As Bulgaria is celebrating its Liberation Day on March 3rd, protests are still going on in most major Bulgarian cities. Neither the resignation of the Prime Minister and the leading party from the government amidst deepening economics crises, nor the appointment of a new patriarch to the Orthodox Church was able to calm the crowds who have been out in the streets for weeks now. General government elections are scheduled for May 12, 2013 while the President is working with parliament on forming an interim government.
After the last election some four years ago, political analysts working closely with our ministerial team warned that if newly elected government continues to use the same local level (city, municipality) political paradigms to run the country as a member of the European Union, crises will be inevitable. This was obvious even to the social concern grassroots including our chaplaincy program and para-church ministries.
Two years later, as half of the parliamentarian term has passed, we further advised in “Election’s Perspectives for Bulgaria” that as Bulgaria’s Prime Minister elect did not take the much expected place as a presidential candidate, his political strategy has been strongly criticized by his opponents as inadequate and insufficient to answer Bulgaria’s current crises. Amidst the global economic collapse, it was reasonable to suggest that similar socioeconomic shifts will not be long before appearing in Bulgaria.
The year 2013 began with a political distress in one of Bulgaria’s ethnic parties through a “backstage” attack against their soon to resign leader. The opposition responded immediately releasing a secret dossier code named “Buddha” revealing the Prime Minister working as a secret agent for the communist government police. His resignation, along with the resignation of the whole Cabinet, followed less than two weeks later as protests swept the streets of Bulgaria in the month with lowest temperatures, highest electric bills and of course highest rate of the government disapproval.
Meanwhile, after almost entering Bulgaria’s parliament in 1997, the Bulgarian Christian Coalition, traditionally representing the Protestants in the country, remains on the borderline of any political existence. Bulgarian evangelicals were never able to reach their political legacy again, although the new Bulgarian census showed over 25% increase of evangelical population in Bulgaria to some 65,000 people strong. The alternative party, Christian Democratic Forum has showed no political activity since it was established a decade later and quickly defeated by having less than 1,000 votes nationwide. The Bulgarian Christian Coalition has also chosen not to run in the upcoming elections.
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The weekend of the 16-19th of September Cup and Cross Ministries, along with Yambol based Mission Maranatha, held a Leadership Training Retreat for the Yambol region. Ten delegates from the area were chosen to represent various areas of ministry including ministry to the villages, children, home groups, women, elderly and the military. Representatives from Spain and the United States were also present.
Throughout our time together we were able to share personal experiences of ministry successes and growth areas in order to brainstorm through appropriate techniques and strategies to effectively resolve dilemmas in ministry. We discussed topics such as burnout and addressed how to nurture on-going motivation within each specific area of ministry.
At the conclusion of the training each delegate was encourage to take the resources which they had acquired and implement them into their specific areas of interest and take on the responsibility of training those whom are under their leadership.
Unfortunately we were unable to broadcast this training event live due to the remote location, but we are hoping to be able to make it available again in the near future, as we are planning our next event in which we will be reviewing leadership and communication styles. This series of training events is a part of our humble contribution toward the redevelopment of evangelical education in Bulgaria and the move from static training methodology to a dynamic strategy of empowering ministers throughout church-wide discipleship.
The Liberty Leadership Seminar is beginning in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia under the teaching of Cup & Cross Ministries and partnering churches. This year the seminar will be held at the Elitsa Conference Center on the very top of the Vitosha Mountain which overlooks Sofia. The seminar is a week-long training event, which purposes the equipping of pastors and lay leaders within the Bulgarian Church of God. The seminar will be broadcasted LIVE on the internet according to the following schedule:
July 3, 2009 12:00 PM ET: Opening Ceremony
July 4, 2009 7:00 AM ET: Liberty Leadership Seminar
July 5, 2009 2:00 AM ET: Morning Prayer Service
July 5, 2009 12:30 PM ET: Sunday Evening Worship
July 8, 2009 12:00 PM ET: Closing Events
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A month ago, Cup & Cross Ministries visited the Samokov congregation pastored by Church of God National Overseer Alexander Todorov. Our team then left for the Salvation Church of God in the capital Sofia, to hold the first level of the Church Leadership Seminar. We have worked on this course for the past two years and designed it to serve as a tactical ministry training element in our national strategy for Church of God congregations. The first module included topics such as:
(1) The leadership principles of Jesus
(2) Recognition, training and personal qualifications of a successful leader
(3) The principles of God’s timing
(4) Sacrifice, responsibility, investment and delegation
(5) The law of sowing and reaping
(6) The law of navigation
(7) Problem solving
(8) Psalm 23 for leaders
Subsequently, we released on the internet a 34-part series called the Successful Leader. Immediately after we held the course in Sofia, we began receiving invitations to hold the course in various locations in Bulgaria. As a result, we scheduled the first level of the leadership course with the churches in Sliven, Bourgas, Rousse and began planning its future presentation with the churches in Gabrovo, Yambol, and Samokov. We will be then returning to Samokov and Sofia in September to teach the second level of the Church Leadership Course in the Church of God congregations there.
Bulgarian Police Seizures of Church Properties in Conflict with Religious Freedom Commitments Action Inconsistent with Bulgaria’s OSCE Leadership Position
(Washington) – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) expressed alarm today over the widespread seizure of church properties in Bulgaria, which currently serves as Chair-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Bulgarian authorities raided more than 200 properties used by the alternative Bulgarian Orthodox synod for more than 10 years.
“I’m deeply distressed that Bulgarian police, with the apparent approval of the state prosecutor’s office, would forcibly seize some 200 churches and church-owned properties,” declared Chairman Smith. “While there may be disputes within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, it is certainly not the proper role of government to interfere with internal church affairs. Unfortunately, Bulgarian authorities have abandoned neutrality and chosen sides, potentially endangering religious freedom.”
News reports indicate that throughout the day on July 21 Bulgarian police across the country expelled members of the alternative Orthodox synod of Bishop Inokentii, taking control of properties used by the synod. A longstanding church dispute between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the alternative synod has existed since they split in 1992.
The raids were discussed with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, visiting Washington last week in his capacity as Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, in a meeting with Chairman Smith.
“Property issues should be decided by a court, not through legislative fiat or the unilateral actions of a state prosecutor and police,” said Chairman Smith. “Considering that Bulgaria is the current OSCE Chair-in-Office, I urge the Bulgarian Government to end this embarrassment, lead by example, and honor its OSCE human rights commitment toward religious freedom.”
“Bulgarian authorities should stop interfering and reinstate to the alternative synod full control of the properties,” Smith added. “The state should play no role in forcibly reconciling the two Orthodox communities.”
These raids are not the first time that the Bulgarian Government has favored one synod over the other. The December 2002 religion law enumerated detailed characteristics of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, thereby establishing the synod of Patriarch Maxim above the alternative synod and all other religious communities. The law also laid the groundwork for the seizures by vesting government recognition and property rights with only the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. This provision works to the detriment of the alternative synod, placing it in a precarious and vulnerable position. The United States Helsinki Commission issued a report on the religion law, highlighting this problematic provision and other shortcomings.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.