Please Pray for our Area of Ministry in Bulgaria

October 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

10 Years of Chaplaincy on the High Seas

October 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

We began our literal journey of ministry on the high seas in 2009. After exploring the opportunity for several years’ prior and submitting applications to various chaplaincy organizations which dealt with such ministry, the doors finally opened for Cup and Cross.

This search for a ministerial identity and its proper application in the real world coincided with the start of the Master’s in Chaplaincy Ministry Program which we designed for the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute in Sofia around 2008-2009. The long standing relationships with professors, active military chaplains from various fields and countries, and the wisdom of several Generals in the field helped us calibrate our ministry focus with what is needed by real people in the real world.

The new fad “to be real” is not enough in a realistic ministry setting. When 25ft. high storm waves beat the aft and the ship is thrown towards the dark wall of ocean waters ahead, one cannot help but “to be real” and depend on a very real and skilled crew. A captain alone cannot run the boat through a storm even if all systems are reported working. It is the crew deep down in the engine room and making its way on the slippery deck that makes it all happen.

The Crew. Some of them have not seen their families for months or even a year at times. They struggle with the same fears and anxieties as the rest of us. Except, while the rest of us can hold on to something for dear life, the crew is obligated by duty to continue to serve and move the boat ahead. The little chapel on the top deck becomes a passage to a lagoon past the riffs of stormy life where stories are shared, prayers are lifted up together and human lives are reclaimed anew for Heaven.

We have found these nontraditional paths of travel and ministry yielding the most unique encounters and connections for Kingdom growth.  Our family is thankful for these 10 years and looking forward to even more means of ministry outside of the four church walls.  If you would like for us to come to your church as share our journey feel free to reach out to us.

40 False Beliefs of the Church Today

September 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

1. That Christianity is a religion and social status, rather than a personal life of holiness and relationship with God.
2. That Christians need standards and rules other than the Bible in order to live a Christian life.
3. That the divinely inspired text of the Bible needs human additions and alterations.
4. That the practices described by the Bible are not for today, as if the Bible is wrong.
5. That Christianity is religion for the weak.
6. That governments and countries are responsible for the growth and prosperity of the church.
7. That we must accept the world in order that the world accepts us.
8. That Postmodernity is Biblical teaching.
9. That the evolution theory is compatible with the Biblical teaching of the Creation.
10. That God needs our strategies, offices, plans and training based on the principles of the contemporary marketing and management in order to lead His Church like His strength has vanished.
11. That the church is successful only because of our personal participation.
12. That the personal works of righteousness are more important than the works of faith which the Word requires from us.
13. That life without sin is not possible.
14. That man has no free will, but is a subject of predetermined choice.
15. That once saved, a person is always saved regardless of the lifetime between his/her salvation and death.
16. That the Trinity is a composite of three different persons, and is not trinitarian nor monotheistic.
17. That Jesus Christ becomes the Son of God only after the incarnation.
18. That the leadership of the Holy Spirit is not needed in the church any longer.
19. That there is baptism of the Holy Spirit without speaking in other tongues.
20. That the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be practiced without a life of holiness.
21. That there is Biblical preaching without confirmation from the Holy Spirit with gifts and miracles.
22. That only elected men can preach the Gospel, as if the preaching of the Gospel is not an obligation of every believer.
23. That the Revival in the church is for a particular period of time and not a personal responsibility for every believer to live a life of revival.
24. That only because the Church does not operate under the anointing given to it, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased to exist.
25. That only because we do not have personal discipline to pray and fast until God answers our prayers, He cannot do miracles as He has done before.
26. That because some prosperity teachings have over exaggerated some doctrines God does not supply needs any longer.
27. That one can change the spiritual laws and reap without having sowed.
28. That it is more blessed to receive than to give.
29. That to show mercy is an act of weakness.
30. That the minorities in the church, which form its ethnic variety, are its worst part.
31. That you can be a part of the Church without being part of the Spiritual Warfare.
32. That you can be victorious without Christ, without his sacrifice on the cross and without the power of his blood.
33. That when you are personally upset with certain people you have the right to simply leave the church.
34. That not going to church as an act of protest is an acceptable form of Christian behavior.
35. That cell groups without leadership and accountability are the apostolic model for the church.
36. That there are two kinds of Christians – layman and clergy, and that the Church must be without structure and hierarchy.
37. That there is no Rapture of the Church.
38. That the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event.
39. That the Rapture is not before the Tribulation.
40. That the unrighteous and the ones who evidently live a life of sin will participate in the rapture of the Church and will be resurrected with the righteous dead.

Toward a Pentecostal Strategy for the City

September 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Toward a Pentecostal Strategy for the City

One of the questions that seems to come up in this course discussion is how to change the world around us with a more positive and effective approach toward using the Gospel of Salvation. In this particular module, the difficulty addressed is ethnocentricity. The particularity of our search then arrives at the more detailed question, how can we change the culture (respectively subcultures) of our church congregations? This is a drastic move from a closed circle toward an outreach community that many congregations are unable to accomplish. How do we then empower such congregations to be transformed into cultural reach-outs to a single ethnos or multiple ethnic groups? 

Problem

The problem in the first quarter of the 21st century has been incapability of our church strategy with the times we live in and the mindset they occupy. We’ve been preparing the church for the multicultural battle, all and while we should have been equipping the saints how to rebuild the walls since the battle has been lost.

We’ve been equipping leaders for the ministry while the church ship has been sinking only to end up with well trained captains of a sunken fleet. And in a doomed attempt to reconcile the reality of the ministry with their training, they have turned to wave walkers who briefly surface for breaths of fresh air during Sunday worship only to return to the deep blue walk of their daily ministry never finding their lost piece of eight.

For the battle was lost long ago before the present generation of ministers ever came to existence. They know not the battle. They’ve only seen the ruins that were left within the broken walls of the church. And they have been struggling to reconcile the incomputable of what church eldership has been teaching them to battle against with the Nehemiah calling for restoration, which God has placed upon them. For the answer has never been in building a New Jerusalem for a fresh start, but restoring the old Jerusalem and its former glory to a new state that reclaims our history and heritage.

bulgarian-church

Context 

Recent analysis of migrant churches in the United States reveals that the predominant majority of them are located in cities which have a high influxation and concentration of immigrants. Such localities are called “gateway cities”. Immigrants typically enter the United States through one of these cities and settle there. These areas contain over half of the foreign-born population in the United States as follows:

  1. New York, NY – Foreign born population 18.7%
  2. Los Angeles, CA – Foreign born population 27.1%
  3. Houston, TX – Foreign born population 12.3%
  4. Washington, DC – Foreign born population 8.6%
  5. Miami, FL – Foreign born population 33.6%
  6. Chicago, IL – Foreign born population 11.1%
  7. San Francisco, CA – Foreign born population 20.0%

Strategy

Asking the right questions is important, but the answers cannot be generic for all ethnic groups or cultural settings. There is a strong need to be flexible and observe changes in culture, but not to change the message of the Gospel or compromise our witness. Several common things are noted in any cultural setting where our ministry is involved:

First and foremost, people of all cultures prefer to be personal with a purpose, rather than being project driven. No one longs to be part of someone else’s project. Yet, our very existence demands personal purpose, which could serve as a great cultural catalyst in a church ministry.

Secondly, cross cultural ministry is not done merely on relationships, but on being real in the relationships. The greatest halt of ministry work is when people realize the relationship with the church has not been a real one, but merely a part of a program or a paradigm.

Finally, our cross cultural model for ministry should not be just salvation oriented, but soul oriented. There is a great difference between writing down the number of saved every Sunday and actually caring for the eternal well-being of the saved souls. In fact, this is so fundamentally determinative that it should be the goal in mind of every new church plant.

30 Days of Prayer and Fasting in 2019

August 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication, Research

Week 1
September 1, 2006 – Restoration of the Backslidden
September 2, 2006 – Church Leadership: Bulgarian Pastors and Ministers

Week 2
September 3, 2006 – National Revival in Bulgaria
September 4, 2006 – Spiritual and Physical Harvests
September 5, 2006 – Restoration of Protestant Evangelical Heritage
September 6, 2006 – Unification of the Bulgarian Nation and the Bulgarian Church (In observance of Unification Day in Bulgaria)
September 7, 2006 – Renewal of Family Ties
September 8, 2006 – Child Protection
September 9, 2006 – Mission Work

Week 3
September 10, 2006 – The Hopeless (In observance of World Suicide Prevention Day)
September 11, 2006 – Against Fear (In observance of Patriot Day in the United States)
September 12, 2006 – Sexual Purity and Biblical Moral Principles in the Bulgarian Society
September 13, 2006 – Sanctification and Prayer for Restoration of Holiness in the Bulgarian Church
September 14, 2006 – Return Toward Evangelical Roots
September 15, 2006 – Students of Bulgaria (In observance of the first day of school in Bulgaria)
September 16, 2006 – National Day of Fasting for the Bulgarian Evangelical Movement

Week 4
September 17, 2006 – The Country of Bulgaria
September 18, 2006 – National Prosperity
September 19, 2006 – Abortion Prevention and Prayer for Mothers Who Have Had an Abortion (In observance of Abortion Prevention Day in Bulgaria)
September 20, 2006 – Deliverance from Addictions (In observance of the National Addiction Counselors’ Day)
September 21, 2006 – World Peace (In observance of the International Day of Peace)
September 22, 2006 – Spiritual Freedom (In observance of Independence Day in Bulgaria)
September 23, 2006 – Spirit of Forgiveness

Week 5
September 24, 2006 – Restoring of Friendships and Relationships (In observance of National Good Neighbor Day)
September 25, 2006 – Against Stress and Results of Stress
September 26, 2006 – Physical Healing and Deliverance
September 27, 2006 – Peace for Israel
September 28, 2006 – A Fresh Anointing
September 29, 2006 – The Persecuted Believers
September 30, 2006 – Strength and Endurance

VBS for Adults

August 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News, Research

For reasons obvious to most of our readers, I was able to attend no less than 10 (ten) VBS/Kids crusades this summer. Seven Baptist, several Pentecostals and a Methodist one.

The themes ranged from jungle journey and the Lion King to giddy up cowboys and cowgirls and world/planet/time travelling. All cool themes with lots of props and much careful preparation all in the name of bringing the Good News to the little ones. A noble cause truly worthy of any expense and labor for any church out there.

Time and length ranged from one whole day or one evening service to three nights and even several week long ones. For most of it, the ones held in most Baptist churches were designed by LifeWay and were well structured with kids constantly moving from station to station. The rest were somewhat free style, but still designed with the expectation of lots of children attending. In between each module there was candy, snacks or even a full blown supper.

The location of each VBS and the way it was designed for the crowd flow made the initial impression important. Signs welcoming and directing newcomers were grate, but the friendliness of the people made up for less signage and more human touch. Registration was a must and parents’ preferences were not taken lightly. The decorations of each room helped the children adjust to the new setting and work through the set curriculum. And yes, lots of kids made lots of mess so cleanness in class rooms, play areas and bathrooms were tended to. Some churches had a designated team that made sure the facilities were clean for the next group. And where cleanness was not intentional, it was observed that many parents did not return with their children.

Most VBS programs were designed around age groups. Some included even classes for toddlers and several had adult classes too. The ones that did not, included a family night toward the end of the week for parents to attend. A family night was a great feature for parents who did not attend but dropped their kids every night and picked them up afterwards. They were addressed with materials and opportunities for a spiritual renewal.

The thematic VBSs progressed with learning daily and build up on the previous day. The groups of children toggled between Bible lesson, crafts, games and lots of music. Kids were greatly encouraged to participate and learn the songs and dancing, recite Bible verses and answer questions from the covered material. Some parents participated too.

Prayer was made a central focal point for most of the VBSs observed. The Baptists ones, especially, had pledges of allegiance at the start of the service and assembly with prayer toward the end. A memorable experience for all children who enjoy social setting, making new friends and learn the Bible.

Here are several take ways to observe for a VBS in your church:

  1. Prepare for lots of children – if you have it they will come
  2. Train your workers. Form teams for each task. Assign measurable goals to ensure smooth moving through the program
  3. Self designed VBS programs work as good as the paid ones, as long as designed with the children and families in mind
  4. Chose the length of the event carefully with regard of your constitutions. For the most of it, less is really more.
  5. Do not underestimate friendliness, cleanness and the safety of the children.
  6. Don’t miss a family day. Everyone likes hot dogs and water slides on a hot summer day.

This goes without saying, but focus on God – it is easy to lose track and purposes in the larger design of such events.

Pentecost Sunday Full Gospel as Preached by the Early Pentecostals

I keep on repeating this through the years, but the need for the constant repetition comes from the simple fact that among new doctrinal teachings and Hillsong style of worship the True Message of Pentecost remains long forgotten

  1. Salvation – That a man must be saved while the hour of grace is still upon us has been that teaching of every protestant evangelical since the Reformation. Why people attend church all their lives without getting saved is beyond me. But I do know that the commitment of the CHURCH to REVIVAL brings people to SALVATION.
  1. Sanctification – The Wesleyan teaching of sanctification resolves that the sanctification of the believer is definite. This means that though it may progress and evolve through time, as the believer gets closer to God in his/her daily walk, sanctification must become ENTIRE i.e. allowing NO sin to abide in the believer’s body, soul or spirit. Without ENTIRE sanctification resulting in holiness, no one will ever see God (Heb. 12:14).
  1. Holy Ghost Baptism – The doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost means that when baptized we speak in one tongue with God because we are ONE with His Spirit. Not just in us or upon us, but that we are IN the Spirit as John was on the day of Revelation.
  1. Healing in the Atonement of Christ belongs to every believer. This means you, your family and your church members. The healing provided in the Atonement is for ALL believers – no exception. It is also for ALL sickness, disease, viruses, infections, tumors and cancers. But that it belongs to does not yet mean that it has been received by the believer. For this reason, God does not stop healing neither in this age nor through eternity, as the leaves of the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem are still and forever for the healing (Rev. 22:2)
  1. The Second Coming of Christ for Pentecostals is not simply pre-millennial, but also pre-Tribulation. There have been MANY teachings on the End Times until today. Post-millennials claim we live in the Millennium even now anticipating the return of the Lord; a-millennials that there will be no Millennium at all. Post-tribulationists expect his return at the end of the Tribulation, mid-post-tribulationists in the middle. But in Pentecost, we expect Christ to return before the Tribulation that we may be saved from the hour of trial (Rev. 3:10) and before the Millennium so we may reign with Him 1,000 years. Any other message is no message of hope for the Church of the Living God.

Pentecostal articles for Pentecost Sunday

June 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Offering a few recent Pentecostal articles in light of the upcoming Pentecost Sunday celebration:51bmftgrh4l_ss500_1

  1. The Forgotten Azusa Street Mission: The Place where the First Pentecostals Met
  2. Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series (Complete)
  3. 95th anniversary of the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria
  4. Toward a Pentecostal Solution to the Refugee Crises in the European Union
  5. Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals
  6. Pacifism as a Social Stand for Holiness among Early Bulgarian Pentecostals
  7. The Practice of Corporate Holiness within the Communion Service of Bulgarian Pentecostals
  8. Sanctification and Personal Holiness among Early Bulgarian Pentecostals
  9. First Pentecostal Missionaries to Bulgaria (1920)
  10. Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals
  11. The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought
  12. Online Pentecostal Academic Journals
  13. What made us Pentecostal?
  14. Pentecostalism and Post-Modern Social Transformation
  15. Obama, Marxism and Pentecostal Identity
  16. Why I Decided to Publish Pentecostal Primitivism?
  17. Historic Pentecostal Revival Tour in Bulgaria Continues
  18. The Land of Pentecostals
  19. Pentecostal Theological Seminary Address
  20. A Truly Pentecostal Water Baptism

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.

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