The First Evangelical Church in the Philippines (Part 2)

In September 2014, the death centennial of Reverend Nicolas Zamora was commemorated. On December 29, 2014, the Wikipedia article about him was featured in the main page of English Wikipedia. This inspired me to create a series on the church Zamora had served with all his heart and might until his death.


The Society of Truth

   However, what immediately resulted was not the creation of a church, but an organization of a society. In 1904, members of the Tondo circuit of the Methodist Church in Manila established Ang Kapisanang Katotohanan (The Society of Truth). The group was initially composed of Felipe Marquez, Pedro Castro, Servillano Castro, Moises Buzon, Cirilo Kasiguran, Eugenio Monico, Victoriano Mariano, Leoncio Ronquillo, Sinforoso Ponce and Luis Ocampo. Their foremost aim was to hasten evangelism, which they felt was going slow due to lack of support from America. Members contributed one peso a month to finance the workers they sent out. Soon, they designated and supported missionaries with only little consultation with the church administration. The first lay missionary the society sent out was Valeriano Villanueva, designated to Bulacan, Bulacan, and Nicolas Fajardo, designated to San Miguel, Bulacan. It did not take long before the society began urging members to leave the Tondo church and establish a new one. The Americans had to act decisively, and so in 1906, they transferred Nicolas Zamora to the Tondo church in order to bring peace in the circuit.

Enter Zamora

   It is only fair to discuss who Nicolas Zamora was in order to understand this move by the American missionaries heading the Methodist Church. Zamora was born in Manila on September 10, 1875. His father, Paulino Zamora, was regarded as the first Filipino Protestant in the Philippines. Meanwhile, his granduncle was Father Jacinto Zamora, one of the three priests dubbed as Gomburza executed on February 17, 1872 in consequence of the Cavite Mutiny. As he fought in the Philippine Revolution under the command of the “Boy General” Gregorio del Pilar (1896-1897), Zamora was reading the Bible in secret. When his father returned after two years of exile, in 1898, the two quickly became preachers of the Gospel even before the arrival of American missionaries. They met the Presbyterian mission in Manila on April 21, 1899, and were baptized by Dr. James Rodgers on October 22 of the same year. As for Nicolas Zamora, he had himself baptized in the Presbyterian Church with full knowledge that he would soon be transferred to the Methodist mission. This was due to the service Zamora already rendered to the Methodist Church in July of 1899.

Nicolas Zamora
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
   Arthur Prautch, who had been preaching to a Spanish congregation for a month by this time, had no interpreter to translate his message. He asked Paulino Zamora to speak for him, but the latter claimed that he was not a good speaker. Zamora also forwarded his son, Nicolas, to be Prautch’s interpreter. Zamora took time to actually give in to the request, and he began to speak in Tagalog. He also spoke of his testimony of what God had done for him and his family. This attracted the audience, including the Americans who did not even understand his language. From then on, Zamora became a preacher of the Word of God to the Filipino people. On March 10, 1900, Bishop James Thoburn, the first resident bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, ordained Nicolas Zamora as Deacon. Zamora was the first Protestant minister in the Philippines. It can be said that his defining moment as deacon would be in 1902, when he preached to an audience of 12,000 people. The audience included Bishop Aglipay and Isabelo de los Reyes, who already founded the IFI. Three years later, he was ordained as Elder and received as full member of the District Conference. He was regarded by American missionaries as highly respected among Filipino members, and definitely loyal to the cause of Methodism. This was the status of Zamora before his transfer from Knox Memorial Church to Saint Paul’s Church in Tondo.

   During his service as pastor of the Tondo church, membership grew from 500 in 1903 to 700 full members. Besides this achievement, Zamora’s firm stand for the Methodist mission caused the society’s campaign to lose steam. They cannot even entice Zamora with the promise of leadership or higher salary. This can be reflected in his report to the Annual Conference of 1907:
One of the chief troubles this year has been with Ang Katotohanan, a society within the Church that was really working against the Church. They attempted to separate from the Church and take many members with them, but they were unable to effect anything and in the end the society was broken up. Their collections formerly taken for the support of two preachers have been stopped. In all troubles of this kind, a faithful pastor, by a judicious use of the Methodist Discipline, can easily maintain the Church and its teachings.
There are at present in the Tondo circuit: 588 members in full connection, 102 on probation, with 800 adherents. I have baptized 12 adults and 73 children during the year.

The founding of the new church

   Peace within the Methodist Episcopal Church would prove to be short-lived. The society, Ang Kapisanang Katotohanan, was reactivated in 1908. Zamora himself, a nationalist at heart, became more sensitive to the lower status being given to the Filipino component of the church. The rejection of the proposal to assign “foreign field status” for the Philippine Church instead of a “home field status” of the American Church in the General Conference of 1908 caused ill feelings to reach new heights. For Zamora, this plainly meant the demise of autonomy for the Philippine Methodist Church. Therefore, he aligned himself with members of the society. When he aligned with the society, its members saw that Zamora was the leader they needed to forward their campaign. On February 20, 1909, Zamora met with Ang Katotohanan members Moises Buzon, Pedro Castro, Diosdado Alvarez, Alejandro Reyes, Ricardo Lozada, Santiago Tanghal, Hilario Aniceto, Valeriano Mariano, Santos Trinidad, Ignacio Bartolome, Pio Banta, Lorenzo Basilio, Pedro del Fin, Rufino Bautista and Eusebio Domingo at Quesada Street in Tondo. At the end of the meeting, they agreed on the following points:
1) The reason for the separation from the mother Church was to give substantive realization to the long cherished autonomy of the Philippine Church. In consonance with the general principle of religious liberty the group adopted the slogan (grito de combate or war cry): Kung paanong biniyayaan ng Diyos ang mga taga ibang lupa na magtatag at mamahala sa sariling Iglesia, ang mga Pilipino ay gayon din (In the same manner that God ordained people of other nations the right to establish and administer their own church, the Filipinos are likewise so ordained).

2) The name of the new church shall be Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en las Islas Filipinas (Evangelical Methodist Church in the Philippine Islands). Two names had been initially proposed: Iglesia Evangelica en Filipinas (Evangelical Church in the Philippines) and Iglesia Metodista en Filipinas (Methodist Church in the Philippines). Zamora broke the impasse by suggesting a combination of the two proposals. The acronym IEMELIF would be adopted only by February 1915, a short name representing the initial letters of the official name of the Church in Spanish.

3) The date of declaration was set for February 28, 1909, during the morning Tagalog service at the Saint Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Tondo, Manila.
   On the set date, at 9 o’clock of the morning, Zamora delivered a highly emotional sermon based on Galatians 5:1. The verse reads: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” At the end of his preaching, he finally declared:
It is ordained of God that in the Philippines, the Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en las Islas Filipinas be established, which shall be run by Filipinos and where the Gospel shall be preached in the languages of the Philippines.
Immediately, the Methodist Episcopal Church was stripped of her members. Around 1,500 of the 30,000 members (5%) of the mother Church joined the new Filipino Church. The Tondo church suffered the most. Out of 669 members by 1909, only 80 remained.


Want to continue this series? Read Part 3 of the First Evangelical Church series.

See the references by clicking here.


[Disclaimer: While some content may offend or cause disagreement with some readers, it must first be taken to mind that the author does not have access to the entire IEMELIF fountain of sources. Therefore, whatever analyses and conclusions made here are made as adequate as possible and are only built from the available evidences, sources and theories the author has access. Also, since only few editing, mainly grammatical, was made since this series was first written in 2014, then it is yet to be subjected to change. Any correction is welcome, but copying without permission is being frowned upon, since this blog has copyright. Thank you for reading the Young Filipino Historian.]

The First Evangelical Church in the Philippines (Part 2) The First Evangelical Church in the Philippines (Part 2) Reviewed by Al Raposas on Friday, January 09, 2015 Rating: 5

No comments