A Decade Ago Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association Gained Legal Status

February 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

THE CASE OF A NATO CHAPLAINCY MODEL WITHIN THE BULGARIAN ARMY (Submitted to the Manfred Wörner Foundation)

chaplaincy-in-bulgariaThe Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association has finally received official legal status with the Bulgarian government, after battling courts throughout the country for the last four months. Global religious freedom watchdog FORUM 18 closely followed the case of chaplaincy ministry in Bulgaria recognizing its “underground” status and releasing an informative article about the current situation of chaplaincy in Bulgaria which can be found at: http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=919

After a decade of ministry, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association held a national founding meeting in August, 2006 and submitted a petition for registration with the Bulgarian court. The purpose of the establishment was the legal representation of Bulgarian evangelicals who minister in various fields of chaplaincy despite legal limitations and open government restrictions. Their campaign for legalizing chaplaincy in the Bulgarian armed forces has formed “The Case of Underground Chaplaincy in Bulgaria.”

After months of legal battle, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association was officially registered through the Sofia Municipal Court on February 23, 2007. The result was made possible by a joint initiative of the Association’s establishing members, the representing legal team led by former Bulgarian presidential nominee, Ivan Gruikin with the assistance of legal council Latchezar Popov of the Rule of Law Institute and the Balkan Center for Law and Freedom.

10 Years Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association

August 20, 2016 by  
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chaplaincy-in-bulgariaA decade ago we established the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association with a vision for ministry in the Bulgarian army, Ministry of Internal Affairs, jail and prison systems, Bulgarian seaports and airports, and the healthcare system. Out of these five goals set before us in 2006 we have fulfilled them all:

1. Tolerant and equal representations of all confessions in the chaplaincy ministry
2. The implementation of a contextualized chaplaincy model
3. The integration of chaplaincy education in all Bulgarian theological higher educational institutions
4. And the educational and consultant work on government and church levels

except:

5. The establishment of legal grounds for regular paid chaplaincy service in the Bulgarian army, Ministry of Internal Affairs, jail and prison systems, Bulgarian seaports and airports, and the healthcare system.

After designing and teaching the Masters of Chaplaincy Ministry program in two major evangelical universities in Bulgaria, we now have some of our trained chaplains working in jails, prisons, healthcare, civil emergency services and the corporate/political level. The legal system in Bulgaria, however, is yet to provide the proper measure for restoring chaplaincy in Bulgaria’s armed forces. To this final step fulfillment we pledge out support in 2016.

Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association: Vision and Resolution

Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association
Resolution No. 1

We,

The founding members of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association in its first national assembly today August 19, 2006 in hotel Diana Palace, Yambol

In regard of:
1. Bulgaria’s membership in NATO and its upcoming integration in the European Union
2. The transformations within the Bulgarian Army from mandatory toward standard paid service and the participation of Bulgarian contingent in NATO and UN missions
3. Contract agreement for NATO airbases on Bulgarian territory
4. The strategic renewal of chaplaincy ministry in the Bulgarian army
5. And the present need of chaplaincy ministry integrated in the Bulgarian army, Ministry of Internal Affairs, jail and prison systems, Bulgarian seaports and airports, and the healthcare system,

Declare our support toward:
1. The establishment of legal grounds for regular paid chaplaincy service in the Bulgarian army, Ministry of Internal Affairs, jail and prison systems, Bulgarian seaports and airports, and the healthcare system
2. Tolerant and equal representations of all confessions in the chaplaincy ministry
3. The implementation of a contextualized chaplaincy model
4. The integration of chaplaincy education in all Bulgarian theological higher educational institutions
5. And the educational and consultant work on government and church levels.

We, the founding members of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association will work toward the renewal, popularization and equal religious representation of chaplaincy ministry in all professional areas.

August 19, 2006
Diana Palace, Yambol

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Establishment of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association (2001-2006)

July 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

chaplainWe are proud to announce that the Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry Program, we designed and launched in Bulgaria in 2006, has been selected to be part of the Social Service Program of New Bulgarian University. After being for years a valuable part of the regular curriculum of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute and the St. Trivelius Institute in the capital Sofia, the chaplaincy program has received the highest level of recognition as successful graduates will be finally able to receive government recognized degrees and apply their knowledge and training in chaplaincy on a professional level. The chaplaincy program can also serve within the Integration Proposal of local NATO programs and be instrumental in dealing with the enormous wave of Middle East migrants crossing through Bulgaria today.

Tchaplaincy-in-bulgariahe Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association was envisioned in the summer of 2001 to unite all underground chaplaincy workers within the territory of Bulgaria. This included several ministries already active in Bulgaria serving in various contexts like military, healthcare, benevolence, jail system and commercial marine. The main goal was to establish a context in which all of these ministries could come together and be represented before the Bulgarian churches and government.

Although various other projects in the area of Bulgarian chaplaincy had been undertaken in previous years, the foundation initiative was formed in response to an invitation of the Church of God Chaplaincy Commission to hold a training seminar in the National Palace in the capital, Sofia in the fall of 2001. Due to the September 11th crises, the seminar was postponed and held February 16-23, 2002 under the patronage of the Bulgarian Church of God. More than 60 people, actively involved in military, hospital and prison ministries, students and church members, attended the lectures. The seminar was a stepping stone for the development of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. Similar seminars were held consecutively in 2003-2004 in various locations.

The following strategic actions continued the endeavor. On August 13, 2005 a regional meeting in the Sliven area discussed the implementation of future strategies in the light of NATO’s decision to place airbases on Bulgarian soil. Individual and group meetings with chaplains from various professional fields and geographical regions followed.

Additionally, a national training seminar was held in Veliko Turnovo on October 8, 2005 where ten regional chaplaincy ministries were represented. The major issues discussed were (1) media presentation of the chaplaincy work before the major evangelical denominations in Bulgaria and the secular society, (2) dealing with stress-related issues at the work place, (3) system restructuring to meet the needs of the growing ministry and (4) the mandatory legal affairs currently restricting chaplaincy in Bulgaria. The participants discussed and approved a six-month national agenda toward solving the above problems and developing timely practical solutions. A priority on the list was the presentation of chaplaincy ministry before Bulgarian evangelical denominations.

The presentation was successfully achieved October 18, 2005 before the national leadership of the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance. Three educational levels were proposed in the area of chaplaincy: candidate chaplains, church and government.

A consecutive regional meeting on October 23, 2005 in Nova Zagora addressed current dilemmas and outlined the necessary steps to complete the above educational strategy. The first goal was to develop a basic chaplaincy course for the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute. The course was designed in the winter of 2005-2006 and after a series of meetings with denominational leaders and educational representatives, was submitted to the board of directors of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute on June 12, 2006. Prior to its submission, the course was presented in a pilot form to the regional directors of the Ministry to the Military at a training seminar in Veliko Tarnovo on April 8-10, 2006. The basic chaplaincy course designed by the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association was scheduled to be taught in the fall semester of 2006 and plans were set to include it in the larger scope of the master’s level chaplaincy program with the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute in 2007.

After much anticipation, on August 19, 2006 in the city of Yambol, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association called a founders meeting to discuss its legalization by the Bulgarian government. Active chaplains from various fields, ministers, pastors and scholars were present at the meeting to represent over 200 Bulgarians nationally involved in chaplaincy ministry. An official resolution was accepted and signed by the delegates to become the establishing document of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. With this event, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association, which began in 2001 and has been instrumental in creating, recognizing and implementing such opportunities for ministry in the military as well as other fields of chaplaincy, has begun its final approach toward becoming a legal non-government organization active within the territory of Bulgaria.

Also important [click to read]:

Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association: Integration Proposal with Local NATO Programs

June 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News, Publication, Research

NATO chaplaincy

chaplaincy-in-bulgariaBulgarian Chaplaincy Association: Celebrating a Decade of Ministry

We are proud to announce that the Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry Program, we designed and launched in Bulgaria in 2006, has been selected to be part of the Social Service Program of New Bulgarian University. After being for years a valuable part of the regular curriculum of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute and the St. Trivelius Institute in the capital Sofia, the chaplaincy program has received the highest level of recognition as successful graduates will be finally able to receive government recognized degrees and apply their knowledge and training in chaplaincy on a professional level. The chaplaincy program can also serve within the Integration Proposal of local NATO programs and be instrumental in dealing with the enormous wave of Middle East migrants crossing through Bulgaria today.

Although the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association emerges from and ministers within the Bulgarian cultural context, it is designed for integral cooperation with organizations of various origins. This advantage comes from the experience of previous working relationships that the organizations represented within the Association have had with other non-Bulgarian organizations. The vision, structure and operation of the Association incorporate and comply with western styles of chaplaincy work on three levels (1) cultural, (2) educational and (3) governmental.

The cultural heritage of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association represents a valuable environment for integration of NATO forces within the local cultural setting. On a cultural level, various events and activities such as English speaking church services, fellowship of soldiers with local communities, hospitals, orphanages and other cultural experiences are available. Humanitarian aid projects are among the most efficient manner for integration within the local community.

On an educational level, there are possibilities on both sides. For example, Bulgarian language courses for the soldiers and English language courses for the local community could be implemented. The most important element within the education strategy perhaps may be education of chaplaincy workers, especially in the current context when Bulgaria is in a need of trained crisis counselors for cases of floods and other natural disasters. Finally, local and national government relations will assist in the change of the status of chaplaincy within the Bulgarian Army. Such an approach will have positive political implications, as chaplaincy becomes a mediator between the army, church and government.

The presented proposal integrates religious moral issues along with socio-political principles in the idea for chaplaincy within the Bulgarian Army. The implications of these principles project involvement of local NATO units in partnership with local Bulgarian organizations. In the case of chaplaincy within the Bulgarian Army, the proposed organization is the newly established Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. Although political, social and economical issues remain in the scope of its work, the Association’s main priority is the renewal of spirituality within the army structure through cutting-edge chaplaincy ministry beyond the ecclesial gates into a world of war and insecurity. The Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association acts as an agent of spiritual restoration targeting morality within the Bulgarian Army with the Bulgarian chaplain as the key element in this process. For an army without spirituality is no army at all.

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Chaplaincy in Bulgaria: Celebrating 10 Years of Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association

June 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News

chaplaincy-in-bulgariaBulgarian Chaplaincy Association: Celebrating a Decade of Ministry

We are proud to announce that the Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry Program, we designed and launched in Bulgaria in 2006, has been selected to be part of the Social Service Program of New Bulgarian University. After being for years a valuable part of the regular curriculum of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute and the St. Trivelius Institute in the capital Sofia, the chaplaincy program has received the highest level of recognition as successful graduates will be finally able to receive government recognized degrees and apply their knowledge and training in chaplaincy on a professional level. The chaplaincy program can also serve within the Integration Proposal of local NATO programs and be instrumental in dealing with the enormous wave of Middle East migrants crossing through Bulgaria today.

It has taken over 10 years since the envisioning of the Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry in Bulgaria for its final realization in the Bulgarian national and cultural context. Through this time of struggle and anticipation, we encountered a number of obstacles as follows:

  • Government difficulties on various levels within the Bulgarian administration and a direct repression from the Ministry of Justice, which was later included in the Religious Freedom report of the U.S. Department of State
  • Administrative difficulties with approving the program as a legal educational process, while no legal background of chaplaincy had ever been provided in Bulgaria
  • Economic difficulties with arranging location and time placement for the program, lecturers, the very much needed student scholarships and various other academic expenses
  • Proper student selection through a special screening process to ensure only qualified candidates for placement within the Master’s Program
  • And of course, spiritual difficulties with the whole process of establishing chaplaincy in Bulgaria again being a definite spiritual warfare for all participants

Now, that the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Program is an undeniable fact, we realize how our training was more than just a necessity for the implementation of such a great task. It was also well sufficient for a time as such.

With the crises within the Bible College system of Bulgaria and the potential change of status for the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute (Theological Seminary) in Sofia, the professional programs offered thus far will have to be assimilated into some liberal art schools with a newly evaluated perspective on Christian education in Bulgaria or they will be forever lost.

In this context, some modifications may be required in the process to reflect more on these changes and their effects for the Chaplaincy Program as well as on the social role of chaplaincy in Bulgaria. Such search for equilibrium is only normal given that historically Bulgaria has placed chaplaincy ministry only within the perimeter of army, prisons and hospitals.

The final goal in our educational strategy, which directly targets legislation and practical implementation of chaplain ministry within various levels of government infrastructure, now remains for the student chaplains graduating with a masters degree specifically designed for their area of ministry from our program. Cooperation with a vast social network for this task is a must, and our students are already well trained through a practicum that strongly demands their cooperative work together.

And while the Bulgarian armed forces still remain the only one within the structures of NATO that has no chaplaincy whatsoever, professional Chaplaincy, as we foresaw it a decade ago, will most probably begin with a new vision within the reformed infrastructure of the Bulgarian army and shortly afterwards move to other professional branches as well.

Also important [click to read]:

Church of God Chaplaincy in Bulgaria: In the beginning…

chaplaincy-in-bulgariaBulgarian Chaplaincy Association: Celebrating a Decade of Ministry

We are proud to announce that the Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry Program, we designed and launched in Bulgaria in 2006, has been selected to be part of the Social Service Program of New Bulgarian University. After being for years a valuable part of the regular curriculum of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute and the St. Trivelius Institute in the capital Sofia, the chaplaincy program has received the highest level of recognition as successful graduates will be finally able to receive government recognized degrees and apply their knowledge and training in chaplaincy on a professional level. The chaplaincy program can also serve within the Integration Proposal of local NATO programs and be instrumental in dealing with the enormous wave of Middle East migrants crossing through Bulgaria today.

But let us backup just a moment and start from the very beginning. In the summer of 1995, while pioneering the first Bulgarian church in the Chicago Metro, the local Church of God state office offered a civil chaplaincy training course for beginners. Unfortunately, due to our heavy church schedule, the chance to attend was low and virtually unobtainable. It was not until five years later that our interest in the field was finally rewarded, as in the summer of 2000 both my wife-to-be and I completed the required course work for chaplaincy accreditation, followed by an intense module at the Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, where essentially the whole idea for the resurrection of chaplaincy ministry in Bulgaria was born.

Today, our Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry Program has produced a number of graduates who are serving in various chaplaincy positions and civil services in Bulgaria. Please continue to pray for all our named and unnamed chaplains on mission. (Click here to read more)

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The Guardian: US to deploy marine unit in Bulgaria

July 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News

1000Troops with tanks, armored vehicles and artillery to be in place by September to help counter European concerns about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine

A Marine Corps unit equipped with tanks, light armored vehicles and artillery will be sent to Bulgaria in September as part of US efforts to reassure Nato allies worried by Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. Brig Gen Norman Cooling, the deputy commander of the US marines in Europe and Africa, said on Thursday that 155 troops equipped with four Abrams battle tanks, six light armored vehicles and three howitzers were scheduled to be deployed at the Novo Selo training area by early September. He spoke as NATO defense ministers met in Brussels.

“It’s certainly our intent to convince the Russians and Mr Putin to refrain from aggression and return to the community of peaceful nations,” Cooling said.

The US defense secretary, Ash Carter, said this week that more US military equipment would be positioned in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Germany as NATO seeks to bolster its forces in eastern Europe. Cooling said that in addition to being a deterrent, the unit would train with Bulgarian, Romanian and other troops over the next 18 months to improve US forces’ ability to operate with counterparts using different equipment and methods. “Ideally this culminates with integrated exercises, with units from more and more allied nations that are able to call for fire from one another’s artillery, our tanks maneuver in support of their infantry units, and vice versa,” he said.

Read more about Chaplaincy in Bulgaria and the proposal of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association to reestablish chaplaincy in the Bulgarian as submitted to NATO’s Manfred Wörner Foundation in 2006

Mission Bulgaria 2005-2012 Completed

June 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Mission BulgariaWe are currently finalizing our Mission Bulgaria project through a seven-year long commitment, which has touched the lives and ministries of over 250 local churches in the country of Bulgaria. Along with these congregations, our international ministry team has worked with the Bulgarian Diaspora churches in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Spain, Germany and France. Six Bulgarian churches are currently operating in Cyprus and four in the U.K., as there are projections for the registration of other Bulgarian churches as well. It has been a journey worth taking.

In relation to our ministry work in Bulgaria in the period of 2005-2012, among many others we’ve completed these seven milestones:

1. The publication of a complete revision of the Bulgarian Bible

2. Completing a new literal translation of the Bulgarian New Testament from the original Greek including the four gospels, acts, epistles, and the apocalypse

3. Establishment of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association with the special recognition of the US Department of State

4. Foundation of the Masters of Chaplaincy Ministry Program for Eastern Europe

5. Our national X event for youth every summer since 2005, which is accompanied with a Bible Camp for young ministers and a national mobile educational strategy

6. Building a broadcasting network which supports LIVE streaming of services and events for over 20 Bulgarian congregations every week

7. Implemented a long-term church planting proposal for establishing Bulgarian ethnic congregations outside of Bulgaria

After completing 7 years of ministry in Bulgaria, we are publishing a detailed overview of our work and results in a soon to be published monograph called simply Confessions. This new book speaks of the lessons we’ve learned in the ministry and issues of church and politics within the religious life of the country we’ve struggled to resolve. It addresses:

  • The separation of church and politics of false religiosity
  • Entering an organic relationship with God
  • Depending fully in the ministry of the Holy Spirit
  • Renvisioning the reality of the Kingdom
  • Raising a new Pentecostal generation
  • Reliving His glory
  • Leaving a legacy worth remembering

As we are celebrating our 7-year long accomplishment of Mission Bulgaria, we are reminded that in 2013 God is doing a new thing.

Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association Ministry Projections for 2013

January 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News

chap1. Continuing to increase awareness of the ministry efforts of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association on local, regional and national levels.

2. Publish the current edition of the underground chaplaincy ministry manual in Bulgarian including the most recent Code of

3. Ethics for Chaplains approved by the Association.

4. Launch second satellite extension of the Master’s in Chaplaincy Ministry Program in Northeast Region of Bulgaria near Black Sea.

5. Lawful admittance of Protestant Chaplains in the military bringing chaplaincy above ground.

6. Establish a network of support groups to provide the much needed re-integration care of military personnel after deployment.

7. Provide spiritual guidance and support to its members who continue to fulfill their calling of chaplaincy work regardless of the persecution endured on a daily basis.

8. Seek and create opportunities as an organization to enhance the quality of chaplaincy care via research and continuous education.