Colonialism Brought Evangelicalism to the Philippines. Churches Are Now Untangling the Two.

Five Filipino Christian leaders weigh in on the American church’s influence on worship, culture, and politics.

The Philippines boasts of being the only Christian nation in Asia. Filipino Catholics make up 80 percent of the population while evangelicals make up another 3 percent.

The country’s large Christian population today is the result of 300 years of Spanish rule, which brought Catholicism to the Philippine archipelago. Then the United States colonized the Philippines for about 50 years until 1946. During this time, Americans introduced a universal education system, the English language, and Protestantism.

As a result, American evangelicalism has an outsized influence on the Filipino church today. From churches’ adoption of English-language Bibles and Hillsong worship songs to the embrace of US-based Christian NGOs working in the country’s urban slums and rural areas, Filipino evangelicals often look to their American counterparts to understand their relation to God.

CT interviewed five Filipino Christian pastors and ministry leaders in the Philippines and the diaspora to examine how American evangelicalism has shaped their view of politics, liturgy, culture, and gender; and what living under the painful reality of their country’s colonial past is like as a Filipino believer. (Answers have been edited and shortened for clarity).

Obed Relliquette, lead pastor of Crusade Bible Church in Quezon City, Philippines

The brand of Christianity in the Philippines is American. It has a long, deep root in our country. This is why I almost cannot distinguish what is culturally and theologically American or Filipino.

I studied in the Febias College of Bible, which American G.I.s founded in the 1940s and led until the ’70s. The church I grew up in was influenced by Americans who were pragmatic and democratic. Our church …

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