Dear Brother/Sister Anonymous,
Thank you for reaching out and continuing to engage in dialogue with us.
To honor our promise to respect your privacy, we are not going to publish your letters or mention your name, civil status, or gender and will make no reference to your particular situation. However, with your permission, we’d like to share with our readers some of the questions you have raised, hoping that our answers to them will benefit other followers of this blog as well.
You wanted to know how our group decided to break away from the “defender” movement — was it a sudden epiphany or was it a gradual process? You also asked how we went about our reinstatement. Did we write to the Executive Minister right away or did we seek counseling from a minister first? How did we acquire the courage and humility to return after what we have done?
On the question of whether our decision to break away was sudden or gradual, it was a combination of both. As we have said in previous articles, we were pioneer “defenders”. We had a different mentality compared to the ones who joined later. None of us anticipated those at the helm to steer the movement toward rebellion against the Church Administration; that was something we didn’t sign up for.
Back in the early days, the “defenders” used to pray for the Executive Minister every night. We loved and respected Bro. Eduardo. We never had any expectation of perfection. After all, INC does not have a doctrine on the infallibility of our leaders. What we recognized, without a doubt, was his divine authority, that he was placed there by God to lead His nation. That he, and no one else, least of all, us, was chosen for that divine role.
The original “defender” group was founded not to question the decisions made by the Executive Minister but to make him aware of certain elements in the Church that required his attention. We thought we’d serve as his eyes and ears but where we went wrong was in exposing our findings and our conclusions (valid or not) based on those findings, in social media. At that time, we were convinced there was no other way to reach the Executive Minister. We know better now. But that was the spirit of the movement before – to help the Executive Minister.
The character and the objectives of the movement underwent a major shift. We are now convinced that the real motive of the early leaders was to bring down the administration of Bro. Eduardo Manalo. The other early recruits were of the same mind as our cunning “defender” leaders. Evil lurked in their rebellious hearts even then.
The undisclosed purpose of the group, which was to replace Bro. Eduardo with one of his younger brothers, was camouflaged at first in order to attract target members who were mostly faithful Church officers. But to the everlasting chagrin of the expelled leaders, their plan met with an unexpected twist – neither brother wanted to come out and openly challenge their older brother!
In the meantime, the “defenders” were left in a state of quandary. Without a 2-9 or a 3-0 to openly lead them, they became further divided as new leaders sprang forth and formed new groups. But they were just as flawed and egotistic as those who were there from the start. We know because some of us tried to switch groups. Each one thought he was better and smarter than the others. There are those who wanted to be left on their own. Some wanted to be part of a larger group but still maintain their own independence. Some craved the limelight. To this day, there are those who are so desperate to be noticed that they bring every little noise they make to the, by and large, disinterested media.
Naturally, there was the money angle, the root of all evil! Money was pouring in especially during the early days. Uncontrolled. Unaudited, as it is now. Several top-of-the-line gadgets, either needed for the cause or just personal whims, were bought on demand, unchecked and without question. Dishonest “defender” leaders saw an opportunity to divert funds from generous and trusting financiers, into their own pockets. They started to attack each other to protect their own self-interest. Truly, the old adage “There is no honor among thieves” was fulfilled in these expelled preachers.
They all enjoy mocking INC ministers who may, or may not, have erred in judgment but these false preachers are much, much worse than those they attack. They excel in DECEIT. They fool the very people they lead! Saints these “defender” preachers are not. They are liars! Corrupt! Immoral! Arrogant! Shameless! The only difference is that whereas some go about their normal activities unobtrusively, the thicker-faced ones prefer to strut.
We saw all these but we kept our mouths shut. Our hearts were loyal to the leader of our respective camps. But our minds took a mental note of everything that was going on. Until one day, one by one, our intellect started to question our heart. With objective eyes, we took a stock of everything that had transpired before and what continued to happen, even to this day. And we wondered if what we were doing still made sense. It was a process we each went through individually, without communicating with each other or anyone else but God. We started to hold our own personal devotional prayer, separate from the daily/nightly prayer of the “defender” groups.
These are among the questions that made us restless. If this “defender” organization were truly of God, then why did it feel more like a dysfunctional family? Why are the leaders not united? In the entire history of this movement, unity was no more than an elusive dream. There have been numerous calls to come together but they all fell into deaf ears. Even Angel, aka 2-9, aka “John McClane”, the recognized leader of all “defenders”, couldn’t bring the different camps under a unified platform. To this day, “defenders” are not of one mind, or faith, or belief, or worship, or practice. They will never be united. There are too many irreconcilable differences in basic beliefs and personalities, so much so that, at one point, they even resorted to expelling each other! Others have even labeled themselves as the “true defenders”, thereby making all others fake! Some even took pains, using disclaimers in both Tagalog and English, to distance themselves from the shameless and corruption-laden fundraising activities of other groups!
It might appear to some that the “defender” preachers under Louie Cayabyab are together. Don’t be fooled… it’s mostly for political reasons that they appear to be in “one camp”. Underneath, these preachers and their respective constituencies do not think alike; they vary in their beliefs, at the doctrinal level as well as in the more practical aspects. But in one thing, these leaders are in agreement – that Louie, their supposed leader, preaches more like a Protestant pastor than a former INC minister! Oh my… What is it they say as they snicker about with their close buddies, behind Louie’s back? That he’s “feeling intellectual”?? That they have to force themselves to stay awake whenever he preaches?? By golly, what backstabbers! But as someone once said, what can one expect when one keeps snakes in their backyard – that they will only bite their neighbors?!
Personalities and lack of unity aside, the most potent game-changer for us was that we cared about our personal salvation and that of our family. At the end of the day and beyond all rhetoric, that is what counts. Deep inside, we knew the doctrine. (As do the former-but-now-expelled-ministers who lead this revolt, whatever they may say in public.) If salvation can only be attained inside the Church, then what were we doing outside?? For those of us who left the movement, though we did not leave together, we all left for the same reason — we all wanted to be saved!
Others joined us later on; some were even outspoken critics of the Church Administration before as well as big contributors to the funds that supported former 36TS residents. When we asked them what made them seek reinstatement, the reason they gave was the same – where else would they go to be saved? Why would they continue to risk their own and their family’s salvation for a flawed cause led by unscrupulous leaders who cry out corruption when they are the ones who are corrupt! Or waste their money on people who never showed any concern for them but only wanted to continue the luxuries they think they are entitled to because they are “angkan ng sugo”? Or join another group led by those who claim to “stand up for the truth” when they are the biggest liars of all?
As to how we specifically requested to be reinstated, some of us wrote to Bro. Eduardo right after the conclusion of our personal devotional prayer. Others sought counselling from a trusted minister before writing. We were all sincere, humble and repentant, as we surrendered ourselves and confessed our sins to him. In all cases, either Bro. Eduardo met with us directly or if he’s not available, he sent a minister to speak with us and counsel us, on his behalf.
In the Executive Minister (or his delegate), we found a compassionate and loving audience. We erred so badly against the Church and against him. In spite of that, we were shown respect as we were counseled patiently yet firmly.
Some of us were accepted right away, others were made to wait for a period of time while others were put on hold to test their sincerity and perseverance in wanting to return.
Returning to the Church was the best decision we ever made in our life. Although we are currently in various stages of reinstatement, in our hearts, we are confident we are going to reach our goal. With God’s continuing mercy and guidance, someday, we shall all be where He had intended us to be all along — inside the Church! Praise be to our Lord God!
In a continuation article, we shall answer your other questions, brother/sister. In the meantime, we urge you to persist with your devotional prayer. You are already on the right track. Do not lose hope. Pray earnestly for the Lord to once again incline His ears in your direction that you and your loved ones may find the courage to keep on walking in the way He wants you to go. As promised, for as long as you need, we’ll be at your side, holding your hand.