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.

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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…

BULGARIA: Revival continues…

August 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

2018 Revival Harvest Campaign: REBUILDING the WALLS

2017 Prophetic Revival in Bulgaria: The Search for Holiness Continues

2017 Last Days Great REVIVAL

2016 School Youth Revival Takes Over Delbarton, West Virginia

2016 110 Years ago, the Azusa Street Revival Began with a Fast

2016 Speaking in Tongues in America Prior to the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 (Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Series)

2016 The FORGOTTEN ROOTS OF THE AZUSA STREET REVIVAL

2015 Why Revival Came? by Dr. Charles Conn

2015 La France District Revival

2014 25 Year Revival Cycles in Bulgaria’s Protestant History

2014 Revival Harvest Campaign 2014 in Varna and Signing of the Scrolls

2013 End of Days Revival Series

2012 12.12.12. Revival at the End of the World

2012 Revival Harvest Campaign 2012: Revival Must Go On…

2011 WAR ON THE SAINTS: Revival Dawn and the Baptism of the Spirit

2011 On PRAYER for REVIVAL

2011 Historic Pentecostal Revival Tour in Bulgaria Continues

2010 Revival BULGARIA

2009 Fresh Revival Fire

2009 Revival Begins in Chicago

2008 Revival Bulgaria 2 Film Released

2008 Revelation Revival

2007 Deliverance Revival

2007 Revelation Revival Continues

2007 Revival in Bulgaria Again

2007 Healing Revival

2007 Miracle Revival Crusade

2006 Mission Maranatha in Revival

2006 Healing in the Midst of Revival

2006 Revival Harvest Compaign

2005 Revival in Bulgaria Again

2005 Revival Harvest Campaign

2004 Revival Harvest Campaign Results

2004 Is There Revival in Bulgaria?

2003 Postcommunist Protestant Revival in Bulgaria

Revival Harvest Campaign 2003

2002 Revival BULGARIA

2002 REVIVAL

2001 Revival at La France

Read also: 25 Years of Miracles

Bulgaria’s Parties Seek Control over Religion

August 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Two alternative legislative proposals put forward by Bulgaria’s main parliamentary fractions would give the state more oversight over the activities of the country’s faith groups.

Bulgaria’s parliament is seeking to change the Law on Religious Confessions, to limit external financing and crack down on religious “radicalism”.

Two separate pieces of legislation – one backed by party leaders of the ruling GERB party, the opposition Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, MRF – and another introduced by GERB’s minor coalition partner, VMRO, were both deposited in the assembly on Monday.

The first proposal aims primarily to introduce state subsidies for the major religious denominations of up to 15 million levs [7.5 million euros] a year.

This sum would be divided among the faiths whose followers number at least 1 per cent of the population, according to the latest census data. In practice, this would mean that only the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Muslim community would be eligible for the cash.

The alternative proposal, introduced by Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov’s VMRO party, follows similar lines. However, it focuses also on the fight against “radicalization” and seeks the introduction of more oversight of religious activities and financing by the state.

Both proposals would only allow foreign preachers to deliver sermons in the presence of locally accredited clerics. The two proposals are a response to a cross-party agreement reached after an April National Security Consultation Council, organized by President Rument Radev.

However, the plans are already dividing the ruling GERB-United Patriots coalition, with the latter claiming they were not consulted by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s party about the plans.

On Sunday, Iskren Vesselinov of VMRO, one of the three parties in the United Patriots, told Bulgarian National Radio that there had been “a problem with communication” within the coalition about the legislative proposal.

“We had to introduce it to parliament before we received statements from the major religious communities because the other piece of legislation was already deposited, which would have slowed down the entire reform process,” Vesselinov added.

The lack of consultation with religious communities may also turn out to be an issue, experts warned.

“There is a problem with the philosophy of the reform proposals; until now, the Religious Confessions law sought to guarantee the rights of the faith communities. Now it will seek to introduce oversight and control,” Mihail Ivanov, an ethnic minorities expert from New Bulgarian University who took part in the preparation of the 2002 law, told BIRN.

He noted other problems, too – that both plans introduce a discriminatory element that divides the two big religions from the many smaller faith communities and limit the ability of foreign preachers to practice in Bulgaria.

“The changes don’t take into account important religious differences – for example, the Catholic Church is a unitary body and its Bulgarian priests receive their funding from the Vatican. This would now be rendered illegal,” Ivanov observed. According to him, the same applies for visiting clergymen who might not now be allowed to preach in places where there is no local pastor of their faith. Another issue Ivanov pointed out is that both proposals would increase the regulatory role of the Religious Confessions Directorate under the Council of Ministers. This would, in practice, place control over donations, religious institution accreditation and educational program matters in the hands of the executive power.

However, Ivanov said the positive sides of the changes include the two major Bulgarian religions receiving state financing guarantees. “It is good that the debate about religious regulations has been opened; now the political forces need only to leave the discussion to experts and members of the religious communities themselves,” he concluded.

Using state funding for “illegal activities” by religious denominations will be sanctioned with prison terms of 3-6 years. With these sanctions in mind, the new legal measure embodies the following rationale:

  1. Churches and ministers must declare all foreign currency money flow and foreign bank accounts
  2. Participation of foreign persons in the administration of any denomination is strictly forbidden
  3. Foreign parsons shall not be allowed to speak at religious meetings in any way shape or form especially religious sermons
  4. Anonymous donations and donorship to religious organization is not permitted
  5. Bulgarian flag shall be present in every temple of worship
  6. The new measure will block all foreign interference in the faith confessions and denominations in Bulgaria

August 2018 Update: 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 goverment 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

Pray for Pastor Andrew in Turkey

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

Pastor Andrew Brunson

Prayers for Pastor Andrew Brunson Imprisoned in Turkey

NRB’s president & CEO, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, is urging Christians in America to pray as the July 18 trial date for imprisoned American Pastor Andrew Brunson approaches.

Furthermore, Johnson is encouraging Christians to sign a petitiondemanding the release of Brunson, who has been wrongfully detained in Turkey and denied due process rights for years.

“Let’s unite in prayer for Pastor Brunson and his family,” he said.

“It’s time for the Church to pray. It’s time for the Church to speak up and stand up. Let your voice be heard,” he added, noting the petition that is currently being circulated by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has been signed so far by more than 580,000 individuals.

A U.S. citizen who pastored churches in Turkey for more than two decades, Brunson was arrested by Turkish authorities in October 2016 and held without charges for months. The North Carolina native was then kept in prison after being accused, without compelling evidence, of being a member of a terrorist group. A few months ago, an official indictment was filed by Turkish prosecutors, who are seeking a 35-year sentence for the American pastor.

After eight months of imprisonment, Brunson’s trial began with a hearing on April 16. A second hearing was held on May 6, and the third hearing is now scheduled for July 18.

The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), an international affiliate of ACLJ, is actively advocating for Brunson before international institutions and media.

On June 25, ECLJ addressed the 38th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, again drawing the council’s attention to Brunson’s plight.

“Turkey has made it clear that this is a sham trial, and, as indicated by President Erdoğan’s multiple demands to swap Pastor Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, Pastor Brunson is undoubtedly a political prisoner being held as a bargaining chip for Turkey,” ECLJ stated.

“Turkey has violated many international laws and obligations, as well as its own constitution, by arresting and detaining an innocent pastor in prison for over a year and a half based on the hearsay testimony of clearly questionable secret witnesses. Moreover, Turkey has denied Pastor Brunson the opportunity to mount an adequate defence by flippantly dismissing all defence witness testimony,” it added.

“The ELCJ respectfully requests that this Council remind Turkey of its obligations and make every effort to ensure that Pastor Brunson is released and allowed to return home.”

On June 30, Turkey’s leading news source, the Hurriyet Daily News, ran an opinion piece by columnist Serkan Demirtas with the headline: “Pastor Brunson’s detention has become too costly for Turkey.”

In the article, Demirtas noted that Brunson’s release “would sure help the ongoing reconciliation process between Turkey and the U.S.” He also claimed that “many diplomats in Ankara expect his potential release followed by his deportation pending trial on the July 18 hearing.”

He acknowledged, however, that “it is impossible to foresee what the court’s decision will be.”

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