From the start, Protestant churches in the Philippines were plagued by disunity and schisms. At one point after World War II, there were more than 200 denominations representing less than 3 percent of the populace. Successful mergers of some denominations into the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the formation of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) brought a degree of order. In the 1990s, there remained a deep gulf and considerable antagonism, however, between middleclass -oriented NCCP churches and the scores of more evangelical denominations sprinkled throughout the islands.
Protestantism has always been associated with United States influence in the Philippines. All major denominations in the United States, and some minor ones, sent missions to the Philippines, where they found the most fertile ground for conversions among some of the upland tribes not yet reached by Catholic priests and among the urban middle class. Most American school teachers who pioneered in the new Philippine public school system also were Protestants, and they laid the groundwork for Protestant churches in many lowland barrios. Filipinos who converted to Protestantism often experienced significant upward social mobility in the American colonial period. Most were middle-level bureaucrats, servants, lawyers, or small entrepreneurs, and some became nationally prominent despite their minority religious adherence.
Protestant missionaries made major contributions in the fields of education and medicine. Throughout the islands, Protestant churches set up clinics and hospitals. They also constructed private schools, including such outstanding institutions of higher education as Central Philippine University, Silliman University, Philippine Christian College, and Dansalan Junior College in Marawi.
The denominations planted by the early missionaries numbered among their adherents about 2 percent of the population in the late 1980s. Their influence was supplemented, if not overshadowed, by a number of evangelical and charismatic churches and para-religious groups, such as New Tribes Mission, World Vision, and Campus Crusade for Christ, which became active after World War II. Increased activity by these religious groups did not mean that the country had ceased to be primarily Catholic or that the older Protestant churches had lost their influence. It did indicate that nominal Catholics might be less involved in parish activities than ever, that the older Protestant churches had new rivals, and that, in general, religious competition had increased.
An indication of this trend is seen in the change in the affiliation of missionaries coming to the Philippines. In 1986 there were 1,931 non-Roman Catholic missionaries, not counting those identified with the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. Of these, only sixty-three were from the denominations that sent missionaries in the early 1900s. The rest were from fundamentalist churches or para-church groups (the terms are not necessarily exclusive).
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