Philippine Independent Church
PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH
Also known as Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), or more popularly as the Aglipayans, after its founding leader and first supreme bishop, Gregorio Aglipay. The IFI emerged out of the intense nationalism that accompanied the 1898 Philippine revolt against the Spanish and the resulting strong anti-Spanish and anti-friar sentiments directed against the patronato real system that resulted in a church dominated by bishops and clerics appointed by the Spanish Crown. It is in communion with the U.S. Episcopal Church since 1961 and the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht since 1965. Its national office is located in Manila.
History. During the Philippine Revolution (1898), Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and other Filipino leaders, wishing to overthrow both the political power of the Spaniards and the spiritual power of Spanish friar-bishops, persuaded Gregorio Aglipay (1860–1940) to head the Church in the Philippines by appointing him military vicar-general (Oct. 20, 1898). For his anti-Spanish rhetoric and antifriar efforts, he was excommunicated by Abp. Nozaleda of Manila (April 29, 1899). Aglipay had been ordained (1889) and had labored in the Manila Archdiocese. He tried to obtain spiritual jurisdiction by persuading the imprisoned bishop of Nueva Segovia to appoint him ecclesiastical governor of that diocese. Supported by the Filipino clergy, Aglipay assembled the "synod" of Paniqui (October 1899). Forced to flee before the advance of the U.S. army of occupation, he led the Filipino resistance in Ilocos Norte but surrendered with other guerrilla leaders (April 1901).
In April of 1901 two priests representing the anti-Spanish nationalist movement went to Rome to request papal recognition of the actions of Aguinaldo and Aglipay, and the establishment of an indigenous hierarchy to replace the discredited Spanish patronato real bishops. Finding themselves rebuffed, the resolve of the Filipino nationalist clergy hardened. Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr. (1864–1938), newly returned from political imprisonment in Spain, proclaimed the establishment of the Philippine Independent Church (Iglesia Filipina Independiente or IFI) on Aug. 3, 1902. Aglipay was chosen supreme bishop and had himself "consecrated" bishop by 12 priests. About 36 Filipino secular priests joined him, some of them being similarly "consecrated." Consecration by priests was defended on the ground that the priesthood was the essential order, while the episcopacy was merely a title of rank.
Highly successful at first, the IFI could claim the loyalty of some one-quarter to one-third of the total Christian population of Philippines at the peak of its influence in 1904. The Aglipayans seized Catholic churches, rectories, and cemeteries. These were ordered restored to the Catholic Church by a Philippine Supreme Court decision (Nov. 24, 1906). Because no bishops joined the movement, the church lost the apostolic succession. It maintained a presbyteral transmission of the threefold ordained ministry until 1948, when the U.S. Episcopal Church consecrated three bishops with valid apostolic succession, who in turned transmitted the historic episcopate to other IFI bishops.
Teachings. The original doctrines of the IFI are contained in the epistles (1902–03) and the doctrinal books published after 1904. Their author, Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr., a Philippine senator and trade unionist, returned to the Catholic Church in 1936. Aglipay was unsuccessful in his attempt to be elected president of the Philippines in 1935. In 1940 the former Senator Santiago Fonacier succeeded him as supreme bishop.
From its early days, two principal factions co-existed uneasily within the IFI, one Unitarian and the other Trinitarian. This situation lasted until 1946, when a bitter feud erupted between these two factions. The Trinitarian faction had its bishops reconsecrated by U.S. Episcopalians in 1948 and sued the Unitarian faction for sole rights to the name and property of the original IFI. After prolonged litigation, in 1955 the Trinitarian faction, under Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., as supreme bishop, was awarded by the Filipino Supreme Court the right to the name and possessions of the original IFI.
Bibliography: p. s. de achÚtegui and m. a. bernad, Religious Revolution in the Philippines: The Life and Church of Gregorio Aglipay, 1860–1960, 2 v. (Manila 1960–66). i. r. rodrÍguez, Gregorio Aglipay y los origenes de la Iglesia Filipina Independiente (1898–1917), 2 v. (Madrid 1960).
[p. s. de achÚtegui/
m. a. bernad/eds.]