Philip­pine church faces le­gal trou­bles

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - RELIGION/COMMUNITY - BY OLIVER TEVES

A po­lit­i­cally in­flu­en­tial and se­cre­tive Chris­tian church that’s in­volved in a le­gal dis­pute with Amer­i­can R&B singer Chris Brown has been caught in a ris­ing tide of its own le­gal trou­bles.

The Philip­pine gov­ern­ment on Fri­day opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that the ad­vi­sory Coun­cil of Igle­sia ni Cristo, or Church of Christ, was re­spon­si­ble for ab­duct­ing min­is­ters crit­i­cal of some church lead­ers and mis­us­ing funds.

The an­nounce­ment by the Jus­tice Depart­ment caps months of swirling ru­mours about cor­rup­tion and in­ter­nal feuds in the church, which has been con­trolled by the Manalo fam­ily for two gen­er­a­tions.

Brown gave a con­cert in Manila this week but was de­layed from leav­ing be­cause of a fraud com­plaint filed by a cor­po­ra­tion run by the church.

It claims it had paid Brown and a pro­moter $1 mil­lion in ad­vance for a New Year’s Eve con­cert at its 55,000-seat arena out­side Manila, which he can­celled with­out pay­ing the money back. He left Manila late Fri­day af­ter ob­tain­ing clear­ance.

The church’s po­ten­tial trou­bles with the law are ap­par­ently un­re­lated to its tiff with Brown, but could be far more dam­ag­ing to its rep­u­ta­tion by ex­pos­ing the depth of in­ter­nal squab­bles in the 101-year-old move­ment. It is also likely to un­mask the strong grip the church has on its 2.3 mil­lion mem­bers.

The feud within the close-knit church be­came public this week when the mother and a brother of the group’s head, Ed­uardo Manalo, were ex­pelled af­ter they sought help from other mem­bers in a YouTube mes­sage, say­ing they were in dan­ger and that sev­eral min­is­ters had gone miss­ing.

The brother, Felix Nathaniel Manalo, spoke out on Thurs­day against what he said were var­i­ous anom­alies in the church’s oper­a­tions, say­ing funds “are be­ing used up in all sorts of projects which we don’t even need.”

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