Call for action: Help the Bulgarian church stop the government bill restricting religious freedom

November 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News

How can you help:

  • Share with your church for prayer
  • Forward this email to your denominational overseer or state representative
  • Share on social media and add the “Pray for Bulgaria” banner to your profile by clicking on the following link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=496782854163381

After a month of protesting in front of the Bulgarian parliament, this week the Bulgarian church is bracing for the new legislation on religious freedom proposed by Parliament. The second and final vote on this highly restrictive law is scheduled to take place without any further discussions. Since the legal provision was proposed by three political groups, there is no one in parliament to oppose it and except a miracle occurs it will enter in power immediately.

If this restrictive bill becomes part of the law religion in Bulgaria, virtually ALL protestant evangelical churches will be required to register ANEW with the government. Currently, a new church registration with the Sofia capital court takes 6-8 weeks. IF ALL 178 denominations in Bulgaria have to register again at the same time, the court will be overwhelmed with the extra work and may take months to issue new registrations. Since a new registration will require the denomination to have a minimum of 3,000 members, an extra time for gathering membership lists will be required as well. To initiate a registration, the court must receive membership roll of 3,000+ signed with their names, addresses and social security numbers (!)

  • WHILE registrations are pending, all buildings and otherwise properties of each denomination will be in a legal limbo. Under the new law, the old legal entity of the church cannot own properties. At the same time, the new church entity cannot own properties until registered anew. Thus ALL church properties remain without an owner and thus CANNOT be OPERATED as a church, temple or sanctuary for services and meetings until Sofia capital court examines, deliberates, approves and hopefully rules in favor of each new registration.
  • MINISTERS under the new legislation cannot minister in open air meetings. Yet at the same time, until receiving a new court registration they cannot legally minister in the current church buildings either. Even upon obtaining a new registration, a list of church buildings and active ministers will have to be approved to the Directorate of Religious Affairs for a final expert approval.
  • Support for both ministers and churches from outside of Bulgaria will remain under highly restrictive guidelines in limited amounts, government taxation and various agencies’ oversight. This proposes a major problem to some 90% of evangelical churches in Bulgaria, which rent auditoriums since not owning their own buildings and relay on international support to pay for the high operational cost.

Finally, there is the question of religious education in Bulgaria. Only religious groups who represent over 1% of Bulgaria’s seven million population will be allowed to have their own religious schools. All evangelical Protestants in Bulgaria do NOT represent over 1% of the population of the country. Under the new legislation, as it stands, they will NOT be able to operate their own schools. For example, the Church of God college and seminary in Bulgaria has been already inactive since 2009. If this current legislation passes and remains active for even a decade, a whole generation of Bulgarian ministers will have no opportunity to obtain any Bible education and ministerial training whatsoever; which basically guarantees the permanent decapitation of the evangelical movement in Bulgaria.

IF the new bill becomes part of the law by the end of November, it will make it virtually impossible for evangelical churches to hold services on the following Sunday.

For this reason, many evangelicals in Bulgaria are set to hold a three-day national fast and yet another (forth) open air protest on Sunday as they may not be legally permitted to meet for a church service under the new law.

ACT NOW:

  • Share with your church for prayer
  • Forward this email to your denominational overseer or state representative
  • Share on social media and add the “Pray for Bulgaria” banner to your profile by clicking on the following link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=496782854163381

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM UNDER ATTACK in BULGARIA (CBN/DayStart video)

November 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

If this new legislation gets voted by Parliament, it will immediately affect virtually all evangelical churches in Bulgaria in the following manner:

(1) Over 95% of the congregations, which do not own their own church buildings will be forced to stop services until they purchase or build one approved by the government. For the majority of them, this requirement will mean their end of existence

(2) Some 1,000+ small congregations, which represent the last buffer between Europe and Islam and meet in temporary buildings in the Gipsy ghettos will be virtually outlawed

(3) Without any external support at the verge of a heavy winter, many evangelical churches in Bulgaria will be forced to close doors simply for not being able to pay their cost of operation

UPDATE: Christians in Bulgaria continue to protest over new law

CBN: Evangelical Christians Praying Against a Serious Threat in Bulgaria

Christianity Today: Bulgaria Considers Religious Restrictions

On November 11th, 18th and 25th all evangelical churches in Bulgaria are openly protesting in the streets a new restrictive bill on religion, which allows government control over churches across the country as follows:

(1) Funding, which does not originate from Bulgaria will become illegal

(2) All denominations must present before the court a list of the names of at least 3,000 members or have their government registration revoked and services stopped

(3) All church services must be held in government approved buildings, not rented auditoriums, open air or even private homes

(4) All denominations must submit a list with the names of their ministers to be allowed legally to preach

(5) It is illegal to evangelize minors under the age of 18

Video from the protests and LIVE coverage here: http://cupandcross.com/protest/

Dr. Dony K. Donev
http://cupandcross.com/

Read more here: 

• EEA calls to action in support of the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance

• Religion Funding Law “Sad Reminder of Communist Past”

• New Controversial Law on Religion to be Voted in Bulgaria

• Bulgarian law to ban all foreign preachers

• New Bill of Religions Bans Foreign Support for Churches in Bulgaria

• Bulgarian evangelicals alarmed by restrictive and discriminative bill on faith minorities

BLACK FRIDAY SALE of Bulgarian Democracy Looking over the Wall

November 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

You can now understand the Bulgarian post-Communist mentality in 21st century described in Looking Over the Wall: A Psychological Exploration of Communist and Post Communist Bulgaria

This book is the result of over a decade of research and personal experiences of living in Bulgaria for the past seven years. It embodies documents, articles, personal interviews and essays dealing with psychological explorations of communist and post communist Bulgaria. Along with a historical overview of Bulgaria, the author presents the development of psychotherapy throughout the country and addresses future concerns for the state of counseling within a post communist context. Furthermore, the author examines the Pentecostal experience of the Bulgarian evangelical believer drawing on a paper presented at the 36th annual Society of Pentecostal Studies Conference. As well included is original research which develops a theoretical account of the sequences of internal motivation in addition to student survey results regarding counseling practices from the first Master’s in Chaplaincy Ministry Program in Europe at the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute.

All books by Cup&Cross on SALE

Final clearance sale for the year with new titles coming up in early 2019

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Evangelical Protest Against New Religious Law in Bulgaria

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

Christian Greetings,

On November 11, 2018 all evangelical protestant churches in Bulgaria, along with representatives of the Catholic Church and other Christian communities, joined together before the Bulgarian Parliament in the capital Sofia in an open protest against a new religious law. The government restrictions imposed by this new religious bill, which will be voted soon is outlined below. Also included with this email is the open letter by the president of the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance to evangelical organization around the globe for their prayers and support.

(1) Funding which does not originate from Bulgaria will become illegal

(2) All sermons / messages must be preached in Bulgarian only. Using other languages in a sermon will be illegal (as funny as this may sound though it is now a serious legal matter, the bill makes no provisions for the Pentecostal faith the practice of which includes speaking in other tongues)

(3) Preachers / speakers must have mandatory Bulgarian education (exact level of education is not specified in the bill)

(4) Sermons cannot be against any legally established formulations i.e. governmental issues, political establishment, gender and lifestyle definitions. Preaching against other faiths will be considered extreme/fanatic characterization

(5) Buildings, except specifically registered for liturgical purposes (i.e. temple, sanctuary, etc.), cannot be used for church services. Church services cannot be held in homes or private properties

(6) Minors (individuals under the age of 18) cannot be evangelized / proselytized

(7) New church registration cannot be obtained legally through a court any longer. They will be a subject of local municipalities only after approval from the government Directorate of Religious Affairs and must have a minimal membership of 300 people

(8) Open air events are subject to points (3), (4) and (6) above. They can be held only on special holidays after an explicit permit from the local government. The use of sound systems is explicitly forbidden

(9) Government subsidizing for pastoral salaries remains unclear for faith confessions under 1% of the general population. Currently, all evangelical denominations in Bulgaria do not add to even 1% of the population

(10) If the legal provision is accepted on November 16, 2018, it will include fines under the new law as following: 5,000-10,000 Euros for first offense, 10,000-20,000 Euros for second offense, of buildings and banning of the entire denomination.

Sincerely,

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

Read more here

Rodney Howard-Browne in the Church of God Ministry Center in Bulgaria

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

The Bulgarian Church of God Celebrates its 90th Anniversary

November 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Research

Excerpt from “Spirit-Empowerment of the Poor in Spirit: Dr. Nicholas Nikolov and the Establishment of the Bulgarian Assemblies of God in 1928” presented at the Missions & Intercultural Studies Interest Group, 47th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (Lee University, 2018)

In 2018, the Pentecostal Union in Bulgaria is celebrating 90 years since its establishment. The organization of the Bulgarian Assemblies would have been impossible without the leadership of Dr. Nicholas Nikolov. But while Nikolov successfully fulfilled the mission set by the American Assemblies of God, the larger part of Bulgaria’s young Pentecostal movement remained unregistered and mainly underground. Recently published intelligence reports by the Communist Regime propaganda placed the beginnings of the Bulgarian Church of God in 1922-1924 – much earlier than the separation from the officially organized Pentecostal churches. The establishing meeting of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union in 1928 simply reaffirmed the already existing division among Bulgarian Pentecostals and the beginning of the Bulgarian Church of God. The year 2018 rightly marks its 90th anniversary

Unregistered Pentecostal Churches and the Underground Bulgarian Church of God 

The larger majority of Pentecostal churches in Bulgaria remained reluctant to join the Pentecostal Union with particular skepticism toward registering with the government in 1928. Many perceived the new organization with 20 members led by Nikolov as betraying the original Pentecostal message brought by Zaplishny and Voronaev. As the older Pentecostals in the country saw it, a young man sent from America, took a dozen of believers and formed a new organization – nothing others have not done before him.

Almost immediately a prophetic word was given to Spas Stefanov,[1] in whose Sofia home Pentecostal meetings were held. The prophecy was from the book of Isaiah 8:10-12:  Say ye not, a confederacy[2] [union], to all them to whom this people shall say, a confederacy [union]; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

No more than a fortnight later, the largest recorded earthquake in Bulgaria occurred and was immediately seen as divine confirmation; especially when taking under account, that its epicenter in Chirpan, and the close-by Plovdiv and Mirichlery, were renowned cities of Pentecostal Evangelical work at the time. The effect was much like the Great Earthquake of San Francisco during the Azusa Street Revival. Another confirmation to the prophecy was seen during the following winter when the Black Sea froze right at the headquarters of the newly established Pentecostal Union in Bourgas.

With a confirmed prophecy in hand, the majority opposing the new organization was lead by the seven presbyters ordained personally by Dionisey Zaplishny during his first visit in Bulgaria. They accented on the leadership and gifts of the Spirit in the unregistered (free) churches without manmade organization and order. Most of the groups that united around them were in Northern Bulgaria in the cities of Pleven, Lovetch, Etropole, Vratsa, Vidin, Montana, Nikopol, Troyan, and village churches near Ruse, Razgrad and Yambol. Presbyter Stoyan Tinchev formed and led the largest group among them, which grew into an underground movement during the Communist Regime and formed the Church of God in Bulgaria.

Boris Grozdanov, who held direct communication and was personally visited by Swedish Pentecostal evangelist Axel B. Lindgren, led groups in Verdikal/Bankya near Sofia, Pernik (both places visited often by Zaplishney) and Razlog.[3] Many more were located in Southern Bulgaria, between Stara Zagora and the Turkish border at Malko Tarnovo, led by Ivan Broshovsky of Yambol.

[1] Father of pastor Toma Spasov, who was sentenced and deported in the 1980s by the Communist Regime with two other Church of God pastors for leading unregistered underground churches.

[2] Translated in the Bulgarian Bible as “union” and resembling the newly established Pentecostal Union.

[3] Letter from Lindgren instructed him to hold the pure teaching and stay out of organized religion. Recorded December 14, 1930 in Protocol 14 of Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Evangelical Pentecostal Churches in Bulgaria (Personal archive of the author).

Recommended Reading:

  1. Autobiography of Pastor Dionisey Zaplishny (cir. 1927)
  2. Dinko Zhelev, former president of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union (personal archives)
  3. Diulgerov, D.V. (with statistical data submitted by Dr. Nicolas Nikolov) in Annual Publication of the Theological Faculty at Sofia University – Sofia, 1932
  4. Donka Kinareva: Family Chronicles by J. Markov (unpublished)
  5. Joseph Gourbalov, Birth and Early Historical and Theological Development of the Baptist Movement in Bulgaria, 2002
  6. Letter from Axel B. Lindgren to Boris Grozdanov (April 10, 1930)
  7. National Archive Records, Ruse – Bulgaria (Archive collection, F319K)
  8. Nikolov, Nicolas and Martha. Ministerial files, personal papers and family correspondence (1924-28)
  9. Paul Gourbalov, Birth and Development of the Evangelical Pentecostal Movement in Bulgaria (manuscript)
  10. Travel Diary of Marry Zaplishna (cir. 1924)

You are LEE

November 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News