Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
Pastors who served as agents of the secret police during the Communist Regime in Bulgaria are being revealed this week through special legal provision of the Bulgarian Constitution, which allows secret government dossiers and archives to be made public. The law excuses ministers who are retired, immigrated or deceased as it pays special attention to people who continue to serve on denominational boards, heads of religious organizations or church pastors.
The released records have revealed a significant count of Bulgarian evangelical pastors, who have served directly under the Communist government as secret agents and are currently serving in lead positions in their respective churches and denominations. At least 17 agents have infiltrated the Pentecostal churches in Bulgaria (including the Assemblies of God, Church of God and other charismatic denominations). The count is overwhelming in comparison with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church representing some 90% of Bulgaria’s general population with only 11 regional bishops with secret police dossiers.
The newly released documents reveal that these pastor-agents served the Regime through willfully betraying and reporting fellow ministers and their respective ministries, regularly submitting the names of new believers joining their congregations and the activities of their churches as a whole. Special interest in their reports seems to have been given to “foreign religious emissaries” – missionaries from sister-denominations in other countries who visited Bulgarian evangelicals with the purpose of bringing moral and financial support, smuggling Bibles or just encouraging the churches during their time of trials and tribulations under the Regime.
Even more disturbing is the lack of definite and unified response on behalf of the current denominational leaders and the repulsiveness of the general public on the issue as a whole. While the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance appealed for prayerful but fair dealing with the said misconducts, the Bulgarian Assemblies of God has chosen to deal with the issue internally behind closed doors and the Church of God in Bulgaria has postponed discussion to its general meeting in March or perhaps May. Several outspoken leaders from the Congregational and Apostolic churches have been unsuccessful in bringing about a public debate involving all Bulgarian Protestants, while journalistic investigations in the Christian media have been openly attacked in attempt to be kept silent.
It is understood that many of the said pastor-agents were coerced to serve as such through pressure in their jobs, friends, families and in some cases even their children. Yet, the Bulgarian churches are now struggling to cope with the fact that leading ministers within their denominational structures have continually and purposefully reported on the life of the church, thus betraying fellow believers and ministers.
The following research is based on the survey of Barna Group, What People Want (1997).
We asked 100 Bulgarians of the most important qualities of the pastor, and they answered:
1. Makes decisions which are in the best interests of the people, even if those decisions might not be popular (29%)
2. Trains and develop other leaders to help (27%)
3. Strives things in church to be done right (14%)
4. Does not impose his personal opinion (13%)
5. Motivates people to get involved (9%)
6. Negotiates a compromise when there is conflict (3%)
7. Supervises the work of staff people (3%)
8. Manages the day-to-day details and operations of the group they lead (1%)
9. Creates the plans necessary to implement the vision (1%)