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Indigenous Christian Churches

Iglesia Filipina Independiente

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Independent Philippine Church), founded by Gregorio Aglipay (1860-1940), received the support of revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo during the revolt against Spain and subsequent conflicts with American forces. It rode the tide of antifriar nationalism in absorbing Filipino Roman Catholic clergy and forcibly seizing church property at the beginning of the twentieth century. One out of every sixteen diocesan priests and one out of four Philippine Catholics followed Aglipay into the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in those years of violent national and religious catharsis. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente, formally organized in 1902, thus enjoyed approximately five years of rapid growth, before a temporary decline in Philippine nationalism sent its fortunes into precipitous decline.

Many followers returned to Catholicism, especially after Americans and then Filipinos replaced Spanish priests. Among those who remained in the new church, a crippling schism emerged over doctrinal interpretation, especially after 1919 when members were suddenly instructed to discard earlier church statements concerning the divinity of Christ. To some extent, the schism was caused by Aglipay himself, who shifted his theological views between 1902 and 1919. At first, he deemphasized doctrinal differences between his church and Roman Catholicism, and most of the independent church's priests followed Roman Catholic ritual-- saying Mass, hearing confession, and presiding over folk religious-Catholic ceremonies just as always. Later, Aglipay moved closer to Unitarianism.

In 1938 the church formally split. The faction opposing Aglipay later won a court decision giving it the right to both the name and property of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Followers of Aglipay, however, continued to argue that they represented true Aglipayanism. In the early l990s, those Aglipayans who rejected the Unitarian stance and adhered to the concept of the Trinity were associated with the Protestant Episcopal church of the United States.

Data as of June 1991