Amid swirling allegations of abductions and reports of expulsion of its members, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ) closed its centennial anniversary over the weekend by holding its first Unity Games International.
The INC observes its 101st founding anniversary today.
More than 2,000 athletes from 17 countries convened in the Philippines on Saturday and Sunday and competed in 12 sports categories.
The participants, all members of the church, included teams from Canada, United States, Italy, China, Germany, Africa, Australia and Japan.
The competition was staged at the Philippine Arena and Philippine Sports Stadium in Ciudad Victoria in Bocaue, Bulacan, and in 13 other venues.
Since 2011, the religious group has held Unity Games in the United Kingdom, Japan, North America, and Australia, according to INC Television, the church’s broadcast ministry.
The Games, initiated by Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, aims to foster “biblical characteristics of unity and love for the brotherhood” to all its members, according to Joel San Pedro, a member of the organizing committee.
But amid the festivities, a minister stepped down after defying orders to read circulars on the expulsion of INC members.
The minister, named in a video uploaded on Sunday as Louie Cayabyab from Fremont, California, said he decided not to read the two circulars–one for the removal of Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo and Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Villanueva Manalo, wife and son of INC’s second Executive Minister Eraño Manalo, and the other for the expulsion of Isaias T. Samson Jr., former editor-in-chief of the church’s official publication Pasugo.
Tenny and Angel are the mother and brother, respectively, of INC chief minister Eduardo Manalo.
They were expelled after a video of them appealing for help because their lives were in danger was uploaded on Youtube last week.
“I decided, brethren, that I won’t read those circulars. You might be asking ‘why?’ Because in my heart, in my heart of hearts, I can’t take it. It is just so difficult to betray one’s heart,” the minister said during a service.
“I know the repercussion of this and I know what will be the consequence. I know that I will be stripped of my duty. From now on, I will no longer be a minister, probably I will be expelled from the Church, but I will take it brothers and sisters,” he told a weeping congregation.
In Cavite province, another minister charged with grave threats and possession of a grenade was released by the police after the complainants backed out.
The release order was issued by the Dasmariñas Regional Trial Court, said Dasmarinas police chief Joseph Arguelles.
The minister, Lowell Rabasa Menorca 2nd, 38, a native of Bulan, Sorsogon, was detained on July 17 after reportedly threatening two unidentified construction workers.
Menorca was reported to have been kidnapped in Sorsogon by unidentified people and was brought to Dasmariñas City.
He was among 10 INC ministers reported to have been kidnapped.