y mind slowly gained consciousness as I felt the nudge of my wife’s hand on my forearm, “Mahal, sasamba tayo? (Dear, will we attend worship service?)” I groggily asked, “Anong oras na? (What time is it?)” “Quarter to five na.” Our church service in the morning starts at 5:45 in the morning. I said yes. She readied herself and took a quick shower while I slowly got up. Katy, Goof’s assistant meowed and looked up at me. Well, she kind of got used to sleeping, snuggled up on my left side under my armpits. I guess she gets comfort from the warmth of my body while I have to admit her purring beside me does help me sleep. But my wife says otherwise. “Hindi tulog yan. Hinihimatay gabi-gabi sa pagpuwesto niya sa ilalim ng kilikili mo. (She’s not sleeping. She loses consciousness every night she goes under your armpits)” Goofy has her own bed beside the computer but constantly comes around my bed and taps on my arm or face to check if I am still breathing to which I always half-knowingly reply, “Ok lang ako, tulog ka na (I’m alright, go back to bed).”
I noticed the desktop computer’s open in the living room so I glanced what was on – “Iglesia ni Cristo – Silent no more …, (Non-INC) Eyewitness at the Court of Appeals”. It was an anonymous letter said to be from one of the persons at the Court of Appeals who witnessed first hand the proceedings between the ACCRA lawyers and Lowell Menorca. It is an interesting read. You should check it out. On a side thought, I searched for ACCRA Law Offices and wow, as correctly presumed it is a formidable firm on legal concerns. On their website www.accralaw.com it is stated:
“The Firm was initially conceived by Edgardo J. Angara and Manuel G. Abello. On May 1, 1972, ACCRALAW opened its first offices at the Philippine Bank of Commerce Building on Ayala Avenue in the premier business district of Makati City. Starting from an initial six and then increasing to more than 30 lawyers, in 1975 the Firm moved to its own building, the ACCRA Building on Gamboa Street also in Makati. In just a few years, ACCRA had achieved phenomenal growth and had become one of the nation’s largest and leading law firms. Furthering its expansion, the Firm established a branch in Cebu City in 1980 and in 1996, an office was opened in Davao City. Having outgrown its Head Office at the ACCRA Building, in March 2010, the Firm moved to a new, modern and bigger ACCRALAW Tower in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Today, 42 years after it first opened its doors, the Firm has approximately 150 lawyers (41 of whom are partners), around 130 support staff, and two branches in the two most important commercial cities in the country outside Metro Manila.”
On the other hand, Lowell Menorca’s party is being handled by Atty. Trixie Cruz-Angeles of the Cruz-Angeles Law Office with expertise on –
“Handles litigation, corporate consultancy, bargaining and negotiation. Specialties include criminal, torts, civil and public interest litigation. Recent cases include court martial of Oakwood, Fort Bonifacio and Manila Peninsula incidents involving military officers, protection of heritage sites and environmental suits as well as landmark litigation on medical malpractice.”
She is currently the Legal Counsel for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Spokesperson of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
That being said, the Church administration is obviously exerting all efforts (and money or abuloy should I say) to quash the case against them. Ironically, if I’m not mistaken none of the lawyers for the defense and prosecution are members of the Church. So we have a scenario where a case originating inside the Church involving church members on church discipline is now being arbitrated by non-members for decision and final judgement. This is the dilemma that the Church has been trying to avoid ever since it was established in 1914. Thus the rule of law within, that all disagreements, misunderstandings, and problems between members are to be resolved within the Church hierarchy. No exception to the rule otherwise expulsion. So in essence, you can only file legal complaints once outside the Church. As what is happening now.
All this hullabaloo could have been avoided and the Church saving face if we had just stuck to the long-established procedure which is to report any internal problem to appropriate Church authority. The authority would then initiate an investigation and implement the necessary sanctions based on the merits of the inquiry. That simple. Unless of course, if ‘authority’ is the problem and you cannot go any higher to report the situation. That is the paradox we are now in – first time in Church history. Mind you, no one is questioning the doctrines of the Church. Christ continues to be accepted by us as a mortal and not deity, we still do not worship graven images nor do we believe in purgatory. We still consider the Iglesia Ni Cristo as the one and only church established by Christ. But the internal disputes and altercations continue between brothers and sisters.
We continue to hold evangelical missions amidst all this confusion teaching the doctrine of Christ’s love for the Church persuading non-members to embrace this faith. In the same breath, we hear from media – social and print; and in reality, the complete opposite. Charges of torture and detention against former members, money laundering, exorbitant lifestyles by the hierarchy, and so forth.
This morning, my wife and I attended service. I even kidded one of the deacons there on the EVM pin displayed on his lapel, “meron ka na rin ‘tanda ng hinlalaki ng kanan kamay’ ah? (so you also have the ‘sign of the right-hand thumbprint’ eh?) Anyway, he managed to put up an awkward smile.
The sermon was on total submission even if you do not know where it will bring you. It was about Abraham and his son. As we all know he was instructed by God to bring his son to the mountain to have him sacrificed. The sermon stressed the importance of total belief in God come what may. And then as usual, the ‘link’. The Executive Minister carries God’s words so we should follow him without question. And then the ‘stress’ that outside the Church there is no salvation including all those expelled members who questioned the authority of the Executive Minister.
But when you analyze it, to gain credibility, any leader should first lead the life that he preaches. Not just the personal life that he leads but more so the organization that he leads. It should be a clean and decent organization commanding respect from all sectors which I’m sad to say is no longer.
Life should be simple. A church should hold solace, love, and care as one family. A home where we anticipate returning to after a long and tiring day. A family was never meant to be scattered about but to be embraced in one fold, one home, one Christ. Jesus accepted humiliation and being nailed to the cross until his last breath left him. The law on salvation was stern – no sinner would inherit the kingdom of God. Christ had to make a choice. Either he alone or die for the Church. We know what he chose.
Sad to say we can no longer claim to be deserving children. How can we, when we ourselves cannot maintain love for each other. When all that is wanted is to punish and prove the other one wrong. Is this what Christ taught us? is this love among brethren? Admit it, we were not always like this. We would be the first one to protect our oppressed brethren… then. Somehow, something definitely went wrong.
Leadership. Everything is about leadership.
By the way, Christmas is just around the corner. The ambiance is felt everywhere and it’s a good feeling don’t you think? Carols here and there, the rush of Christmas spirit. The night chill nipping at your nose. Oh, let’s not start that “we don’t have Christmas” thing; that it’s a pagan belief and so forth. We all know that, come on. But who among us refuses a “Christmas” bonus during December? Who among us doesn’t love Christmas songs especially sung by Joe Mari Chan, and that song by Gary V. “Pasko na sinta ko …”? I used to play the songs in my car during intrego to Central with our pastor singing beside me. So let us not be hypocrites and just enjoy the season. Furthermore, if paganism is used as an excuse how do you explain the “Baal” silhouette of the Philippine Arena, the EVM ‘right fingerprint’, the hip-hop Christian music, and even the official INC seal. If you exert an effort to make a connection, you’ll likely get it.
And so to my dearest brethren and friends alike, “Happy Holidays and a Merry, Merry Christmas to you all!”