New Bill of Religions Bans Foreign Support for Churches in Bulgaria

October 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

The first draft of the changes on the new controversial Law of Religion were voted in last week by the Bulgarian Parliament. The bill that was first passed with a vote of 136:2 bans all foreign donations of any kind to churches and religious communities in Bulgaria. This includes donations from both organizations and persons from outside of Bulgaria. In return, the government proposes to subsidize salaries for the clergy to denominations that represent over 1% of the population. This includes only the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Muslim confession.

As it stands, the bill excludes all Protestant churches, which represent less than 1% of Bulgaria’s population. Virtually all of them are not self-supported and exist with the help of foreign sponsorships. These include aid received for ongoing charges and utilities for auditoriums, education, youth work, home missions, benevolence, publications and more. Many ministers are also supported with funding from abroad in a direct way, which the new bill on religions basically outlaws and bans. Virtually all Protestant schools in Bulgaria, many which are already on standby due to financial difficulties, will be shut down until proper permits are issued. Receiving such permits will not be easy as virtually no protestant school has received a permit from the Bulgarian Ministry of Education since 1944, and current Protestant Schools have existed on the grounds of tolerance and special permits via the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

The bills further exclude interjection with foreign missionaries who: (1) do not speak Bulgarian language and (2) do not have a formal education degree issued in Bulgaria. The will be further excluded by the legal procedure in place that will disallow their work to be supported from persons or organizations outside of Bulgaria.

The two bill drafts – one submitted by GERB, BSP (socialists) and DPS political parties, and the other one by the United Patriots – proposed amendments to the Religious Denominations Act of 2002. The changes united the ruling and opposition, but triggered criticism by the believers due to direct interference of the state in the salaries of clerics and ownership of church properties. The allocated subsidies by the state are seen as insufficient and highly controversial as government control over the funding of all churches. The bill further insists on banning all church donations from abroad as a government regulation and control.

The controversial provisions in the draft law will be subject to clarification by several appointed committees before voted at a second final reading by the Bulgarian Parliament. Churches across Bulgaria have petitioned against the new changes in the Law of Religion as they constitute:

  • Limitations on freedom of religion and speech
  • Merge church and state
  • Establish government control over preaching
  • Ban any missionary work and preaching in a foreign language
  • Halt international support for religious organizations
  • Removes meeting form rented closed properties
  • Legalizes discrimination on basis of religion and faith convictions

BREAKING: PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON FREE!

October 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

A Turkish court has ruled to release Pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson, who has been in Turkish custody since October 2016, will now be able to leave his home—where he’s been under house arrest for several months—and return to the United States. The ruling technically sentenced Brunson to three years in prison, but the lifting of the ban on his travel effectively means he has been freed.

LONG JOURNEY FOR ANDREW BRUNSON

He was accused of aiding in a failed coup attempt against Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, charges he has steadily denied. Reports from earlier this year suggested hishealth had deteriorated after he spent time in a “nightmare prison” within Turkey. Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment sparked a diplomatic conflict between the United States and Turkey, with Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump’s Twitter account all calling for Brunson’s release, while Erdoğaninsisted on a prisoner exchange.

Yesterday, NBC News reported there was a secret deal to grant the release of Andrew Brunson. The details of that deal remain unclear, but some observers assumeBrunson’s release will come with an easing of economic sanctions on Turkey, which has been in the midst of an economic crisis.

A STATEMENT FROM OPEN DOORS

Open Doors USA CEO David Curry said: “Open Doors USA is relieved to hear of Pastor Andrew Brunson’s release from house arrest to freedom. Turkey has done the right thing in allowing him to return to his home country. I applaud President Trump for the unrelenting pressure his administration applied to Turkey on this matter, in part through tariffs and sanctions. The president has rightly recognized that economic leverage can help bring positive change for human rights and can convey a powerful message of solidarity with oppressed religious minorities, especially persecuted Christians. In this case, it worked and was helpful in the release of an American Christian.

“Pastor Andrew Brunson was wrongly imprisoned for his faith and work as a Christian pastor. Turkey’s latest attack on faith, which underscores why the Open Doors World Watch List ranks it as the 31st most dangerous place to be Christian, is a clear message that religious minorities are increasingly imperiled in Turkey.”

WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US ON A PRAYER WALL OF THANKSGIVING!

Praise God that Pastor Andrew Brunson has been released! Praise God for working in the midst of an incredibly hard and complicated situation. Continue to lift up Christians in Turkey and elsewhere in the region who are still grappling with false charges and trying to worship and follow Jesus in an increasingly hostile environment.

52 DAYS AWAY

October 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

Polk County Christmas Parade Route Shadows the Footsteps of the Historic Cherokee Removal

October 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

The Georgia Road or present day Federal Road was a route of the Trail of Tears walked by the Cherokee people during the forced removal from their homelands. The Tellico Blockhouse was the starting point for the Old Federal Road. The route ran from Niles Ferry on the Little Tennessee River near the present day U.S. Highway 411 Bridge, southward into Georgia. The road continued southward via the Federal Trail connecting to the North Old Tellico Highway past the present site of Coltharp School, intersected Tennessee Highway 68 and passed the site of the Nonaberg Church. East of Englewood, Tennessee it continued on the east side of McMinn Central High School and crossed Highway 411 near the railroad overpass. Along the west side of Etowah, the road continued near Cog Hill and the Hiwassee River near the mouth of Conasauga Creek where there was a ferry near the site of the John Hildebrand Mill. From the ferry on the Hiwassee River, the road ran through the site of the present Benton, Tennessee courthouse. It continued on Welcome Valley Road and then crossed the Ocoee River at the Hildebrand Landing. From this point the road ran south and crossed U.S. Highway 64 where there is now the River Hills Church of God, formerly the Ocoee Church of God. Continuing south near Old Fort, the route crossed U.S. Highway 411 and came to the Conasauga River at McNair Landing. Near the south end of the village of Tennga, Georgia stands a historic marker alongside Highway 411, which states the Old Federal Road was close to its path for the next twenty-five miles southward. This is some 15 miles from the historic Chief Vann Plantation where the first Christmas celebration of the Cherokee People was held. It would have been at this point in Tennga that the Trail of Tears would have taken a turn onto GA-2 passing the Praters Mill near Dalton Georgia to connect in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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