Of course, here in the Philippines, there are also controversial religious leaders who influenced many people through their doctrines and leadership. Here is a brief list based on my knowledge about them.
Gregorio Aglipay: The Revolutionary Priest
He was a former member of the Roman Catholic Church but he was excommunicated when the Spanish Government learned that he was helping the Filipino revolutionists. Because of this, he eventually joined Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s troops and fought the Spanish Government. But before that, he was already against the discrimination between the Spanish friars and Filipino priests. He asked the government for a fair treatment, but the government did not take his request seriously. One of the reasons is that Filipinos were considered as low class citizens during that time.
He founded the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or the Philippine Independent Church. Although they allow their priests to marry, their doctrines is not much different with that of the Roman Catholic church.
Bro. Felix Manalo: The Last Messenger
He founded the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) on July 26, 1914. He was from a Catholic family but became a pastor of a Protestant church. In spite of this he has many doubts about the doctrine of the church where he belongs. He studied the Bible which led to the birth of the Church of Christ.
He became a controversial preacher when he declared that Jesus Christ is not a true God, but only a man like us. He also taught that there is no other way to salvation outside the Church of Christ that was bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.
According to the his church, Felix Manalo is the last messenger of God in these last days and the Philippines is the Far East written in the Old Testament. Because of these belief, many people who are against their faith criticized them. But despite of the great persecution against the Church of Christ, it is still growing and today it has churches all over the world. The legacy of Felix Manalo is continued by his son Eraño Manalo who acts as the head of their Church.
Pastor Apollo Quiboloy: Appointed Son of God
He is the founder of Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name. He became controversial when he declared that he is the New Messiah in the Modern Times or the Appointed Son of God. According to him, he was called by God and was sent to Mt. Kitbog and Mt. Tamayong in Mindanao where he was trained for many years by God before he spread the word of God. According to the belief of his group, the human fall was caused by the Serpent’s Seed (also known in other faiths as the Original Sin), and that seed is inside our hearts and the way to holiness is for us to live in the image of God. Of course, we must live through the example of the Son of God. Pastor Quiboloy said that the New Jesuralem will be found here in the Philippines, in Davao City and also in the land of Mindanao.
Bro. Mike Velarde
He is the founder of a Catholic Charismatic group called El Shaddai. He does not preach a new doctrine and claim any other title. He is a strong religious leader because he does not also influence his members but also the politicians. Once, he became a spiritual adviser of former president Joseph Estrada. Many politicians make friends with him to get his blessing so if there is an election they can get his endorsement. But what makes him controversial? He became a controversial leader because, even if he has millions of followers all over the country, they do not have a church. His group only uses the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta for their activities and every time they gather there, the traffic situation is heavy. His critics are questioning him where the collection from his members goes.
Bro. Eliseo Soriano
Bro. Eli Soriano he is the founder of Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path). He is known for having a sharp tongue every time he attacks the faith of other sects. According to him, he do not fear anyone for defending the truth. He is the number one critic of the Church of Christ and, of course, he also attacks the tv evangelists of that group. Because of Bro. Eli’s ability in debating, he attracted many sympathizers. I watched this preacher three times in a live debate and I can say that he has a charisma to the people. The people listen carefully every time he is talking. Because of Bro. Eli’s popularity he was spoofed by a comedy program in Philippine television called Bubble Gang in year 1998. The terms, “Praise the Lord” became “Raise the Roof” and the “Amen” became “Alien.” His method of instructing his assistants with “Basa” and “Nasusulat” also elicited amusement from the viewers of the show.
Apostle Arsenio Ferriol
He is the founder of Pentecostal Missionary Church of Christ of the Fourth Watch. His members believe that God chooses the right person to be His Apostle. So, it is not true that the choosing of apostles ended in the time of Jesus but also continues in these last days. According to them, the end-time mystery was foretold in Daniel 12:4. They interpreted this as the mystery will to be revealed to God’s Apostle and that is in the being of Arsenio Ferriol. Besides, Jesus also taught the end-time doctrine in Matthew 20:1-6 which is actually a parable through which the Lord entrusted the kingdom of heaven to the landowner and his workers. In this parable, the landowner hired workers on the morning, on the 3rd hour, on the 6th hour, on the 9th hour, and on the 11th hour as the 4th Watch.
Their doctrine is so complicated; according to them, the age of Christianity is divided into four:
- First Period (third hour): ancient Christianity
- Second Period (sixth hour): medieval Christianity
- Third Period (ninth hour): modern Christianity
- Fourth Period (eleventh hour): the fourth watch
Religion itself is a very controversial topic because it has so many variations and divisions. But this will not be a reason for a great conflict. We must live in this world with harmony and love. Respect one another’s belief; after all, God will be the one who will judge us.