El Shaddai (movement)

El Shaddai is a Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement from the Philippines. Its founder and servant leader is Mariano Mike Velarde- better known as Brother Mike. Their Diocesan Bishop is the Reverend Jessie Mercado of the Diocese of Parañaque, and its Spiritual Director is Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani of the Roman Catholic Church.

History

Born in Catanduanes, Velarde earned a surveying degree from a college in Manila. With a company bonus, he started buying land and developing residential subdivisions south of the city. He did well until 1983, when political turmoil sent the Philippine economy into a tailspin. By 1986 his debts, which he had used to finance land purchases, had grown to $8 million.

Inspired by his recovery from a heart ailment in 1978, he started a weekly Bible-quoting radio show on DWXI, a station he acquired in 1982 as part of a real estate deal. Listeners, he says, began reporting that his voice had cured their afflictions. The first was a woman who said Velarde had ended years of migraines. In 1984, Velarde christened his show "El Shaddai," a biblical name for God that he found in a U.S. religious pamphlet.

Velarde then held once-a-month prayer rallies outside the vicinity of the radio station. It is stated that after the number of attendees kept growing, he made the rallies weekly until the crowd could no longer be accommodated by the area. The rallies were then moved to various locations such as a football stadium and then to Manila's Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park; then to a field grounds outside the Philippine International Convention Center and the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City, which is near Manila Bay; and finally in Amvel Business Park, San Dionisio, Parañaque City in order to address the size of the crowds attending.

El Shaddai Movement has grown rapidly in the last decade and has a reported 8 million members worldwide [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51527.htm] .

In 2001, Velarde and Jesus is Lord Church leader Eddie Villanueva, wound up locked in fierce legal battle over control of the Christian-oriented TV station Quality Television (Channel 11) [http://www.pathfinder.com/asiaweek/98/0227/feat1.html] . Villanueva has the franchise and the authority to operate the facility, but Velarde, using political connections, was able to import transmission equipment, the value of which he claims to have converted into equity in the station.

The Philippine Congress intervened and awarded to Eddie Villanueva the right the acquire the frequency held by Channel 11. Villanueva paid Velarde for the stocks and assets held by Delta Broadcasting System (DBS).

International Chapters

USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Saipan, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Libya, and some others potentially not listed here.

Criticisms

Some think Velarde is less saint than swindler. Velarde is "preaching a gospel of prosperity". His message is straightforward: give to the Lord and He will return it to you tenfold. His followers, most of whom suffer from sakit poverty, are nevertheless happy to pay ten percent of their income to become card-carrying members of Brother Mike's flock. His identification with and perceived pandering to the poor gains little respect among the intelligentsia.

In June 2001, former members alleged that Velarde had misused the movement's funds. Their allegations resulted in an investigation by the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC), which slapped Velarde with a $2,350 fine.

In 1988, the last year the foundation filed its financial statement with the SEC, El Shaddai took in almost $500,000. Today, Velarde says, the group collects between $360,000 and $400,000 monthly. Former members say the real amounts are much larger. They report seeing 1-meter-tall duffel bags, as thick as adult bodies, stuffed with donation envelopes. [ [http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/96/0920/feat11.html Rising Prophet ] ] .

Velarde's relationship with the mainstream Catholic Church is uneasy. El Shaddai sees itself as a charismatic movement within the Roman Catholic Church. Velarde has never let any doubt about his Roman Catholic confession: "By religious affinity, I am a Catholic. Very clearly, I intend to stay a Catholic”. But sometimes there are reproaches, that his movement represents a kind of side church next to the Roman Catholic church (parachurch).

Some conservative priests are seeing the illusionist Velarde already on the edge of heresy because of his "stupid" practices not known in the traditional Catholic rites. Velarde opposes the use of rosary beads and images of the saints, and he is especially critical of prayers directed to Mary instead of God.

Velarde's movement draws from Spanish folk Christianity. Velarde encourages the ritual use of a wide range of objects, from bankbooks and visa applications to eggs, umbrellas, and even specially blessed handkerchiefs, as a kind of Pentecostal anting-anting(amulet). El Shaddai's followers ascribe magical healing powers to eggs or bottles of water brought to rallies, or to handkerchiefs printed with prayers. Another critical point is that his teaching suggests the feasibility of miracles.

Velarde, who mainly preaches in Tagalog language, offers no ingenious theology. Primarily he wants to inspire trust in the Holy Spirit and his gifts. His message is: Help yourself by prayers and the Holy Spirit will help you. And this help can also be very materialistic. "Do you want to have a refrigerator?” he shouted once to an enthusiastic crowd, “if you believe, you will also have a refrigerator”. Some observers believe that these material success promises are also substantial for the popularity of the El Shaddai movement. Other promises can be: the curing of a sick person, the elimination of an addiction, the mastering of a marital crisis, the successful passing of an examination or getting a job.

Political influence

Some believe that El Shaddai plays a major role in Philippine politics. They assert that former President Fidel Ramos won the 1992 Presidential elections because of El Shaddai's votes, although this has never been corroborated with an actually tally of votes correlated with El Shaddai membership rosters. Some counter this claim as well by stating that El Shaddai members vote independently.

During the impeachment trial of deposed President Joseph Estrada, Velarde rejected the call of then Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin to join a prayer rally urging Estrada to resign. Velarde said that El Shaddai members were free to join the rally of their own volition and reiterated that the movement was neither for nor against Estrada's resignation.

Currently, it has been reported that Velarde is attempting to end the Philippine electoral crisis by reuniting the Estrada camp and Arroyo camp. [http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&story_id=47753]

External links

* [http://www.elshaddaigloucestershire.org.uk UK Branch]
* [http://www.elshaddai-pfcc12.110mb.com Leyte and Biliran Branch]
* [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0824828615 Investing in Miracles]
* [http://home.arcor.de/be/bethge/elshaddai.htm The Promised Luck]
* [http://www.inq7.net/globalnation/sec_cdn/2005/aug/opi/com_30.htm God + money x politics]

References


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