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)

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.

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.

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:

Revival Harvest Campaign Continues: The Nehemiah Experience

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

Revival Harvest Campaign Continues: The Nehemiah Experience

Since our 2018 Revival Harvest Campaign with the theme of Nehemiah Experience began, we have been receiving miracles reports:

  • a lady seeking for the Holy Spirit for some time now, was baptized late at night after the service and began speaking in tongues while on her bed
  • heavy anointing to the point of people blacking out
  • a truck driver came from the street to seek God
  • a spontaneous Jericho march broke out with dramatic spiritual manifestation
  • right arm hurt in a car accident many years ago, began feeling sensation in muscles and ligaments again during the service
  • a clear direction was given by the Holy Ghost to remain faithful to the vision 

With these supernatural confirmations, we felt compelled to extend our 2018 Revival Nehemiah Experience Harvest Campaign. If your church is interested, please do not hesitate to call and schedule us!

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

First Day of School in Bulgaria

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

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…

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