Welcome to the Philippines, a 1,100-mile chain of 7,107 islands, running north to south from near Taiwan to near Malaysia. Seven hundred of its islands are inhabited. Because of almost 400 years of domination by Spain, the nation is solidly Roman Catholic—the only Asian country with a “Christian” majority. There is a strong Muslim presence, especially in the South, exerting pressure for increased political autonomy for Muslims. Communist rebels and Islamic fundamentalists constitute the greatest threat to political stability in the Philippines. English and Tagalog (Filipino) are the official languages, with an additional 166 languages spoken in the country.
By faith, we see SIM Philippines glorifying God by partnering with local evangelical churches and like-minded organizations to see the Church established.
Current SIM Ministry
The SIM team is seeking to provide a viable Christian witness to the peoples of the Philippines and to help prepare a translated Bible for a large group that has no Bible in its language.
Unreached People Groups
The Philippines is a rich tapestry of ethnic diversity. Intermarriage is common and accepted in the Philippines, and there are few ethnic neighborhoods. Major ethnic groups are as follows: Cebuano, Ilocano, Tagalog, Magindanao, Maranao, Waray Waray, Bikol, and Hiligaynon, each with over 1,000,000 members. A total of 114 distinct people groups inhabit the Philippines. The Gospel has had an excellent hearing in the Philippines with generally much openness. The past decade has seen a multiplication of churches in the non-Muslim parts of the country. Of a total of 114 distinct people groups, 30 are considered receptive.
History of Christianity
Ferdinand Magellan was the first Roman Catholic to arrive in the Philippines in 1521. By 1565 the first Augustinian missionary arrived. By 1611 Dominicans established the first Catholic university, the University of Saint Thomas. The Philippines was used as a base for expansion into surrounding Asian areas for the next two centuries. The church’s hierarchy was strongly European throughout the 377 years of Spanish rule. It was not until 1905, seven years after the United States displaced Spain in the Philippines, that the first Filipino became a bishop. This followed on the heels of the departure of 500 European priests at the end of Spanish rule.The practice of Catholicism in the Philippines retains a folk religious flavor. It is also similar to Latin American Catholicism in its social and theological conservatism. In the mid-1960s the church emphasized social change which confronted the Marcos government. There has been a movement to develop an Asian orientation and identity among the growing national leadership of the church.
There are 330 recognized indigenous church groups in the country. The first began in 1840 as a protest movement against Spanish Catholicism. Today many indigenous churches have emerged from the Catholic Church and have customs and practices which are similar in nature to those in the Catholic Church.
Protestant mission work began after the departure of the Spanish in 1898. American Presbyterians began work in 1899. They joined the Congregationalists in 1929 to form the United Evangelical Church. In 1948 this church became part of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. American Methodists also arrived in 1899. Their work was marked by schisms in 1905, 1909, and 1933, partly over the issue of national leadership. All key posts are now held by nationals.
American Baptists began work in 1900 and have grown large and strong. The Disciples of Christ began work in 1901. They joined with the United Church of Christ in 1948. In 1902 the Christian and Missionary Alliance began work, which was autonomous and thriving by 1947. Seventh-day Adventists have developed extensive medical, educational, and church work since their beginning in 1906. Pentecostals are active. The Assemblies of God began with nationals who were converted in the United States and returned to the Philippines. The Anglican Church began work in 1902. It has concentrated on unchurched and minority groups such as the Chinese. It maintains a seminary, secondary schools, and medical facilities. In addition, there are many smaller missions in operation. Most began after WWII.
SIM (through the merger with International Christian Fellowship) began work in the Philippines in January 1984 under the sponsorship of SEND International. One couple took up residence in Manila and opened a field office as well as the Asian Research Center. An experimental consortium including SEND International, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, and SIM formed to initiate evangelism among an ethnic group in the south of Philippines. This consortium was dissolved in 1993. However, SIM continues to provide a viable Christian witness among this people and to help prepare a translated Bible in their own language.