites’ (Mat 23:13f), when the Filipinos revolted against the Spanish colonial government and fiercely resisted American aggression, and when the Church continues to spoke against the curses of globalization. Political involvements of the Church whenever necessary, except partisan politics, are undertaken within the exercise of her prophetic ministry and as social action being a pastoral activity of the Church (SCM V-30).
8. Attitude Towards Other Churches
Opportunity is to be sought for closer cooperation with other branches of the Catholic Church, and cordial relations maintained with all who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
In looking at the history of the IFI, we can find that there are two important historical determinants that have been shaping this Church until today, that is, her nationalism and ecumenism. These two realities that complement rather than contradict, I believe, have been the strong factors that shaped her mission perspective. It can be found in the ministries shown by the past Obispos Maximos from Aglipay and concretized it in different degrees and fashion. The DFAR made its own share in the course of the development of this mission perspective from 1947 after its approval of the General Assembly.
What are the mission implications that we can subsume from the DFAR, from the history of the IFI and from the much later “Statement on Church Mission”.
1. That mission is God’s (Missio Dei). Mission is God’s self revelation as One who loves the world. The Church is sent out in mission to the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, announcing the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed, and witnessing to the reign of God. The Church being “called” and “sent,” is missionary in character and central to her purpose and nature is to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord an Savior. (DF # 1,2,3 and 4– God’s self-communicative nature as that is expressed in his own being – creating, redeeming and sanctifying and “to which the Church He gave power and authority to preach His gospel to the whole world.) The 1976 Statement on Church Mission expressed it this way: “The Iglesia Filipina Independiente has the mission of revealing, unmasking and proclaiming the One and True God “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) in the hearts, minds, culture and life of the Filipino people. By this shall Filipinos know that He is God who created and redeemed the world, who blesses us with this country and with this Filipino Church and thus draw us unto Him.”
2. That mission is not emanating from overseas (“missionaries”) but mission is essentially local and could flow from everywhere to everywhere. That all Christians are capable of becoming agents of mission as an expression of our baptism in the Name of the Triune God. Again, this implication was expressed in the Statement on Church mission saying: “The IFI’s mission is primarily incarnational… so the Church has to incarnate herself into where the people are. She has to take seriously the context where she is situated and whenever the Spirit of God leads her. It is from the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit that the Church takes her origin according to the will of God the Father. It is God through the Holy Spirit who initiates mission. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church (1 Cor. 3:16) is her life and power for mission (Mt. 28:20; Acts 1:16). What the Church hopes, therefore, is not her work but the work of the Holy Spirit.”
3. Mission is a call for solidarity with the poor, unmasking both our neutrality as a Church and as individuals. In the IFI, we expressed this in our nationalism, i.e. the aspiration and struggle motivated by love of country towards the attainment of one nation that is truly sovereign and independent from foreign domination. This nationalism is not an aggressive nationalism that seeks to conquer others but one that seeks for independence of a country and a Church from foreign rule. It includes not just the struggle against foreign invaders to gain power but a principle to influence the way in which that power is exercised in more nationalist directions(the pro-people’s stance).
4. That mission is inclusive and ecumenical. This very much expressed in AR # 17 and 18 where dialogue is sought with the Roman Catholic Church and the call for cordial relations with other Churches should be done for closer cooperation. With this concept the IFI identifies that one of the areas of mission is the ecumenical life that demands a ministry to foster unity in the context of division and diversity among Christian Churches. This leads to the basic biblical teaching as the scriptural foundation of her ecumenical efforts believing that: “There is only One Body of Christ with Himself as the Foundation, i.e. the Church. It confesses One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:5-6).”
5. That the practice of mission is a witness of life (AR # 6, 12 ), preaching the Word of God (AR # 2), the celebration liturgy (AR # 5, 10) and as expressed by IFI Statement on Church Mission, “in order to carry out and fulfill its task off evangelization, the IFI must seriously consider the joys, anxieties, aspirations, grievances and sufferings of humankind. It behooves the IFI to scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the gospel, so that she can respond (mission) to the questions of humankind and make present the saving work of God by her charity, service and solidarity to the world, especially to the poor, the oppressed and those in any way afflicted.”
IFI mission perspective should be nationalist, i.e. incarnational, liberative and inclusive, always inviting others to join her in worshipping Jesus and serving Him in the least of his brothers and sisters. DFAR provided to us the right teachings in Jesus and open to us the ecumenical way of doing mission. On the other hand, the DFAR is challenging us in our own time to reclaim and rediscover our nationalism that was watered down in the Articles of Religion and further pushed down by the present onslaught of globalization.
1 Unitarianism is a belief in the absolute unity of God (as contrasted with a Trinitarian view of One God in Three Persons) and Jesus did not die for us but only set an example. It generally traces its roots to the book written by Michael Servetus in 1531 entitled On the Errors of Trinity. Servetus was burned at the stake in 1553 by the reformer John Calvin. This church was politically recognized when King John Sigismund of Transylvania became one of its members. It was transported from England to the USA in 1782 and became organized only in 1819 after the challenging sermon in Baltimore of William Ellery Channing entitled, “Unitarian Christianity”. In 1825, the American Unitarian Association was formed. Universalism was also developing this time with the belief of universal salvation and the loving God could never condemn human beings to the fires of hell. In their merger they teach tolerance and respect for other religious viewpoints. Unitarians were the founders in 1901 of the oldest continuing international interfaith organization in the world, now known as the International Association for Religious Freedom. See Nicholas Lossky and others, eds., Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, 1031-1032.