SOCIETY FOR PENTECOSTAL STUDIES
The Role of Experience in Christian Life and Thought – Pentecostal Insights
36th ANNUAL MEETING at LEE UNIVERSITY
March 8-10, 2007
The Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies will convene 8-10 March (Thursday – Saturday) at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. Cleveland is one of several centers across the USA and the world for the birthing of specific traditions within the Pentecostal movement. Influenced by the Holiness Movement, the Church of God began in 1886 about 50 miles east of Cleveland in the hills of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. By 1904, the center of the movement shifted to Cleveland, TN. It was here that Lee University began as Bible Training School (B.T.S.) in 1918. Today, it is a Christian liberal arts institution with over 4000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Under the leadership of President Paul Conn, the past 20 years have produced unprecedented physical and numerical growth. We are pleased to welcome you to our campus and sponsor this conference.
And what a conference it portends to be. Our theme is on the role of experience in Christian life and thought. Within Pentecostal circles, experience of God and the things of God has long been a potent motif for doctrine, life, and practice. The theme of this conference is the exploration of the role of experience in Christian life and thought, with a special emphasis on Pentecostal perspectives. The conference will seek to explore such issues as: can one experience God directly or is the experience of God always mediated by something else (e.g., church, culture); how is experience to be considered in relation to doctrine and theology; have Pentecostals laid too much stress on experience in their view of the Christian life; what is the relation of experience to epistemology; how do various Pentecostal groups throughout the world consider the role of experience in Christianity; what is an understanding of the role of experience from a psychology of religion perspective within Pentecostalism?
Our plenary speakers will offer a variety of approaches to this topic. Dr. Paul Conn, President of Lee University, is an inspiring speaker. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from Emory University. As a leader in Christian higher education and Pentecostal education in particular, he will provide excellent insight into the theme of the conference. It will be an exciting way to “kick off” the weekend.
Dr. David Daniels, our current president of SPS, is Professor of Church History at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Dr. Daniels will offer his Presidential Address in our second plenary session. Dr. Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, will be our keynote speaker in the third plenary session. Known for expertise in the study of the quest for the historical studies as well as his socio-rhetorical approach to reading Scripture, Dr. Witherington will address the SPS audience on his recent book, The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism and Wesleyanism. Several reviewers from SPS will offer their analysis and discussion and dialogue will fill the evening. Dr. Allan Anderson, Professor of Global Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham (UK), will offer an address on the experience of the Spirit in early Pentecostalism for the fourth plenary session. Finally, during the Banquet, we will have our fifth plenary session provided by a panel of three SPS members: Drs. Emerson Powery, Amos Yong, and Arlene Sanchez Walsh. They will share personal stories and insights into the area of ethnicity and its implication for Pentecostal experience and scholarship. It is clear that the plenary sessions are events that members will not want to miss.
In addition to the plenary sessions, the specific papers and symposia in the pre-conference and parallel sessions are striking on topics related to the theme (experience) or not related to it at all. This conference portends an excellent weekend for the society.
The Program Committee for the 2007 Annual Meeting is as follows: Terry L. Cross (Lee University), chair; David Roebuck (Lee University), Executive Secretary; Donald Smeeton (Lee University), Library and Research; Angela Aubry (School of Urban Missions, LA), Diversity; James Shelton (Oral Roberts University), Bible; David Cole (Eugene Bible College), Ecumenical Studies; Kimberly Alexander (Church of God Theological Seminary), History; Joseph Castleberry (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), Missions; Douglas Olena (Evangel University), Philosophy; Oliver McMahan (Church of God Theological Seminary), Practical Theology; Derrick Rosenior (Vanguard University), Religion and Culture; Dale Coulter (Lee University), Theology; Sang-Ehil Han (Church of God Theological Seminary), Asian/Asian-American.
A Brief Historical and Legal Description of Religious Liberty
Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic ruled by a democratically elected government. It declared independence from Turkey in 1908, became a Communist nation in 1944, joined the United Nations in 1945, and rejected communism in 1989.1 Since the fall of communism, there has been controversy in Bulgaria over what level of religious freedom the government should allow. Members of the old regime contend that “non-traditional” religions, those other than the officially recognized Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Protestantism, Islam and Judaism, destabilize the country by allowing new social and cultural forces to influence the people. More progressive members of government, human rights and religious liberty organizations, as well as members of “non-traditional” religions, advocate greater freedom.
On July 1991, Bulgaria passed its current Constitution.2 Bulgaria joined the Council of Europe in May 1993 and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in September of the same year.3 The U.S. Department of State reports, “Bulgaria’s human rights performance continued to be generally good in 1993. Freedom of press, assembly, religion, speech, association and travel were respected, with some significant exceptions.”4 In its map, “Suppression of Religious Liberty Around the World,” Christian Solidarity International rates Bulgaria as a country with “few violations, none serious, of basic religious liberties.”5
The majority of religious Bulgarian citizens in the country are Orthodox, but there is tension between Evangelical and Orthodox denominations because Evangelical Protestants are providing greater humanitarian relief to the population than their Orthodox counterparts. Minority ethnic and national groups include Armenians, Greeks, Gypsies, Jews and Turks. While the majority of citizens are nonreligious, 26% are Orthodox, 9% Sunni Muslims, 50,000 Catholics, and 50,000 other Christians.6 The Encyclopedia of Human Rights reports that “the government officially discourages the practice of religion, so there are no official statistics on the number of persons practicing a certain religion or belief.”7 The Baptist Union reports that, as of 1994, it has more than 25 congregations in Bulgaria and 2,000 to 3,000 members.8 One report estimates that “There are approximately 100,000 evangelical Christians in Bulgaria.”9
Although the State discourages the practice of religion, the Encyclopedia reports that the government “renders assistance to all recognized faiths, supplements their budgets, provides relief from various taxes, and takes care of the protection and restoration of historical and cultural monuments of a religious nature.”10 The U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights expands, “A number of major religious bodies, including the Muslim and Jewish communities, receive government financial support.”11
Although the Government says it provides support to religious communities, the Organization of the Islamic Conference stated in a 1988 report: “That the Muslims in Bulgaria have been denied free use of their places of worship (mosques), and the restrictions on their use on a particular day in a week or on a particular time only is a negation of a basic religious right of Muslims.”12
Constitutional and Legislative Provisions Regarding Religion
The 1991 Bulgarian Constitution vests sovereignty in the people, guarantees its citizens “[f]reedom of speech, association, press, assembly, religion and travel,” and recognizes Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the “traditional” religion.13 Constitutional provisions relating to religious liberty are as follows:
Article 13 (1): There is freedom of religion.
(2): Religious institutions are separate from the state.
(3): The Eastern Orthodox religion is the traditional religion of the Republic of Bulgaria.
(4): Religious communities and institutions or religious convictions may not be used in the pursuit of political objectives.14
Article 37 (1): Freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, and choice of religion or religious or atheistic views are inviolable. The state encourages tolerance and respect among believers of different faiths as well as between believers and nonbelievers.
(2): Freedom of conscience and religion may not be detrimental to national security, public order, public health and morality, or the rights and freedoms of other citizens.15
Article 58 (2): Religious or other beliefs are not grounds for refusing to fulfill the obligations imposed by the Constitution and laws.16
Bulgaria has also ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.17
Although the Constitution protects religious liberty de jure, the Government does not respect religious liberty de facto. Parliament has adopted a limited view of the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty. Since 1992, Parliament has passed numerous laws which restrict freedom of religion. In April 1993, Parliament negated the effects of a 1953 Decree which confiscated property of the Catholic Church.18 The Helsinki Commission maintains that, although the Church can regain its land legally, it “faces ‘administrative obstacles’ in the restoration process.”19 At the same time, a member of Parliament proposed a religion bill to allow Orthodoxy to be taught in the schools “and its doctrine spread about in the national mass media and in public.”20 This bill also would prohibit “‘non-traditional’ religions from using state and municipal property.”21
The government stringently upholds the Law on Denominations of 1949 which requires religious bodies to “register with the Directorate of Religious Affairs, or with the courts as a citizens’ association.”22 One of the consequences of the 1949 law is that, as the East-West Church and Ministry Report states, “no foreign person entering the country for the sole purpose of Christian work can acquire a residential visa for longer than one month.”23 Westerners who are not Americans must purchase a visa each time they enter the country.24
The Directorate of Religious Affairs in June 1994 announced changes in the Persons and Family Act which, according to News Network International (NNI), “requires all non- denominational religious organizations to seek governmental approval before registering.”25 The Government now forbids 24 organizations to register, states that they will lose their registration, and forbids them to engage in public activities.26 Those denied registration include an affiliate of Gideons International, a Bible center, a charity organization affiliated with the Church of God and a Christian literature group.27
According to a United Nations report, the Director of Religious Affairs in June 1992, following the Directorate for Denominations at the Council of Ministers of the Council of Ministers of the Bulgarian Government, stripped the Holy Synod [of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church] of all its rights and ordered the bank to freeze its assets and to transfer them to the new synod,” referring to the Law on Denominations of 1949 for legitimacy.28 The Government has since repealed certain sections of the Directorate as unconstitutional, but still holds that the central leadership of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had not been duly registered. When the Supreme Court in November 1992 held that the Directorate exceeded its authority, the Directorate yielded to the Court and appointed a new director.29
In early 1994, Bulgaria’s second largest city, Plovdiv, passed an ordinance to facilitate implementation of the 1949 Law, requiring all registered non-denominational organizations “with religious intent as its primary goal,” such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and followers of Sun Myung Moon and para-church organizations, to be approved by the Directorate of Religious Affairs and then “to re-register as a religious organization or to come under the umbrella of a specific, currently registered denomination” within 90 days or “the state would gain complete control of the organization’s assets and possessions.”30 East-West continues, “[T]o re-register, each organization is required to prove its need for re-registration, produce financial records for government approval, and undergo extensive interrogation.”31 The penalty for failing to re-register is a 10,000 leva ($180 U.S.) fine, or revocation of registration for those that fail to obey.32 The ordinance recognizes Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim, Armenian-Gregorian and Jewish religions as having “the historical presence” in the city, but mandates that it will deny registration to other religious groups if “their activities are directed against national security, national self-consciousness, social order, health and morals, or the rights and freedoms of other citizens.”33 The director of the Bulgarian Directorate of Religious Affairs said that the purpose of the new law is “merely to distinguish religious communities from non-religious foundations. Dissolution of religious groups and confiscation of property are not the purpose of this law.”34 However, the secretary of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee argues that the law “eventually will lead to the dissolution of several religious associations or religious-affiliated associations.”35
In mid-March 1994, Plovdiv issued another ordinance which prohibits religious organizations from inviting people younger than 18 years to religious activities and from advertising religious events in public places. An ordinance limiting religious groups’ access to public halls has been in place since May 1992.36
Recent Reported Cases of Religious Intolerance
Religious intolerance falls into three main categories: media harassment, missionary harassment, and restrictions on freedom of worship.
MEDIA HARASSMENT. The media is often hostile toward Evangelical Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other “non-traditional” religions, characterizing Protestant groups as “cult-like and responsible for prostitution, drugs and teenage suicide.”37 A Bulgarian newspaper described the mood toward missionaries: “Sects ruin the character, they brainwash, destroy the mind, and break up the values of Bulgarians which make society… vulnerable to the political, economic and ‘cultural’ expansion which spreads after the coming of missionaries.”38 Since March 1993, the major newspapers have conducted a media campaign against all “non-traditional religions.”39 While the media blatantly attacks many religions, the Government denies evangelicals access to TV and radio, and thus prevents them from responding to such attacks.40 In June 1994, skinheads interrupted a worship service at a Church of God, holding captive 300 worshippers and severely beating seven church members.41 According to NNI, “[t]he roots of the June attack can be traced to the media . . . which have for months engaged in propaganda efforts against Protestants.”42
Media coverage has led to a situation where, as an Orthodox priest said, it is okay for young people to beat up evangelical pastors.43 The U.S. Department of State reports that media harassment characterized by “extensive press reporting which painted lurid and often inaccurate pictures of the activities of non-Orthodox religious groups,” lead to missionary harassment.44 The United Nations stated that, “[o]n 2 April 1993, Orthodox priests, students and teachers from the Eastern Orthodox Seminary reportedly marched through the streets of Sofia brandishing torches and setting fire to various symbols of the Protestant faith which they had seized.”45
In April 1993, more than 4,000 Protestants signed an appeal to the National Assembly “protesting acts of intolerance against them and against other non-Orthodox Christians.”46 As of December 1993, the Government appointed two Commissions in the National Assembly to consider Protestant claims, but had made no final determination. The government did state, however, that “It is true that some mass media do not make a distinction between sect and denomination, but the Executive Power has no right to encroach upon the freedom and independence of the mass media.”47
In addition to campaigning against non-traditional religions, the media also opposes Islam. Amnesty International found that “the Bulgarian authorities have attacked Islamic traditions and Islam in general with growing frequency in official publications.”48
MISSIONARY HARASSMENT. The U.S. State Department states that Protestant groups and Western Missionaries have reported harassment. “[S]pecific problems have included difficulties in obtaining visas and residence permits and, in one case, a bomb threat against the opening of an evangelical Bible college.”49 The report stated that a Hare Krishna who was “physically assaulted on the streets and the subject of threats, reportedly had difficulty obtaining adequate police protection.” When a neighborhood group petitioned for the eviction of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of Parliament supported the petition.50 NNI states that local officials “reportedly seized and sealed” evangelistic materials stored temporarily in the garage of a missionary affiliated with Children Evangelism Fellowship.51
A staff member with Open Doors with brother Andrew reported that he was refused entry at a border checkpoint for carrying Bibles in September 1993.52
In addition to turning a deaf ear to missionary harassment, the state tightened restrictions on missionary entry and activity. In early 1994, the Government denied entry to a planeload of Swedish evangelists who arrived at the Sofia airport without visas.53 An NNI article reports that the state permits few, if any, missionaries with non-registered organizations to enter Bulgaria.54 Missionaries affiliated with churches or para-church organizations not yet registered with the Directorate of Religious Affairs in accordance with a February 1994 law, have extreme difficulty remaining in Bulgaria for longer than the 30 days permitted by their visas. When the Director of World Evangelical Fellowship inquired as to why his visa was denied, the government told him, “Because of the church.” In response to restrictions, some missionaries are expanding their job description to include entrepreneurial activities which allow them to enter the country under the designation of a businessman.55
The Government also imposes “restrictions on humanitarian aid received from abroad” and “excessive custom duties on church imports.” Of course, the Orthodox Church avoids such fees because the state handles its shipments.56
RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF WORSHIP. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is attempting to become the only official Christian church in Bulgaria so that it can prohibit other churches from working legally. This would contradict Article 13 of the Bulgarian Constitution which provides for freedom of religious institutions and separation of them from government.57 Although the Orthodox Church has not achieved its goal through overt legislation, stringent implementation of a 1949 law requiring churches to register with the government may aid their cause.
A 1994 newspaper article reports, “Many evangelical leaders believe that the governmental persecution is being encouraged by Orthodox church leaders.”58 In 1994, government officials denied recognition to an alliance of Bulgarian evangelical churches to the chagrin of its leaders who assert that such action will limit their ability to resist infringement upon religious liberty. The denial applies to Baptist, Church of God, Congregational, Methodist and Pentecostal congregations. Leaders believe the Bulgarian government is attempting to break up a possibly evangelical “power block.”59 Several religious groups, including Word of Life, have been outlawed in Bulgaria by ParliamentÂ´s amendments to the Families and Persons Act, which legalized the tightening of registration requirements for groups whose activities had a religious element.60 More than 75 groups were given just three months to reregister, and after review by the Directorate and the Council of Ministers, more than two-thirds were denied.61
The government has prohibited churches from purchasing land, building on land that they own, and renting public facilities that were once open to them.62 Local authorities in Sofia halted construction of a church on land owned by the denomination by incorrectly claiming that the land was government property. Municipal authorities in Plovdiv passed an ordinance “against renting public spaces for religious meetings.” The government prevented two Christian groups in other cities from using public halls they had been renting.63
Registration requirements have restricted the freedom of worship of many churches. The head of Sofia’s Logos Bible Academy has been attempting to register his organization since 1991. The government informed him in 1994 that they had no record of his attempts to register. A Bulgarian Pastor who applied for registration in the fall of 1993 stated at the end of 1993 that “his denomination has been close to being registered several times, but each time was subjected to ‘unnecessary delaying tactics in the process.’”64 Despite eyewitness evidence to the contrary, the U.S. State Department reports that “No group was denied registration, and more than 30 are officially recognized.”65
For those religious groups that have been able to maintain their registration, the U.S. Department of State reports,
There were no restrictions on attendance at religious services or on private religious instruction. A school for imams, a Muslim cultural center, university theological faculties, and religious primary schools operated freely. Many new mosques were constructed, especially in the southern regions. Bibles and other religious materials in the Bulgarian language were freely imported and printed. Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish publications were published on a regular basis.”66
1 “The State of Religious Freedom in Bulgaria.” (Sofia, Bulgaria: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 1994): 4.
3 Amnesty International Report 1993, “Bulgaria,” (Amnesty International Publications: London, 1994): 77.
4 “Bulgaria Human Rights Practices, 1993.” 1994 U.S. Department of State: Department of State Dispatch, (January 31, 1994): LEXIS 3.
5 “Suppression of Religious Liberty Around the World.” (Christian Solidarity International, 1994).
6 “Country Survey.” (Christian Solidarity International, 1994): 3.
7 Edward H. Lawson, ed., Encyclopedia of Human Rights (New York: Taylor & Francis, Inc., 1991): 140.
8 “In the face of endangered religious freedom, several Christian church bodies in Bulgaria have joined in an alliance,” National and International Religion Report, Vol. 7, No. 13 (June 14, 1993): 2.
9 GCN (EP: Sofia, Bulgaria, June 8, 1994).
10 Lawson, 140.
11 U.S. Department of State: LEXIS 11.
12 UN Doc. A/43/230 at Lawson, 140.
13 U.S. Department of State: LEXIS 11.
14 Gisbert H. Flanz, “Republic of Bulgaria,” in Albert P. Blaustein and Gisbert H. Flanz, eds., Constitutions of the Countries of the World (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1992): 89.
15 ibid, 94.
16 ibid, 98.
17 22 September 1993 “Letter from the Special Rapporteur to the Government of Bulgaria,” in United Nations: Economic and Social Council, Implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, E/C.4/1994/79, (20 January 1994): 28.
18 Thomas S. Giles, “Watchdog Group Says ‘Serious’ Human Rights Problems Remain.” News Network International (December 21, 1993): 21.
22 U.S. Department of State: LEXIS 11.
23 Jennifer S. Blandford, “Bulgarian Evangelicals Under Siege.” East-West Church and Ministry Report, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring 1994): 2.
25 Thomas S. Giles, “Religious Groups Denied Permission to Register.” News Network International (July 6, 1994): 10.
27 ibid, 10-11.
28 22 September 1993 “Letter from the Special Rapporteur to the Government of Bulgaria,” 27.
29 15 December 1993 “Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United Nations Office at Geneva transmission to the Special Rapporteur,” in United Nations: Economic and Social Council, 29.
30 Thomas S. Giles, “Religious Leader, Rights Advocates Criticize New Ordinance.” News Network International (May 10, 1994): 10.
31 Blandford, 2.
32 Giles, “Religious Leader, Rights Advocates Criticize New Ordinance,” 10.
34 Giles, “New Para-Church Rule Raises Concerns,” News Network International (March 15, 1994): 12.
36 Giles, “Religious Leaders, Rights Advocates Criticize New Ordinance,” 10.
37 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 9.
38 Blandford, 1.
39 Giles, “Watchdog Group Says ‘Serious’ Human Rights Problems Remain,” 21.
40 Mike Creswell, “Evangelism complicated by cults in Bulgaria.” Foreign Mission News (Foreign Mission Board of the Souther Baptist Convention: December 6, 1993).
41 Maryann B. Hunsberger, “Anti-Protestant Propaganda Restricts Religious Liberty.” News Network International (August 17, 1994): 48.
43 Baptist Press Release (May 31, 1994).
44 U.S. Department of State: LEXIS 10.
45 22 September 1993 “Letter from the Special Rapporteur to the Government of Bulgaria,” 27.
47 15 December 1993 “Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United Nations Office at Geneva transmission to the Special Rapporteur,” 29.
48 Amnesty International, “Religious Intolerance: Bulgaria.” (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1986): 5.
49 U.S. Department of State, LEXIS: 10.
50 U.S. Department of State, LEXIS: 10.
51 Thomas S. Giles, “Bulgarian Evangelicals Alliance Denied Recognition.” News Network International (October 26, 1993): 15.
52 ibid, 14.
53 Thomas S. Giles, “New Para-church Rule Raises Concerns.” News Network International (March 15, 1994): 12.
54 Giles, “Bulgarian Evangelicals Alliance Denied Recognition,” 15.
55 Giles, “Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance Denied Recognition,” 14-15.
56 Randy Tift, “Bulgarian Protestants Unite to Resist Attacks on ‘Sects.’” News Network International (June 30, 1993): 25.
57 Blandford, 2.
59 Giles, “Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance Denied Recognition,” 13
60 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1995): 768; and “Parents of Sect Members Urge Government to Take Steps Against Sects.” Daily News (August 23, 1995): 3.
63 Giles, “Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance Denied Recognition,” 14.
64 Giles, “Watchdog Group Says ‘Serious’ Human Rights Problems Remain,” 20.
65 U.S. Department of State: LEXIS 11.
Source: Handbook on Religious Liberty Around the World, Pedro C. Moreno, Editor. Charlottesville, VA: The Rutherford Institute.
As a Pentecostal Christian, I love the church. I love going to church, participating in church and simply being the church. It is my only true passion. I love making the church a better place. If there was a phrase “born to church,” it would define me completely. In the words of an unknown preacher, “I’m as churchy as Noah was arky.”
I love to worship with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs with all people regardless of age or ethnicity. I love singing from the old red-back hymnal, just as much as singing contemporary songs. Southern gospel pleases me, but Christian hard rock, techno or gospel rap does not scare me one bit. I cannot help but often wonder if one day Christian rock lyrics will be on the pages of the red-back hymnals.
I also love listening to the message, whether it is delivered inside or outside of the church walls. A good sermon always inspires me. Some sermons touch my soul while others simply entertain me. And I do have to admit, that some preachers bore me. I wish that I could tell them to keep their day job, for after all if you are going to be doing the work of the Lord, please do it right.
And then, there is the prayer at the alters, which I also love. I know this may sound very Pentecostal, but in our postmodern context of worship there is really no other time during service where people finally hush and allow God to speak.
But something has been bothering me lately. Every time I sing, listen to the sermon or pray at the church altar, I have to face a wall with a huge stained glass window. I know it cost as much as a brand new AMG Mercedes Benz and this disturbs me a bit. My concern arises because I am personally familiar with locations where a brand new church could be built for this same amount of money. I guess I have chosen a different value system and I cannot help but ponder, “How many souls will come to Christ because they saw the light reflected through this magnificent stained glass window?”
I know that some will say, “Well, if you don’t like the window, just turn the other way.” And I mustask, “What would happen if every time we see something wrong with our church we turn the other way?”
So next time, when you worship, listen to your pastor or pray facing that stained glass window, which costs as much as a church, please ask yourself the question, “Should a window cost as much as a church?” Just something to think about …
Bulgarians join “jailed nurses”
Millions of Bulgarians have joined a nationwide campaign calling for the release of five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death in a high-profile Aids trial in Libya, pollsters said today. A court in Tripoli convicted in December the nurses and a Palestinian doctor of intentionally infecting Libyan children with HIV and sentenced them to death, despite scientific evidence the youngsters had the virus before the medical workers arrived in Libya.
The verdicts triggered outrage in Bulgaria, and “the salvation of the Bulgarian nurses became a cause that united the whole nation,” wrote Capital weekly. Some 39% of Bulgarians – or more than 3 million people – have actively joined the solidarity campaign, according to a survey by the AFIS polling agency published today. “In Sofia and the larger cities, the share of actively involved people reaches 58%,” said Chavdar Naydenov of the AFIS agency.
In keeping with the 2006-2008 General Assembly theme, “Proclaiming the Power of Pentecost, the Church of God International Executive Committee is sponsoring a three-day Conference on the Holy Spirit which will be held in Cleveland, Tennessee at the North Cleveland Church of God on January 15-17, 2007.
Dynamic praise and worship, informative messages and challenging messages will highlight this unique event which has attracted the commitment of Daystar Television Network to broadcast portions of the conference.
Beginning on Monday evening, January 15, the opening night speaker will be Ron Phillips, pastor of Abba\’s House (formerly Central Baptist Church) in Hixson, Tennessee. Phillips will speak on “Proclaiming the Power of Pentecost.” On Tuesday, the morning session entitled “Signs and Purposes of Holy Spirit Baptism,” will be addressed by Loran Livingston, pastor of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. and Forward in Faith radio minister.
A 2:00 p.m. afternoon session will feature the ministry of co-founder of the Daystar Network Marcus Lamb. He will be joined by the Daystar Singers, led by his wife, Joni, and part of the internationally televised Daystar program, “Celebration.” Marcus Lamb will speak on the subject, “Contemporary Challenges of Holy Spirit Baptism.”
On Tuesday evening, Perry Stone will lead an emphasis on youth with a message entitled, “Receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Special musical guests will be Karen Wheaton and Chosen, a dynamic music/drama troupe known for their powerful and energetic worship.
Closing out the conference on Wednesday morning, January 17will be Church of God General overseer Dr. Dennis McGuire who will speak on “Proclaiming the Power of Pentecost in the Missional Church.” All general sessions will be moderated by members of the executive committee.
The Christianization of Bulgaria was initiated by Kniaz Boris I. Having inherited a strong and vital state from his predecessors, but defeated in almost all of the wars he waged, Boris I (852-889) made some far-sighted and far-reaching steps, which predetermined Bulgaria’s historical fate. In 864 he converted his court to Christianity and made the Christian religion official in the whole of his kingdom, manoeuvring between the contradictory interests of Rome and Constantinople during the entire period of his reign and achieving various advantages for his country.
The momentous affiliation of Bulgaria to the Christian civilization, through its Byzantine model, brought about considerable dividends in her international relations. Moreover, this act catalysed the on-going, and already advanced, process of assimilation of the Proto-Bulgarians by the Slavic majority – a process in which the Bulgarian nationality crystallized: Slavic in its self-identification, language and traditions.
In 886, invited by Prince Boris-Michael, the disciples of the Slav apostles Cyril and Methodius, who had been sent away from Greater Moravia by that time, arrived in Bulgaria. They were received with great honours by the Bulgarian governor of Belgrade (Serbia’s capital today) as soon as they had treached the border. With the approval of Boris I, two spiritual centres of tremendous significance for Slavic culture were formed in the capital city of Pliska, as well as in the other central town – Ohrid, in Macedonia. Only in Ohrid, in the course of 7 years as many as 3500 students were educated.
Steadfastly, Prince Boris I continued his mission. In 893 he summoned a Church Council in Pliska. There “pagan Pliska” was replaced by Veliki Preslav as Bulgaria’s capital. The Byzantine priests were sent away, because the country already had well-educated ecclesiastics of her own. And most importantly, at the 893 Council the Bulgarian Slavonic language was declared to be the official administrative and church language. This tongue was comprehensible to the common people. It formed the basis of a cultural tradition that, within a few decades only, overflowed Bulgaria’s frontiers and became spread far beyond them.
Having accomplished the work of his life, Boris, still in his strength, retired to a monastery. His reign had a cultural impact on the development of all Slavs and the whole of Eastern Europe. He died in 907. However, before finding eternal peace, in 893 he had to prove his loyalty to Christianity once again; in 893 he left the monastery for a while – to dethrone and blind his first-born son Prince Vladimir, who had been conspiring to restore heathendom.
After he died, Boris I became the first saint of the Bulgarian Church – the church he himself created. Nowadays, his Proto-Bulgarian, Turkic name, wrongly identified with the Slavonic name of Borislav; is in current usage in almost all countries that belong to the Christian civilization.
Bulgaria in EU: 1 January 2007, Monday.
The flags of Bulgaria and the EU were officially raised Monday at a festive ceremony in front of the Unknown Soldier monument in Sofia. The ceremony was opened by Bulgaria’s President Georgi Parvanov. Bulgaria will be a stable, predictable and consistent EU member, Parvanov said. We are joining the Union not with the ambition to be a consumer but with the willingness and readiness to really strengthen the EU with our stable macroeconomic indexes, dynamic development over the last few years and with our capacity to generate stability in a complicated region such as the Balkans, he added.
Bulgaria joins the EU with the ambition to assert its national interests, its identity ranging from culture to the energy security issues but at the same time with the awareness that it has to be a loyal EU member, that it can and will make the necessary sacrifices when the common European interests are concerned, he said.
Today we are celebrating deservedly but we are fully aware that Bulgaria’s EU-membership is not a one-time act but a process that will continue over the next months and years and that will require additional efforts in order for our country to meet the recommendations of the European institutions, efforts that will help us fit in the European economic and social model, efforts that will help enhance the living standard of Bulgarians, he said. Today is a historical, great day for Bulgaria; a day which many generations of Bulgarians have lived for and fought for, the president said.