LATEST from BULGARIA: Freedom of religion is a fundamental right of all European Union citizens

December 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions

  • Second vote on the proposed legislation was postponed for December, 2018 though current draft still infringes harsh restrictions on religious freedom
  • Protestant protests have continued for over a month in several cities on November 11, 18, 25, December 2 and now scheduled for December 9, 2018

SOURCE: Evangelical Focus – SOFIA, December 2018

Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) of the European Christian Political Movement have expressed their concern towards the proposed legislation titled “Bill for the Amendment and Supplement of the Law on Religions” currently progressing through the National Assembly, Bulgaria’s Parliament.

On November 27, the MEP’s said they were “uncertain about the proposed law that has the potential to significantly interfere with religious freedom in Bulgaria”. “In recent weeks, they have been made aware of a growing disquiet from a broad range of Christian communities in Bulgaria regarding the possible negative impact of this proposed law on Christian life”, said the movement of European politicians formed by committed Christians faith.

In their letter to Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, the members of the ECPM wrote: “Freedom of religion and belief is considered a fundamental right of all EU citizens and a pillar of European democracy. We thoroughly believe that the wellbeing of Bulgarian people and development of Bulgarian society is your uttermost priority. Our experience from the nations we represent shows that respect for the principle of non-discrimination of Christians of every denomination always results in a harmonious and prosperous society.”

The organisation encourages the Bulgarian legislators to “take these arguments into account and consider necessary steps that will safeguard the rights of religious minorities living in Bulgaria”. The letter was sent to the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, with a plea for intervention in this matter too.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE ADDRESSED BY ADF AND BULGARIAN CHURCHES

Two days later, On November 29, advocacy group ADF International and a coalition of Bulgarian churches “filed a formal request with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe that he initiates a review of a proposed Bulgarian Law on Religious Denominations currently being debated in the Bulgarian Parliament”, the group said. “The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, would carry out the review”. Lorcán Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International, added: “Nobody should be deprived of their fundamental right to religious freedom. As the European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the past, the government should not engage in ‘picking favourites’ when it comes to churches”.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN BULGARIA

On December 1, the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance (BEA) issued the following statement summarizing the situation at that point:

The Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance continues to express concern in regards of the Religious Denominations Act amendments planned by the Parliament. Earlier this year, two drafts were coined out and later merged into one proposed legislation. It contained a number of disconcerting restrictions, including impeding clergy training; strict filtering of international donations to churches; limitations on sermon content; restraining liturgy to designated buildings; obstructing non-Bulgarians’ ministry; membership of 300 for legal registration; allowing special privileges to religious groups over one percent of the population.

The lawmakers’ initiative triggered a massive public outcry. Every faith group in Bulgaria issued a statement of objection. The BEA and communities like Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists and Evangelical denominations mobilized church members for public protests on November 11, 18 and 25. These peaceful vigils were called “prayer rallies” and were held in a dozen Bulgarian towns. The third protest, the largest so far having some 3,000 people in Sofia, was covered by every media in the country. The Evangelical rallies were accompanied by statements of groups of academicians and public figures, as well as by several legal rights associations.

After a Parliamentary workgroup deliberated on Oct.14, some of the initial proposals were withdrawn. Two days later, a new version of the amendments was published on the Bulgarian Parliament’s webpage. In the new document, the lawmakers had conceded some initial provisions like restricting worship only to designated buildings, filtering international sponsorship, limiting foreigners’ ministry, disallowing religious schools. However, other problematic provisions remained.

The Nov.16 version of the draft increased tenfold the threshold for registering a religious group: at least 3,000 members! This is an act of discrimination against minority groups. Apparently, the lawmakers’ intention is to severely cut the number of legal faith groups in Bulgaria (currently, 183 registered religions in the country). Even though there was an oral commitment that this article would not be used with reverse force, there is another one according to which a legally recognized religion might lose its registration if it fails to abide by the new requirements. A prominent installment is the provision that a private real estate could automatically become property of the religion using it by a prescriptive right. Once again, clergymen and missionaries wishing to be involved in liturgy or worship will have to register with the state or else risk penalty.

Ten days after the first meeting of the workgroup, a second one was held on Nov.23. Representatives of various religious groups were invited. The lawmakers made more oral promises for concessions, including: dropping the requirement for registration to 200 members; rewriting the text so that it would not have a reverse strength; canceling the prohibition of worship outside designated buildings. Once again, no written record was provided of the group’s deliberations. No document was submitted into Parliament documenting these concessions. Instead, it was made clear that every preliminary version of the proposed legislation would enter parliamentary deliberations. This understanding leads us to be seriously concerned that some of the commitments taken during the workgroup discussions may in fact be ignored by MPs during the bill’s final voting.

The BEA also expresses anxiety regarding the procedure of how the new legislation was handled by Bulgarian lawmakers. Whereas the normal logic of new legal instalments would mean first a consultation with the religious groups affected, and only then submitting the bill for reading at Parliament, in this instance our decision makers adopted a reverse series of steps. First, two new drafts (with different agendas) were pushed in Parliament; then they were factitiously united into one bill with amendments; and only then was a work group of interested parties invited to the table to discuss provisions that were completely unacceptable, before submitting the document for 2nd reading by MPs.

By this point, BEA concerns have been shared and reiterated by a number of European and global religious and legal rights entities, including

  • the World Evangelical Alliance, the European Evangelical Alliance,
  • international denominational bodies (Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, and others),
  • the Conference of European Churches,
  • the USCIRF,
  • Advocates Europe,
  • Transform Europe Network,
  • Norway’s Stefanus Alliance and Helsinki Committee,
  • the European Christian Political Movement,
  • ADF International, etc.

On Tuesday, Nov.27, a week prior to its 17th general assembly in Brussels, the European Christian Political Movement sent a letter to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. The address expressed uncertainty “about the proposed law that has the potential to significantly interfere with religious freedom in Bulgaria.” The letter was also sent to Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, with a plea for intervention.

On Nov.29, ADF International and a coalition of Bulgarian churches filed a request with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to initiate a review of the proposed Religious Denominations Act. The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, has been involved to carry out a review of the legislation.

The BEA appeals on the common sense of the Bulgarian authorities. The freedoms of belief, word, and meeting are fundamental rights. We remind our politicians that in a free and democratic society they are called to defend fundamental rights, rather than introduce arbitrary and dubiously motivated restrictions. By claiming these freedoms and upholding the dignity of the Bulgarian nation, we urge the Parliament to withdraw all proposed amendments to the Religious Denominations Act.

BULGARIAN PASTOR WILL SPEAK AT EU PARLIAMENT EVENT

This week, a board member of the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance will tak part in an event at  the European Parliament in connection to celebrating 70 years since the signing of “The Universal Declaration for Human Rights”, back on December 10, 1948. Reverend Daniel Topalski will attend the sessions planned for December 4-6 in the European Parliament. He will take part in a panel discussion on basic human rights, and he will use the opportunity to speak up about the situation in Bulgaria. Pastor Topalski is head of the Methodist Church in Bulgaria, and a representative of the BEA in the EEA.

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

CLICK the picture below to view all titles on Amazon.com

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.

READ ALSO:

The Nehemiah Experience: Devil, did you hear, I done built the wall!

September 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

2018 Revival Harvest Campaign: The Nehemiah Experience

Nehemiah 1: Who cries, fasts and prays for the desolated church?

Nehemiah 2: Dear, devil, I am back!

Nehemiah 3: 12 gates of Jerusalem

Nehemiah 4: Devil, did you hear, I done built the wall…
(1)Time to enter through the Door
(2) Time for junk no more
(3) Time to wage war

Calling on the Nehemiah Generation

Strangers will come in the Church
And the walls need to be fortified…

Bulgarian evangelicals alarmed by restrictive and discriminative bill on faith minorities

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

All ministers of faith minorities representing less than 1% of the population “would be required to be Bulgarian citizens, having graduated theology in this country”

Bulgaria could soon strongly restrict the freedoms of all minority faith groups representing less than 1% of the population. If the bill changing the “Religious Denominations Act” of 2002 is passed, evangelical Christians and other groups would not be allowed to have foreign ministers leading their religious services. In addition, “the state is implementing restrictions over international donations and is placing itself in a position to control any training of ecclesiastic leadership.”  The new law “is supposedly aiming to limit and filter attempts for radical influence”, but it would end up reinforcing the power of the two majority religions: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Islam.

“Should an Evangelical denomination want to train its clergy, the only academic education allowed would be either in a national Eastern Orthodox academy, or in a Muslim school.”  Several Christian faith minorities have already issued statements demanding political parties to open an honest dialogue with the confessions.

What are the changes that are being introduced in the “Religious Denominations Act”?

In the first days of May, 2018, two new bills were submitted in Parliament regarding Bulgaria’s Religious Law. The first one was put forward by the three largest political parties (one in power; and two in opposition); while the second bill was coined by the United Patriots (an alliance of nationalistic groups participating in the country’s government). The most disconcerting one is the first bill. It was drafted by the pro-European governing party GERB and their parliamentary rivals of the Socialist Party and the pro-Muslim Movement for Rights and Freedoms. This bill claims its goal to “prevent interference of foreign countries, institutions and persons into [national] religious affairs”. The document proposed several changes to the existing 2002 Act: only religious communities having at least 1% of the population would have a right to state subsidy; all clerics would be required to be Bulgarian citizens, having graduated theology in this country; any financing of religious institutions from abroad would wither be banned or filtered by the state Committee of Religious Denominations. In this way, the state is implementing restrictions over international donations and is placing itself in a position to control any training of ecclesiastic leadership. By limiting state subsidies and religious education only to religious groups over one percent, the new law is imposing an unjustifiable governmental favoritism. The only entities thus qualifying would be the Easter Orthodox Church and the Muslim religion.

Atanas Slavov, Professor of Law at the University of Sofia, went on record to say about this one-percent limitation that “placing all confessions under the same common denominator is an act of discrimination”. Groups that are discriminated against with this bill, include all Protestant denominations, the Catholic church, the Armenian church, and the Jewish minority, among others.

Catholic bishop Hristo Proykov commented for Patheos website: “The legislative proposal is a sad reminder of a bygone Communist past, which we believed would no longer return”.

Is there a fear in Bulgaria about foreign organisations influencing religious groups in Bulgaria and gaining influence?

With the current refugee situation in Europe, and with our country responsible for the Union’s outside borders, there have been all sorts of disturbing rumors and instilled fears about our way of life and our children’s future. Broadcasting agencies and the social media regularly feed us with information about terrorist threats, religious overtaking and ethnic reshaping of the continent’s culture and values.

In addition, Bulgaria is probably the state with the highest number of Muslims per capita in the European Union. According to estimates from 2017, Muslims are about 15 percent of the country’s population. However, for many decades the relations between Muslims and Christians in Bulgaria have been peaceful and mutually respectful. On a local level, people have lived together, celebrating each other’s cultural and ethnic traditions. The government’s concern in suggesting those restrictive measures, apparently, is that there have been endeavors on behalf of Islamic fundamental groups to infiltrate some Muslim communities in Bulgaria. Based on such anxieties, the new law is supposedly aiming to limit and filter attempts for radical influence.

How would these legal changes affect evangelical churches in Bulgaria in practice?

According to the 2011 national census, all Evangelical Christians in Bulgaria comprise of 43,000 or less than 1% of the population . This means that with the implementation of the new law, Protestants will be deprived on several levels. In fact, it is our belief that Protestants are actually more than one percent of Bulgaria’s population. But this is a whole different conversation.

There are at least five areas how this new bill would inspire discrimination if voted for:

  1. The motives of the new bill include the argument that it aims “to stop all activities… that are aimed against the national security, the social order, the public health and moral”. This claim indirectly implies that all religious groups comprising less than one percent of the population are a threat to the national security
  2. Only groups over 1% will be eligible to receive state subsidy for restoration of church buildings. In this aspect, all Protestant churches are immediately scratched off.
  3. Any religious entity that does not meet the one percent criterion, will not be allowed to open its own theological school, and accordingly will not be able to issue any academic certificates to its graduating students. Moreover, their clergy will not have a permission to study theology abroad. In other words, according to the new bill, should an Evangelical denomination want to train its clergy, the only academic education allowed would be either in a national Eastern Orthodox academy, or in a Muslim school! The St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, in Sofia, Bulgaria. / Pixabay (CC0)
  4. No foreign sponsorship will be allowed to any religious organization to pay salaries to their clergy or their religious staff. The only way donations will be allowed from abroad is if they meet two requirements: the purpose of the funding can only be towards building construction or social aid; the donation itself will need a preliminary permission issued by the state Committee of Religious Denominations! In other words, no outside sponsorship will be allowed to enter Bulgaria for the operation of Christian-run medical centers, for educational activity, for publishing, for cultural events, for small business, for volunteer initiatives, etc
  5. Only citizens of Bulgaria will be allowed to perform religious duties. The only way a foreigner (a missionary, a preacher, a teacher, an evangelist, etc.) could conduct a worship service or preach a sermon would be if he is doing this jointly with a Bulgarian minister.

Are evangelical churches talking to the Bulgarian government or political parties about possible amendments or lines of dialogue to soften the consequences of such a law?

Part of our objection was that absolutely no attempts were made on behalf of the politicians to consult any religious group in regard to this new bill. The same sentiment has been shared by the Armenian community, the Jewish minority, the Apostolic Nunciature of the Catholic Church. The speaker of the Orthodox Holy Synod father Nikolay Georgiev announced that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church does not agree any minority should be deprived of their rights, and that the BOC is ready to defend other denominations’ just religious cause. Soon after the proposed bill was pushed, a number of Christian churches in the country issued declarations of protest.

Denominational positions were officially published by the United Methodist Church, the Bulgarian Baptist Union, the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance, the Central Israelite Religious Council, the Catholic Church in Bulgaria, the National Alliance “United Churches of God”, the National Council of Religious Communities in Bulgaria, as well as various civil rights organizations.

The Harvest is Plentiful…

June 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

Revival Harvest Campaign 2018:

  • Nehemiah: Set the Foundations
  • Nehemiah: Rebuild the Walls
  • Nehemiah: Post Watchmen on the Towers

Revival must go on…

Back to the Basics of Pentecost

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

Since the beginning of the 21st century, only 6-10% of new born believers in America receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, which by 2018 has resulted in:

  • Over 60% within Global Pentecostalism do not speak in tongues
  • A major doctrinal shift within Pentecostal Theology today claims speaking in tongues is not the only evidence of Holy Spirit Baptism
  • Some theologians even claim there is no initial evidence in the Bible
  • Others today go further to believe that no outward sign of the Holy Spirit baptism is necessary.

For this reason, WE are re-committing ourselves and ministry to revival and restoration of the Pentecostal Message through praying, fasting and preaching:

  • Salvation of the sinner’s soul and entire sanctification through the Blood of Jesus
  • Baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire with initial evidence of speaking in tongues
  • Supernatural gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit
  • Healing, deliverance and signs following
  • Pre-Millennial return of Christ and pre-Tribulation Rapture of His Church to glory

Please consider the URGENCY of this generation!

Let us reason together what can we do to prevent this rapid decline in Biblical spirituality.

Revival will not come without preaching!

Revival of Pentecost will not come without preaching the Message of Pentecost.

90 Years Ago Pastor Nicholas Nikolov Established the Pentecostal Union of Bulgaria

March 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

By the fall of 1927 the Pentecostal revival from Bourgas extended to several outreaches. Appropriate recognition was given by the General Council of the Assemblies of God in their September, 1927 meeting. The Latter Rain Evangel also reported revival in Bulgaria, workers trained at the Bible School and a good number saved and baptized with the Holy Spirit.

 With this avid success and the arrival of Nikolov’s first-born son on November 9, 1927 came the second attempt to unite Bulgarian Pentecostals. A preliminary meeting was held in February of 1928 in Rouse where the Union’s establishing meeting was scheduled for March 28 in Bourgas.

To no surprise, only 14 delegates representing five congregations attended. The delegates voted and received the Union’s by-laws and statement of faith, based on the same documents by the Assemblies of God in America. The first annual conference of the new Union followed in October in Varna. A national General Council was set and the Executive Committee was chaired by Pastor Nikolov – at the time of his appointment he was only 28 years of age.

Trained in the United States and familiar with the Assemblies of God structure, Nikolov purposed to replicate the same organization in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, most Bulgarian Pentecostals in 1928 did not have a clear perception of the Assemblies of God and hardly felt part of the denomination. With only 20 members, the new organization was a small minority and did not represent the vast diversity within Bulgarian Pentecostalism at the time. Neither did it cause the split among Bulgarian Pentecostals as often held. The official registration of the Pentecostal Union simply confirmed the deepening division among Pentecostals in Bulgaria that had taken place since Zaplishny was deported in 1924.

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