The 95 Theses by Dr. Martin Luther

October 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News

luthertheses

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences Commonly Known as The 95 Theses by Dr. Martin Luther

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
  4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
  5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.
  6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.
  8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.
  9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.
  11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.
  12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.
  13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.
  14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.
  16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.
  17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.
  18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.
  19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.
  20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean “all” in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.
  21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope’s indulgences.
  22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.
  23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.
  24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.
  25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.
  26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).
  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.
  28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).
  30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.
  31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.
  32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
  34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental “satisfactions” decreed merely by man.
  35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.
  36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.
  37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.
  38. Yet the pope’s remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.
  40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men’s consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.
  41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.
  42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.
  43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.
  44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.
  45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope’s pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.
  46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.
  47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.
  48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.
  49. Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.
  50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.
  51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.
  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.
  53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.
  55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
  57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.
  59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.
  60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.
  61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.
  62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
  63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.
  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men.
  67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.
  68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.
  69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.
  70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.
  71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.
  72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant’s words.
  73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.
  74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.
  75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.
  76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope’s pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.
  77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].
  79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.
  82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.
  83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?
  84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love’s sake, and just because of its need of redemption.
  85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?
  86. Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?
  87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?
  88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.
  89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?
  90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.
  91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.
  92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “Peace, peace,” where in there is no peace.
  93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross.
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.
  95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

Religion Funding Law “Sad Reminder of Communist Past”

October 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

The leaders of Bulgaria’s three biggest political parties have drafted a bill on religious affairs that, if passed, would spell disaster for the country’s minority Catholic and Protestant Churches. Not only would the new law cut off State subsidies to confessions such as these that represent less than 1% of the population, but both funding from overseas and permissions for foreigners to celebrate religious services would be suspended as well, leaving the Catholic Church “in a very difficult situation”, in the opinion of Christo Proykov, Greek Catholic Bishop of Sofia and President of the Bulgarian Bishops.

As Radio Bulgaria reported last week, the bill – sponsored by the conservative GERB, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms – seeks to “prevent interference of foreign countries, institutions and persons into religions and religious affairs”. The real target of the draft law, though, is theagents of radical Islam, for which reason “placing all confessions under the same common denominator is an act of discrimination”, according to Atanas Slavov, Professor of Law at the University of Sofia.

In an interview with SIR, Proykov also called the draft legislation “discriminatory” and said it would “place some confessions in a privileged position to the detriment of others… left without vital financial support, especially donations from abroad”. Specifically, the only religions to benefit from the new proposal would be Orthodoxy and Islam, which represent 60% and 8% of the population respectively, compared to the Catholics, at 0.66%, and Protestants, at 0.87%. Beyond the funding, too, the stipulation that foreigners who wish to celebrate religious services be authorized by the Directorate of Religious Affairs “further complicates the situation”, according to Proykov, “as the majority of Catholic priests in Bulgaria are not Bulgarian citizens, and all priests, including Bulgarians, have completed their academic studies abroad because in Bulgarian there are no faculties of Catholic theology”.

“We cannot strip a confession of its rights just because it represents a minority”

Even though they would benefit from the new law – and that to the tune of some 7.5 million and 5 million euros in 2019, respectively – the Orthodox and the Muslims have also expressed reservations about the legislation, with Orthodox spokesman Father Nikolay Georgiev going so far as to hint at his denomination possibly sponsoring the Catholic Church in the future. “We cannot strip a confession of its rights just because it represents a minority”, said Georgiev. In the meantime, Slavov has urged politicians “to reflect” before making a final decision, recalling that “reaching a balance between national security and religious rights requires serious dialogue”, a point that requires even more attention now that Bulgaria holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Revealing himself to be “deeply worried” by the“dangerous and infelicitous” draft legislation, Proykov added: “The legislative proposal is a sad reminder of a bygone Communist past, which we believed would no longer return”. “The text of the draft law on religious communities has many controversial aspects that fail to take into account the particularities of each confession”, lamented the Bishop of Sofia.

Files of secret communist agents who spied on the Bulgarian Church now released

October 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication, Research

In recent attempts for legal transparency and reconciling with history, the Bulgarian government has begun releasing thousands of secret dossier files from the Communist era. While searching through tons of political and economical archive materials, the specially appointed Dossier Committee has been working on publishing a three-part volume containing dossier files on churches and religious communities. These top secret files now show how the communist regime persecuted virtually all faith organizations using information from a massive network of secret agents to infiltrate them within. Often appointed to key positions within the religious group, those agents procured the communist agenda to the smallest detail in securing a total control over believers and churches on part of the government. The first published volume dealt with the mainline Eastern Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, while the second volume published dossier files related to the Muslim religious community in the country.

The third volume, that was published just last week, contains information about more marginal religious group in Bulgaria in the period 1945-1990. Among them are not only protestant churches, which were officially registered by the Government, but also the unregistered and outlawed by the communist regime Bulgarian Church of God, which existed in the country since the early 1920s. This newest published volume contains over 800 pages of government information telling the story of how the Bulgarian Church of God was able to survive the extreme persecutions of the Regime. While the several hundred published dossier files marked top secret are only the tip of the iceberg, a number of interesting facts from the church’s history are obvious even at first glimpse. Some more prominent among them are:

  1. The beginning of the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria is described by the dossier files in detail around 1919-1921
  2. The beginning of the Bulgarian Church of God showed as a result from events that took place in 1922, 1926 and finally in 1928, thus giving the church its rightful place in history as a 90-year old religious organization
  3. The dossier files further contain detail information assembled by communist secret agents among the believers about the early structure, locations and operation of Church of God communities in Bulgaria
  4. The construction, process and results of the infamous Pastor Trial that took place in 1948-1949 and virtually beheaded Bulgaria’s evangelical denominations by putting their leadership of in prison labor camps
  5. The development of church organizations, service order, religious rituals as well as changes in church leadership are recorded from the early 1950-1960s and beyond
  6. Specific names of various mission organizations, some of which were closely watched by secret communist agents, including: Eastern European Slavic Mission, Underground Evangelism, Operation Mobilization, etc. Because of the government actions taken against them, their access to the country was highly restricted and at times completely banned
  7. Specific names of mission workers who first established contact with the Bulgarian Church of God in the 1980s are recorded, among which: Lambert Delong, Paul Lauster, Timothy (Tim) Cornet, etc. Most of them were closely watched by top secret communist agents who classified them as “enemy elements with destructive foreign agenda”.
  8. There are numerous mentions of agent pseudonyms and their government issued ID numbers who were ordered to identify, study and report on the organizational structure of the Church of God, its key leaders and their agenda toward the people of Bulgaria.
  9. Specific strategies were implemented regularly to keep the Bulgarian Church of God and its leaders in check such as:
    • stopping of church services for undefined periods of time
    • arrest of ministers and members to limit their ministry activity
    • anonymous letters to both family and church members in order to compromise key leaders who did not comply with government orders
    • “casual” street meetings with agents in order to compromise them before church members key church leaders as “informers”
    • attempts to assign one or more “turned” ministers or church members to keep a close watch on key leaders’ activities and report them to the government
    • ban on being hired to any other jobs except manual labor effective on ministers, their spouses and in many cases close relatives
    • ban on their children to attend certain schools
    • “Relocation sentences” – at least three known Church of God leaders in the 1980s were sentenced with relocation to labor camps with no visitors allowed for a period of three years
  10. Finally, these recently released top secret government dossier files contain the story of how the Bulgarian Church of God was able to survive the communist regime and enter a state of spiritual revival and continuous growth in the 1990s and beyond.

The hundred of pages with secret dossier files have shed light upon one of the hardest times of the Bulgarian Church of God in its 90-year long history. By the 1980s, the government persecution had successfully shrunk its membership to about 800 nationally banning it as an illegal sect. Its leaders were constantly called to “police talks” and given extremely restrictive “advisory notices” on how to perform their religious duties especially in regard to newcomers and minors. The simple explanation is that those government actions were purposed to destroy the Bulgarian Church of God and make it extinct. Until God Himself through a miracle took the Berlin Wall down…

There are a number of worrisome conclusions from this recently published volume. First, the 800 pages hardly cover everything that the Regime had done or was planning to do with the Church of God in Bulgaria. Secondly, from multiple documents dated in the 1990s, it becomes clear that the government agenda against the church did not stop with the Fall of the Berlin Wall; which raises a question of how many of its secret agents are still actively working against or within the Church of God in Bulgaria. Finally, now that these documents are legally available to the public, we have committed to study them in order to produce a detailed catalog of names, dates, places, which will provide a clearer picture of the ministry and development of the Bulgarian Church of God during the times when it was outlawed and persecuted by the communist regime.

Introduction

The documentary collection ‘State Security and Religions’ – Part III – ‘Protestant Church and religious sects’ is a volume of the sequence ‘From the archives of State Security’. It consists entirely of documents, kept in the Centralized Archive of the Committee for Disclosing the Documents and Announcing Affiliation of Bulgarian Citizens to the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian National Army.

State Security and religions is a theme which will always be debated in public and will always provoke researchers to seek new, unknown facts, which will enrich the recent historical past connected with the clergy in Bulgaria in the period 1944-1991.1

All religions and sects on the one hand, and the people’s power on the other hand, has their own specific relations established on the basis of the constitutions from 1947 and 1971, the Law on religious denominations2 dated 1949 and the influence of the State Security. The main mediator and connecting element in the relations between the religious communities and the state is the Religious Denominations Directorate, which at various points of the period under consideration passes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Council of Ministers and vice versa, depending on the role it has to play in solving a given issue. Of course, these relationships are well monitored by the State Security, which in most cases is at the right place and time.

The chronological approach is used in the arrangement of the documents. They are thematically divided into two chapters, and each one of them is separated into several subtopics. The first chapter of the collection includes general papers on Protestant denominations, the Slavic Mission, the Mission to evangelize the communist countries, the Church of God, Seventh-day Adventists, the Adventists – Reformers, the Baptists, the Congregational Church, the Methodist Church, the Pentecostal Church, and the Tinchevists.

The second chapter of the collection includes papers referring to the different sects and religious denominations such as: The White Brotherhood – Danovitsts, Ustabashev, The Bible Speaks, ISKCON3, the Jehovists, the Rose Cross, the Mormons and others.

It is quite logical that after September 9, 1944 the Evangelical denominations began to be seen as conductors of Western influence, and pastors and laymen – as agents of foreign intelligence. Thus, in a report on the work on Evangelical sects of August 1946 it is mentioned that American intelligence in Bulgaria attaches great importance to Evangelical denominations. ‘The American Intelligence uses the Evangelical denominations in its intelligence service the following way: for increased propaganda amongst the Evangelists of Americanism, carried out most diligently, regularly by the pastors of these churches, who are reactionary to the Fatherland Front, and in particular to the Communists. The pastors, who are mostly English and American alumni and adherents, innocently, and some of them and very badly, speak in their religious talks about the fight against the irreligious, fight against those who rule with violence, blood, terror and bring misfortune and darkness. In the sermons the pastors proclaim a crusade against socialism, uniting everything reactional on a religious basis.’ It is reported that ideologically and managerially, the Gospel denominations were until recently under the German governing board and then officially passed Society for Krishna Consciousness under American one. Thus, all their existence and activity is in the hands of the US intelligence. The report emphasizes that the State Security Service has found positive evidence that all pastors and individual leaders of the American Sects are zealous agents of the US intelligence, conductors of the American propaganda among the evangelicals, and ‘excellent intelligence collectors of different nature’. Based on the surveys and observations, it is clear that US intelligence pays close attention to youth organizations from which prospective agents may eventually be recruited. The opinion of the operative worker responsible for the Evangelical sects is that the sector is not well developed. State Security’s collaborators are very weak and small in number. The operational activities of agents have been reported as poor. From the observations made and the impressions obtained, the operative worker offers a set of activities for future work. An operative worker is to be commissioned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religions to closely monitor the administrative and political development of Evangelical denominations; collaborators to be recruited – pastors; to centralize the activities throughout the country and help to be provided. Measures are to be taken with regard to the restriction of the dissemination activity and propaganda, which can be done by not releasing paper to print their religious ‘scum’; restricting travels; more serious censorship of the newspaper ‘Zornitsa’; limiting Sunday schools (See Document No 4 of the Collection).

In an information bulletin of May 1948, it is mentioned that the propaganda by the Evangelists is conducted in a very subtle way. Foreign intelligence, the Anglo-American respectively, uses Evangelical missionaries and pastors to build spy networks in the military, political, and cultural sectors in countries where the Evangelism is spared (see Document No 9 of the Collection).

Given the fact that repeatedly in State Security documents, implications are made on the spy and propaganda activity of the pastors, it seems perfectly normal to start offensive activities against them. In a proposal for the realization of the development of Evangelical pastors who have been implicated in a currency-dollar affair and anti-popular spy activity of July 20, 1948, it is planned to detain those pastors entering the Supreme Council of Evangelists who have developed anti-national spy activity, and have informed foreign missions on the military and political status of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. Fifteen pastors have been detained, accused of ‘forming an intelligence network for the benefit of a foreign country’; ‘spreading malicious rumours and slander’; ‘making currency speculation’. The proposal for the closure of an investigative case of 5 January 1949 provides for the organization of a central public process with the participation of about twenty leaders of sects and the composition of the Supreme Council of the United Evangelical Churches. In addition to the central process, four separate sect processes should be organized in which the secondary actors are exposed and convicted. The persons to be included in the central process are identified as well (See Document No 18 of the Collection). By virtue of Sentence No 118 dated 8 March 1949, four life sentences are imposed against the Evangelical pastors; four sentences of fifteen years’ imprisonment; three – of ten years’ imprisonment, and others of varying lengths (See DVD Document No 26).

In a reference to the religious and hostile activity of the Protestant clergy and sects of May 1955, it was found that the objects which are in development for active religious activity are: ‘fanatics in their religious convictions and lead religious and hostile activity and propaganda against the People’s Power’. It is reported that the agents used for developing the objects are not trusted by them, as a result of which the collaborative apparatus in this respect is not able to provide complete development and monitoring. It is recorded in the document that after September 9, 1944, the Evangelical churches adopted an open course of irreconcilable struggle against the people’s power. Led by and inspired by imperialist intelligence, they create the ‘United Evangelical Church’, which is an organized anti-communist bloc for resistance of the people’s power (see Document No 28 of the Collection).

An important moment in the existence of Protestant churches in the country is their registration under Art. 16 of the Law on Religious Denominations, according to which: ‘The central governing bodies of religious denominations are obliged to register at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the governing bodies of the local divisions – at the local people’s councils, with the names of all the members of the same governing bodies’. In spite of the delay of several years, at the end of 1962, the Committee on Church Affairs, together with the People’s Councils Department at the Council of Ministers, issue an instruction for the registration of the Protestant sects and the White Brotherhood community, the Danovists.

Through a circular letter to all headquarters of the Ministry of Interior in the country dated 18 January 1963, the registration of religious sects is mentioned. The document informs that the Religious Affairs Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the People’s Councils Department at the Council of Ministers have come out with a circular letter, which provides instructions for the registration of the religious sects. It is warned that fraud attempts are possible and, when such ones are established, timely actions are to be taken (see Document No 30 of the Collection). Through an explanatory note on the final registration of the Protestant sects, information is given on how the re-registration will take place. It is mentioned that those who are not approved, cannot exist as church organizations in the future (see Document No 32 of the Collection).

In a 1972-1973 report on the implementation of the decisions of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party dated 24 January 1967 concerning the further improvement of the atheist work of the working people and the decisions of the Ministry of Interior management to organize the fight against the ideological penetration of the enemy, the crossing and compromising of the channels and the activities of the overseas religious centres and organizations operating against the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, actions have been undertaken. The purpose of these actions is to clarify the concepts, the forms of work, the channels of penetration and their links in the country. As a result, those who are investigated, expelled by the press, and missionaries expelled from the country are detained with their cars and a large number of different religious literature that were brought illegally – confiscated. Together with the events of the overseas headquarters and missionaries, there have also been such ones conducted with regard to their contact persons in the country. The more active clergymen are involved in measures to be compromised and discredited in front of the believers, others are exposed in the press, and others are being sued or deported. In order to limit and reduce the activity of religion, joint events are discussed and conducted with the Komsomol Town Committees, the Atheist’s Home, the Agitation and Propaganda Department at the CC of the BCP. Some good results are achieved in the recruitment of collaborators from the clergy and the leadership of the sects. Regardless of what has been achieved in the fight against the hostile activity of the ‘enemy and its accomplices in the country’, the religious community notes that the state of activities does not correspond the requirements. No more relevant offensive actions are not planned and conducted in this respect, in the center and in the districts to successfully penetrate the enemy’s headquarters and to uncover their plans and intentions in order to more effectively intercept their activities. A significant drawback in the activity of State Security is that it does not always and promptly respond to alerts. Insufficient resistance and limitations are rendered to the enhanced activity of churches in the country and their headquarters in the West, especially through the administrative authorities. In this respect, the measures taken by the Committee on Religious Affairs are extremely inadequate. Local councils do not feel authoritative in respect of religious activity. Religion as a ‘special issue’ in many cases the People’s Councils await initiative from above. It is believed that the Committee on Religious Affairs, which has the task to comply with the rules and norms of the party and the power of the churches, is the only body with the most correct and competent authority in these matters. The initiative and the assistance of this committee is in most cases to clarify the ‘broken interests’ of the churches or to counteract actions aimed at lowering religious activity. The conceptual and political anti-religious and educational work of the institutes and organizations that should be engaged in this type of activity is insufficiently consistent and active. The decisions of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party for atheistic education of the working people are fulfilled (see Document No 42 of the Collection).

A report on more characteristic manifestations among religious sects in the territory of the Veliko Turnovo region of March 14, 1979, it is noted that ‘ religious activity and hostile manifestations along in this respect, are in close connection with the ideological diversion’. It is mentioned that, at the request of the State Security, the Regional People’s Council rejected the registration of sects, which nevertheless continue to work and develop religious activity. The reason for expanding its activity the following is stated: natural growth of believers; migration of population; attracting new members, including those with health problems. ‘ Their perseverance and fanaticism is characteristic and proverbial in attracting and imposing their beliefs on relatives. Their tactics is a struggle to end to win and fanaticise every close persons and targeted candidate. They work on a few people, but they act hard, individually, and in groups by all means. In this way members of the sects, though difficult, become mostly whole families.’ The report notes that ‘religious activities by the sects include elements of crime and illegality. They consist mainly of working on a conspiracy basis, collecting money, seeking, acquiring, reproducing and distributing incriminated literature.’ It is reported that ‘the religious sects in the county under the leadership of pastors and activists assisted morally and materially by overseas headquarters, intensify their activity to gain the awareness of still unassimilated young people. They keep harmful psychosis and create turmoil.’ (See Document No 50 of the Collection)

 In a report on the check carried out at the Regional Office of the Ministry of Interior – Burgas regarding the reactionary clergy, it was found that the main directions of the strategy of the overseas religious reaction organizations was the subversive ideological diversion against the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. The main task of the ‘World Council of Churches’; ‘The Vatican’; ‘Slavic Religious Mission; ‘Surreptitious Evangelism’ and ‘Mission to Evangelize the Communist Countries’ is to expand the influence of religion among the people in order to ‘crush their consciousness and deviate them from the struggle for social justice and peace.’4

 In a reference regarding the operational situation under the department 03, management 06 State Security dated May 1982, it is mentioned that the religious sects in Bulgaria begin their existence in the country since the end of the nineteenth century. They are founded by Western religious centers, mostly American missionaries, as their affiliates with a view to exert political influence in favor of the Western countries. The sects in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria have 161 prayer homes, served by 150 pastors and preachers, and about 18,000 believers. Recognized by the Law on religious denominations and in a state of tolerance (no legal rights) are the sects: The Pentecostal Church, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Congregational Church, the Baptists, the Methodists, and the White Brotherhood. In addition to these, the Adventists-Reformers, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Tinchevists, and others exist illegally and their activities are forbidden.

The Protestant sects in the country are self -funded. Most of them raise funds from donations in the form of a ‘collecting- plate’.5 Only the Seventh- day Adventists and the Adventists-Reformers collect ‘tithe‘ from the believers. All sects are well-funded and have high incomes that give them the opportunity to pay good wages to their employees. Characteristic of the sects is their active religious activity and to pursuit young people to become members of various religious communities. To this end, they bring up-to- date and modernize methods and forms of operation by organizing youth services for studying the Bible, tourist trips, excursions, etc. It has been reported that in recent years, the activation of the Protestant sects under the influence of the western reactionary religious centers, such as the ‘The Slavic Mission’, ‘The Mission to evangelize the communist countries’, ‘The International Federation of Free Evangelical Churches’, ‘Operation Mobilization’ ‘The Jehovah’s Center – Brooklyn’ and others. The cross-border centers use the possibilities of the expanded international tourist and cultural exchange by sending their emissaries, large amounts of religious and other propaganda literature, cash, invitations to attend or visit their institutes and schools of theology.6

In a report on the implementation of the joint plan of Office VI – State Security with the KGB and the other fraternal security authorities for 1983 it is mentioned that there is still increasing activity of the overseas religious centres for penetration, influence and activation of the religious communities in the country. The international tourist exchange, the mass media, etc., are used for rendering an ideological impact on Bulgarian citizens. Through them, under the guise of religion, ideas are being directed to incite religious people in the country to anti-social events. There are requests for the free circulation of religious literature from the West to introduce religious education in schools and religious broadcasts on the radio and the television.7

Apart from documents about the Protestant churches, there are also purely Bulgarian, religious- philosophical trends like the ‘White Brotherhood – the Danovists’. After September 9, 1944, the ‘White Brotherhood – the Danovists’ continues to lead an organizational life, and the State Security points out: ‘The religious activity of the sect is expressed in the dissemination of religious literature, concerts, attracting new members, etc. The total number of members of the sect does not exceed 5000 people’8 (See Document No 130 of the Collection). The pressure over the ‘White Brotherhood’ is most noticeable in 1957 when, after an approved proposal by the Chief Prosecutor of the Republic, a search was made in the premises belonging to the Danovists, as well as in the homes of their famous and active representatives throughout the country. The purpose of the authorities is to seize all incriminated literature, including those written by Peter Danov, to seize all types of typewriters, cyclostyles, and others used to reproduce the doctrine (see Document 133 of the Collection). In a document of 1958 it is noted that even after the seizure of a great number of literature, there is still one to be confiscated. It is reported that the sect holds an official religious and open or disguised enemy activity. The official religious activity consists mainly of speaking, distributing ‘Danov’s’ literature, performing concerts, organizing outings. The open anti-popular activity is reported to be hostile propaganda – predicting the end of the people’s rule, starting a world war, and so on. (See Document No 140 of the Collection). From a report about the financial audit carried out it is understood that it was initiated based on a proposal of the State Security. From the excerpted facts of the revision, it is proposed to be brought to court persons dealing with the finances of the Danovists, to confiscate the real estate owned by the ‘White Brotherhood’, to publish the ‘criminal activity of the heads of the sect’ in the press, to begin to compromise their leadership (see Document No 142 of the Collection). Despite the pressure exerted, the ‘White Brotherhood – the Danovists’, continues to exist and carries out their own religious convocation. Indicative of this is the one organized in 1974 in the region of Aitos, despite the ban on its conduct by the local authorities of the state power (See Document No 145 of the Collection).

***

The documents used in the collection are from the archive of the Ministry of Interior (АКРДОПБГДСРСБНА – М) and from the archive of the National Intelligence Service (АКРДОПБГДСРСБНА – Р). The documents from the Ministry of Interior are from Fund 1 – Secretariat, Fund 2 – storing documents of the Second General Office (counterintelligence), Fund 13 – documents of the former Third Office – State Security fighting the inner counterrevolution, Fund 22 – documents of Fourth Office of State Security fighting against the ideological diversion, counterrevolutionary, nationalistic and other anti-state activities in the country as well as cases, developments and documents from the historical archive from the headquarters and the regional directorates. The documents from the National Intelligence Service (FGO-SS) are from Fund 4, personal files of individuals accounted by FGO-SS, as well as the so called special files, not included in the archive9.

The number of the documents in the collection is 115, and those included in the extended electronic version (DVD) are 248. The selection is made up of over 490 archival units and over 40 files of individuals, most of them multi-volume. The list of documents follows their original titles. Each title contains a brief annotation and a description of the document’s data of claim. When there is no date on the document, the quoted date in brackets is in line with that of the adjacent documents or other sources relevant to the historical event in question. In fulfillment of the requirements of the Law on Disclosing the Documents and Announcing Affiliation of Bulgarian Citizens to the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian National Army, in documents containing information about third parties it has been deleted. The Reference Mechanism of the edition includes: a list of the most important abbreviations and a list of the funds and archival units used.

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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