This article discusses the history of Couples for Christ (CFC).
- See also The Origins of Couples for Christ.
The idea for CFC was conceptualized by Victorino Gutierrez, a leader in the Ligaya ng Panginoon. LNP, a pioneering charismatic renewal group in the Philippines, sought to bring Christian spirituality into men and women.
In 1980, the LNP Body of Coordinators led by Fr. Herb Schneider, SJ, directed Gutierrez to design an outreach program which can attract married couples towards a renewed Catholic life; apparently, LNP has concluded that an effective approach towards Christ-centered societal renewal is family evangelization, primarily through the husband and wife.
Gutierrez, his wife Agnes, and the LNP team decided to hold a home-based Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS) in Quezon City. The six couples who participated in this LSS graduated and were inducted into LNP on November 1980. In 1981, another LSS was held for 16 couples; unlike the previous LSS graduates, these new participants could not be inducted into LNP because of the postponement of the LNP community weekend retreat, which serves as their entry point.
To compensate for this development, Gutierrez and his team created the Christian Life Program, which was initially designed to sustain the interest of the 16 couples while awaiting membership into LNP. Eventually, upon realizing that God has other plans for the 16 couples than just becoming LNP members, Gutierrez formed the group "Couples for Christ" as LNP's family life outreach program. In June 26, 1981, the 16 couples were inducted into the newborn CFC, using the CFC Covenant which Gutierrez had devised in the previous month.
In 1983, Gutierrez formed a pastoral team for CFC, composed of Ely Lademora, Raul Sarceda (who devised CFC's statement of Philosophy and became CFC's first Executive Director), Francisco Padilla, Roberto Pilar, Francisco del Rosario, Pio Acampado, Danny Aviado, and Jose Villegas. It was also in this year when LNP registered CFC in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as Couples for Christ Foundation Inc. On June 25, 1983, CFC published the maiden issue of the Ugnayan, its official newsletter.
Under the guidance of LNP, CFC slowly expanded in the Philippines. While expanding within Metro Manila, CFC was also established in other parts of the Philippines; the first CFC chapter outside Metro Manila was established in Bukidnon in 1984. A year later, in 1985, the first CFC chapter outside the Philippines was established in India.
On September 18, 1985, a prophecy was revealed to Nina Ponte, wife of Rouquel Ponte, who were both serving in CFC. According to her, God has given CFC His authority and blessing to win "the world for Christ". This revelation was instrumental in inspiring CFC to pursue a "rapid, massive, and global" evangelization thrust, which was formally declared on August 1989. This thrust was cemented in 1991, during CFC's 10th year anniversary, when the current Statement of Vision "Families in the Holy Spirit Renewing the Face of the Earth" was adopted.
- See also The Origins of Couples for Christ: The Split of 1993 and The Origins of Couples for Christ (Part 3)
By 1990 more and more parishes requested that CLPs be held in their area, to which CFC responded willingly. However, due to a lack of trained leaders, the outreach program had to request from LNP that some leaders there join in the effort. This eventually led to conflicts of schedule, due to LNP's stand that service in CFC was on an "available only basis", and that priority should be placed in LNP activities.
As a result, in 1991, some CFC leaders proposed that CFC be separated from LNP. The LNP leaders rejected this proposal, stressing that CFC is just one of LNP's outreach programs. In this setup, CFC is autonomous from LNP (with its own Executive Director—who is supposed to be a formal LNP member—and Council), but it remains accountable to the mother community; meanwhile, LNP retains leadership and authority over the outreach program. The two groups held meetings in early 1993 to settle the matter, to no avail. The CFC leaders refused to acknowledge CFC's status as an outreach and denied that they are accountable to LNP, while the LNP leaders insisted otherwise.
The separation became final on March 19, 1993. A day before a meeting with Fr. Schneider and the LNP leaders, Padilla, as CFC Executive Director, convened the CFC elders and moved that the existing CFC Council be dissolved, to be followed by the election of a new Council. By acting without LNP's approval, CFC asserted its independence. This development, plus CFC's filing of its incorporation papers to the SEC as "Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation, Inc.", formalized CFC's separation from LNP.
In response to CFC's departure, LNP chose not to pursue its rights over CFC, and announced that it would form a new outreach program in CFC's stead, named "Ligaya Family Life Apostolate." In 2005, reconciliation began with the signing of the Statement of Reconciliation, Unity and Brotherhood between LNP and CFC.
Immediately in 1993, the separated CFC community began to establish what is now known as the CFC Family Ministries. As an outreach program of LNP, CFC administered only to couples. (LNP had other outreach programs for singles, youth, businessmen, and widows.) The separation thus allowed CFC to expand towards serving other members of the family, particularly in the provinces where the other LNP outreach programs haven't been established. CFC Kids for Christ (KFC), CFC Youth for Christ (YFC), CFC Singles for Christ (SFC), and CFC Handmaids of the Lord (HOLD) were the first ministries to exist in 1993, followed by CFC Servants of the Lord (SOLD) in 1994.
In 1995, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) approved CFC's status as a National Private Association of Lay Faithful. During that same year, CFC leaders who were working for A Living for Christ Foundation started a youth-oriented community development in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City. This resulted with CFC forming the ANCOP (ANswering the Cry Of the Poor) Foundation in 1996: the precursor of Gawad Kalinga. Notably, the first house built for the poor was built in Bagong Silang in 1999.
During the 1980s and the 1990s, the various programs that collectively became known as the CFC Social Ministries began to form. Initially referred to as the "Special Ministries," they were CFC's instruments in the effort of "total human liberation".
In recognition of the social dimension of the Gospel, CFC in 2000 defined "Bringing Glad Tidings to the Poor" in its Statement of Mission. During this year, the Holy See recognized CFC as a "Private International Association of Lay Faithful"; this recognition was permanently installed in 2005.
Also in 2000, the name Gawad Kalinga (GK) was coined for CFC's work with the poor. GK gradually grew in popularity among Filipinos. In 2002, the first GK National Build was mounted in Negros Oriental province, while the first GK site outside the Philippines, in Cambodia, was created. In 2003, GK was formally registered with the SEC as "Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, Inc." Also in that year, the GK777 (700,000 homes in 7,000 GK sites from 2003 to 2010) campaign was launched.
CFC made its mark in Philippine politics in 2001, when it joined the campaign to oust former President Joseph Estrada. Arguing that the nation's future is at stake, and that the country cannot tolerate a morally bankrupt leader such as Estrada, CFC increasingly participated in the various protests leading up to the EDSA Revolution of 2001. Later that year, during the 2001 elections, CFC organized its "13-0 Movement," arguing that only the 13 candidates of the People Power Coalition deserve the people's support, and not the Puwersa ng Masa candidates who are allied with Estrada. (As president, Estrada announced that he will join CFC so as to prevent the resignation of then Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary and CFC member Jun Uriarte. After discussing the proposal to then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, CFC made a counteroffer that Estrada resign first before joining.)
CFC began strengthening its missionary activity in 2002, when it sent its first missionaries sent on long-term mission to southern Africa.
The CFC Seven Pillars, the collective name for CFC's programs, was completed in 2005, with the establishment of the CFC Pro-Life Ministry and the CFC Special Ministries, dedicated to "build the Church of the future".
CFC celebrated its 25th year anniversary in 2006. As of that year, the worldwide CFC community is present at around 160 countries and dependent territories.
- See also CFC Crisis.
In February 2007, serious disagreements arose in the top CFC leadership. Citing differences in beliefs and areas of ministry concentration and focus, a group of CFC leaders separated from CFC and formed the Foundation for Family and Life (FFL). Despite the reconciliatory efforts of the CBCP and members in the two communities, CFC and FFL have opted to remain separated, while remaining open to unification in the future.
At the beginning of September 2007, CFC confirmed that the Pontifical Council for the Laity continues to recognize only Couples for Christ as a private international association of lay faithful, and not the Foundation for Family and Life. In response to concerns of CFC leaders and members, a Pastoral Congress was held to determine, with the Catholic clergy, the future directions of CFC's global mission and vision implementations. Countries with CFC presence will also hold their respective Pastoral Congresses to determine their own specific needs, which will culminate in worldwide responses.
On December 11, 2007, CFC launched the "One Time, Big Time Campaign," a fund raising effort to rid CFC of its debt of almost 20 million pesos, which was accumulated through the past years of its existence.
At present, the FFL refers to itself as "Couples for Christ Foundation, Inc.", using the name by which LNP had registered CFC before the 1993 separation.