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)

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 Controversial Law on Religion to be Voted in Bulgaria

June 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

church-stateThe Patriotic Front, a newly established political formation in Bulgaria, filed changes to the 2002 Religious Dominations Act last Thursday. The new measure bans all foreign citizens from preaching on the territory of Bulgaria, as well as preaching in any other language than Bulgarian.

The draft amendments also foresee banning foreign organizations, companies and citizens from providing funding or donating to Bulgarian religious denominations. All the religious denominations in Bulgaria will be obliged to perform their sermons, rituals and statements only in Bulgaria. One year’s time will be given to translate religious books into Bulgarian.

Financially, the draft laws would ban not only foreign physical and legal entities from funding Bulgarian religious institutions, but also companies with foreign ownership that are legally registered in Bulgaria. Using state funding for “illegal activities” by religious denominations will be sanctioned with prison terms of three to six 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

June 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

Is your church ready for GDPR?

May 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

You’ve probably heard about GDPR. The new European data protection regulation that applies practically to everyone entered in power on May 25, 2018. Especially if you operate a church or ministry website, it’s most likely that there’s already a process for getting your systems in compliance with the regulation.

GDPR in effect adds to or supersedes existing legislation on data protection, which up to this point has been provided by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. The regulation is basically a law that must be followed in all European countries (but also applies to non-EU organizations that have users in the EU). In this particular case, it applies to companies that are not registered in Europe, but are having European customers. So that’s most church organizations. The GDPR introduces a stronger requirement on accountability for data controllers. This means that you must be able to show that you are complying with the principles by providing evidence. For example, where you process on the basis of consent, you should to store those consents. Since consent should be specific to a “purpose”, you may need separate consent to cover different areas of data processing within the life of the church

The impact is going to be huge as there are a number of very significant changes that will impact every organization that processes data inside the EU. This includes the Church, which has been that in most cases, very poor at complying with legislation. If your church organization or church website process personal information, of any kind, inside the EU, GDPR applies to you. This applies to Churches who are owned/run from outside the EU. If you process any data in the EU like website visitors, live broadcast viewers or attendance, GDPR needs to be on your radar.

Though, GDPR allows religious (amongst others) not-for-profit bodies to process data without specific consent as long as it relates only to members or former members (or those who have regular contact with it in connection with, there is still a great risk. Data that “reveals religious belief” becomes special category data – which requires additional care with regard to processing. Reveling of “religious belief” should not be assumed simply because someone attends church or church events, becomes a “friend” or gives money to a church. However, where someone is required to have affirmed belief (e.g. that they are baptized or that they are a member of the Church) e.g. processing of the electoral roll, then this could be argued to reveal religious belief.

In regard of this, the rights of the user/client (referred to as “data subject” in the regulation) under the new GDPR law are:

  • the right to erasure (the right to be forgotten/deleted from the system),
  • right to restriction of processing (keep the data, but mark it as “restricted”)
  • the right to data portability (export data in a machine-readable format),
  • the right to rectification (the ability to get personal data fixed),
  • the right to be informed (human-readable information, rather than privacy terms)
  • the right of access (the user is able to see all the data you have about them).

Additionally, the relevant basic principles are:

  • data minimization (do not collect more data than necessary),
  • integrity and confidentiality (all security measures to protect data)
  • measures to guarantee that the data has not been inappropriately modified.

To set some context, it may be helpful to ask, “Whose data is it?” If we believe that the data we hold on our systems belong to us then we are likely going to be resistant to GDPR. If we are 100% clear that each person’s personal data belongs to that individual alone, and that we are custodians of their data, then we’ll likely have a much healthier response to GDPR. When we see ourselves as custodians, charged with a “trust,” we’ll likely want to do our very best when we receive, store and process people’s personal data. And also be more ruthless about removing any data that we don’t wish to hold within that trust.

The legal basis for processing data is premised on one or more of six conditions:

  • consent of the data subject
  • performance of any contract with the data subject relating to it
  • compliance with a legal obligation
  • that the vital interests of the data subject are protected
  • that the data acquired and held is needed for the performance of a task carried out by the organization in the public interest
  • that the legitimate interests of data subjects are protected

None of the other requirements of the regulation have an exception depending on the organization size, so “I’m small, GDPR does not concern me” is a myth. “Personal data” is basically every piece of data your organization has collected that can be used to uniquely identify a person.

Just an every day example, Google Maps shows you your location history – all the places that you’ve been to. Displaying your church’s map allows visitors to find you but also records their intent of movement history on any electronic device that can lock a GPS location (this includes any PC with internet connection too). It is still the visitor’s personal information that GDPR allows storing only under certain legal conditions.

An individual can object at any time to you using their personal information for:

  • Direct Marketing (including fundraising). If an individual objects to you using their data to contact them for this purpose then you must cease immediately. There are no exemptions.
  • Scientific, historical, research or statistical purposes. You can have an exemption from this if you have a legitimate need to keep processing it, e.g. you need to send Gift Aid information to HMRC.
  • A ‘legitimate interest’ of the church (ex. video broadcast, family events, small group home gatherings, fund raisers, prayer call campaigns, etc.).

Age check – GDPR introduces special protection for children’s personal data. Broadly, for a child there will be a need to have consent from a parent or guardian in order to process any data lawfully. You should ask for the visitor’s age, and if the user is a child, you should ask for parent permission.

Keeping data for no longer than necessary – if your church collects the data for a specific purpose (e.g. product purchase, email campaign, call list, etc.), you have to delete it/anonymize it as soon as you don’t need it. Many churches offer welcoming package, registration, online offering, etc. The visitor’s consent goes only for the particular item for which you are obligated to keep a consent form.

Cookies – Every basic website nowadays use a number of different types of cookies. They are all subject of a different regulation (a Directive that will soon become a Regulation). However, GDPR still changes things when tracking cookies are concerned. I’ve outlined my opinion on tracking cookies in a separate post.

Encrypt the data in transit – means that communication between your application layer and your database (or your message queue, or whatever component you have) should be over TLS.

Encrypt the data at rest – this again depends on the database (some offer table-level encryption), but can also be done on machine-level

Implement pseudonymisation – the most obvious use-case is when you want to use production data for the test/staging servers. You should change the personal data to some “pseudonym”, so that the people cannot be identified.

Don’t log personal data – getting rid of the personal data from log files (especially if they are shipped to a 3rd party service or a plugin.

Above all, DO NOT use data for purposes that the user hasn’t agreed!

Finally, GDPR mandates identification and notification of breaches of the regulation to the individual, and sometimes the national regulator (the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO) within 72 hours. The maximum fine for organizations which breach the regulation will be €20 million. Quite apart from anything else, this should give charity trustees pause for thought.

Where to begin? Start with the following questions and actions:

  1. Does your collection and use of personal or sensitive data fall within the “purposes” of your current Data Protection policy?
  2. Are there current uses that fall outside the current scope?
  3. Are your policy’s stated “purposes” sufficiently broad enough to cover all your ministry and activity? Highlight any areas that need further expansion in your policy.
  4. Note down any third party “processors” that use or further process the personal data like: Book keeper, WordPress, MailChimp, Planning Center, Stripe, GoCardless, Textlocal.
  5. Identify and list all the ways your church adds personal data into each module, including contact details, attendance or tracking data, and notes.
  6. Note any additional processing of information you carry out in your admin workflows within each module, such as communications you send, notifications to others in your church that get triggered, and any reports you produce and distribute in those workflows.
  7. Are there any areas of “bad practice” or risk that needs addressing? For example, using images from people’s social media profiles without consent or audio/video and live broadcast recordings of the same. Notes that express opinion rather than fact, or where consent has not been obtained for all of these.
  8. In respect of handling personal data, how do your church’s procedures demonstrate accountability practices?
  9. Are any changes communicated to those in your church or team that need to know?
  10. If you were a newcomer to your church, would you as a newcomer be clear at every point of submitting your personal data, what the church’s privacy notice and data protection policy is? Would you feel sufficiently informed about how your data will be used and would know how you could opt out if you wanted to?

Common sense disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. You need to contact your church attorney for a complete evaluation and action guide on how to fully protect your organization.

Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament now on Amazon

May 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News, Research

Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament is now on Amazon.com

After twenty some years in Bible translation and a decade long work on this current edition, we are happy to announce that on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, our Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament will be presented in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia on All Saints Day 2017. The Greek Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament proposes the following solutions to the translation of the Bible in Bulgarian:

  1. A non-received text – Textus Haud Receptus
  2. Critical Edition of the Greek New Testament alike Revised Textus Receptus, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, von Soden, Nestle-Aland, UBS and SBL GNT
  3. Literal translation from Greek made word for word without dynamic equivalents
  4. Linguistic paradigm for repetitive parallel permutation structures in the Greek-Bulgarian translation alike form criticism of the Bible
  5. Analytical Greek New Testament with complete morphology of the words

Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series (2018)

May 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News, Publication, Research

Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series

 

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Speaking in Tongues in America Prior to the Azusa Street Revival of 1906

April, 1906 – The Azusa street revival swept the globe starting with California

January 1, 1901– The initial phenomenon of speaking in tongues occurred at Parham’s school in Topeka, Kansas

January 6, 1900 – Frank Sanford’s Shiloh school reported that “The gift of tongues has descended”

1896 – Over 100 people baptized in the Shaerer schoolhouse revival conducted by the Christian Union in the North Carolina mountains

1887 – People falling in trances and speaking in tongues were reported at Maria Etter’s revival meetings in Indiana

1874 – Speaking in tongues occurred during healing meetings reported in New York

1873 – William H. Doughty and the Gift People of Rhode Island spoke in tongues

1854 – V. P. Simmons and Robert Boyd reported tongue speaking during Moody’s meetings

FURTHER READING:

Church of God (Cleveland, TN)

Azusa Street Revival of 1906

Prior to Azusa Street Revival of 1906

NEW Book – Sassy Southern Appalachian Mountain Cooking (Paperback) – Large Print

April 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News, Publication, Research

This cookbook includes 60 traditional Appalachian recipes with an emphasis on dishes of the southern mountainous regions. They are classic and basic recipes, but with a sassy southern flare of flavors.

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NEW Book – Tastes of Europe: 104 Traditional Recipes of Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia & More (Paperback)

April 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, Missions, News, Research

Europe has a very rich history and is a place many aspire to visit. To walk its cobblestone streets, see the majesty of the Eiffel Tower or tour the ancient ruins of Rome are only but a few wondrous adventures one can partake in Europe. The tastes of Europe are all the same intriguing. European cuisine is filled with depths of flavor implementing fresh seasonal ingredients while being influenced by hundreds of different cultures and as many years of technique and mastery.

Now you can enjoy this unique culinary culture of intriguing dishes from all over Europe right in the comfort of your own home. From the distinctive desserts of Czechoslovakian Blueberry Bublanina and Lithuanian Poppy Seed Cookies to the heavenly flavors of more traditional meals like Sautéed Sauerkraut with Pork and Mini Meatball Soup, Tastes of Europe includes delicious exciting recipes that are easy for all to prepare. This cookbook features 104 authentic recipes of Europe with an emphasis on Eastern European flavors and Bulgarian cuisine. Among other featured countries are France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Russia.

Some of these dishes are distant relatives to ones found in ancient Roman manuscripts believed to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD. Others are among those far before the time of Christ. With nearly every dish comes a story and custom. This cookbook attempts to preserve these century year old stories for many years to come so they can continue to be passed down.

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Pastor Nicholas Nikolov was born on March 15, 1900

March 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

In 2018, the Pentecostal Union in Bulgaria (Assemblies of God) is celebrating 90 years since its establishment. The story of the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria is intrinsically connected with the life and ministry of Nicholas Nikolov. Pastor Nikolov was born in Bourgas, Bulgaria on March 15, 1900. His life story unfolds as following:

  • 1900 Born in Karnobat near Bourgas, Bulgaria
  • 1914 Saved in the Congregational Church in Bourgas
  • 1919 Under the ministry of Paul Mishkoff
  • 1920 Attended university in New York
  • 1921 Baptized with the Holy Spirit
  • 1924 Married and working at Bethel
  • 1926 Ordained and appointed by AG
  • 1927 Led Pentecostal revival in Bourgas, Bulgaria
  • 1928 Established the Pentecostal Union of Bulgaria (Assemblies of God)
  • 1931 Returned to the States and earned a master’s degree
  • 1935 Headed Assemblies of God training school in Gdansk, Poland
  • 1938 Returned to Bulgaria after forced out of Poland by the Nazis
  • 1939 Returned to the United States after forced out of Bulgaria by the Nazis
  • 1941 President of Metropolitan Bible Institute
  • 1947 Pastored in North Bergen, NJ
  • 1950 President of New England Bible Institute
  • 1952 Faculty at Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri
  • 1956 Earned a Ph.D. degree from the Biblical Seminary in New York
  • 1961 Retired due to sickness
  • 1964 Passed to Glory

A Church Assessment Can Change Your Church

March 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication, Research

Failure to thoroughly or consistently review aspects of the church will have a negative impact on the organisation in multiple ways. In contrast, when a church embraces an intentional review process there are a number of benefits:

1. An intentional church assessment process provides key information that can be catalytic for the growth of the church.

2. An intentional church assessment process ensures the church does not drift from its mission.

3. An intentional church assessment process uses the vision as motivation for change.

4. An intentional church assessment process protects the culture by ensuring it is not neglected in the busyness of activity.

5. An intentional church assessment process will identify when the systems or structure are no longer serving the vision.

6. An intentional church assessment process creates accountability for the achievement of strategic goals.

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