CALIFORNIA (UPDATED) – One member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) in the United States shared how he was expelled from the church because of his critical stance.
Gino Maningas, a former INC district officer in Concorde, California said he is no longer afraid of speaking against the influential Philippine-based church.
Maningas said he spent his whole life serving the INC. His mother was close to Eraño Manalo. But he said he can no longer take the way the church is being run.
Little did he know, his critical stance would pave the way for his expulsion from the INC.
"With my family, we are all choir members. They are so sensitive about my mistake. What about all our sacrifices? We are not getting paid. This is all voluntary," said Maningas.
Maningas said it was June of this year when he was interrogated for three and a half hours by some officials of the INC.
He was allegedly made to admit making critical remarks against the church. His private online messages were allegedly used against him. He believes he was a victim of hacking.
He claims he was also being forced to sign a waiver. He said he could not remember the contents of the document because he was too afraid. He refused to sign it.
Maningas said he may have been expelled from the INC but believes in his heart that he is still a member.
He continues his livelihood as multi-level marketer and businessman.
Among those he finds objectionable in the INC is the allegedly lavish lifestyle of some of the ministers while some communities, like the one in Concorde, he said, still do not have their own churches, despite donations from members.
"Witnessing this corruption, the funds are being used somewhere else," he said.
One of the controversial properties bought by the INC in the US is a land in South Dakota, earlier reported by ABS-CBN North America in 2011.
It's been described a ghost town, but was bought for almost US$800,000 or more than P30 million.
"There is a hidden agenda, midwest just like Texas, is rich in oil and natural resources. It's being rented out for oil exploration," he said.
Circulating online is an appeal from another INC member in California. The message says the INC is no longer serving as spiritual leaders but as gangsters.
The said member called on others to come out and air their grievances against the church.
The news team went to the INC's church in Burlingame, California to seek for comments from officials and members.
One member told ABS-CBN News that none of them can comment unless there is clearance from the central office in Manila. But he said their faith is not affected by the ongoing controversy hounding INC in the Philippines.
(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story referred to Maningas as a former minister, and it has since been corrected.)