Happy Thanksgiving

November 25, 2004 by  
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10xThe Scripture advises us to give thanks to God at all times and on all occasions. It also gives thanks itself: Genesis gives thanks for the creation. Exodus gives thanks for the deliverance. Leviticus gives thanks from generation to generation. Numbers gives thanks for each generation. Deuteronomy gives thanks for the law. Joshua gives thanks for the Promised Land. The historical books give thanks because His mercy endures forever. Psalms give thanks with a song. Proverbs give thanks with a word of wisdom. The Prophets give thanks for the coming Messiah.

The Gospel give thanks for the Messiah who has come to the world. Acts give thanks for the Holy Ghost. The Epistles give thanks for we were delivered from sin, saved, sanctified, baptized, adopted to the family of God, healed, restored, blessed and wonderfully placed on the firm rock who is the Christ. Revelation gives thanks for He is coming again to deliver us from the trials and tribulations of the present world and to bring us to the abundant life in the Heavenly City.

I am thankful to the God who is my hope for both today and for eternity.
Happy Thanksgiving, from all of us at Cup & Cross Ministries.

Reverend Evelyn E. Scroggs

November 20, 2004 by  
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scroggsOn November 19, 2004 the Church of God Theological Seminary inducted Reverend Evelyn E. Scroggs as the first South Carolinian lady minister into the Hall of Prophets. Her legacy of a Holy Ghost filled prayer warrior and revivalist with a supernatural ministry will be carried on by the many who God calls to His Harvest under the same Pentecostal anointing.

Evelyn E. Scroggs was born on May 2, 1928, daughter of James and Effie Edgar and the youngest of 11 children. Converted at an early age, she felt a call from God to preach when only 19. Early one morning, in a small house in Utica Mill Village, while seeking God’s direction and will for her life, Evelyn made a commitment to accept whatever God’s calling would be upon her life and to go wherever He might lead. Little did she know those words of commitment would propel her on a lifelong journey in God’s footsteps, nor did she realize the sacrifice and rewards that journey would bring to her life and the lives of her family. While asking God to speak to her through His Word, she opened her Bible to the book of Jeremiah, chapter one, verses 4 through 10. As she read God’s words of direc tion and assurance to this prophet, she felt the Hand of God touch her brow, and instantly knew she would preach the gospel as long as she had a voice to speak.

Evelyn Scroggs received her Exhorters License in the Church of God on August 7, 1953, and her Ordained License August 11, 1954. She was married for 56 years to Samuel Thomas Scroggs and God blessed their home with two daughters, Phyllis and Marcia, and one son, Gregory. They have one daughter-in-law, Marilyn, and two son-in-laws, Duane Harrell and Bill Durham. There are five grandsons: Matthew Kyle, Brandon Duane, Andrew Paul, Weston Thomas, and Daniel Kyle.

Although actively involved in her local church with ladies ministries and as a Sunday School teacher, fundraiser, personal counselor, musician, and community servant, Evelyn Scroggs’ heartbeat was evangelism and reaching the lost for Christ. In an evangelistic ministry of 55 years, she held revivals in over 150 churches in South Carolina, as well as congregations in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. She preached 3,634 sermons, had 2,656 converted, 1,298 sanctified, and 897 receive the Holy Ghost baptism. A woman who preached the Word with fervor and power, her sermons often centered on the themes of holiness, the Holy Spirit and fire, the cross, and God’s mercy, love and grace. Evelyn’s favorite scripture passage was John 3: 16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

After 55 years of ministry, the voice that reached countless souls was silenced by ALS. Although her voice was gone, her lips never ceased to praise the Lord, and the joy of the Lord burned even more brightly in her radiant eyes. Evelyn Scroggs went to be with her Lord and Savior on March 10,2003.

Faithful servant, loving wife, devoted mother, proud mama, loyal friend, dedicated minister.

Postcommunist Believers in a Postmodern World (PDF)

November 17, 2004 by  
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samford-seal1“Postcommunist Believers in a Postmodern World” deals with the current condition of church-state relations in the country of Bulgaria. This study explores the postcommunist changes in Europe which led to the creation and adoption of the Confessions Act of 2002, a set of new legal definitions for the practice of religion in Bulgaria. Focusing on Bulgaria’s postcommunist period, this paper describes the role of the state in the evangelical revival and the Eastern Orthodox crises during the stages of adoption. This research analyzes the failure of the new legal provisions to resolve the problems faced by Christian communities throughout Bulgaria as well as the tensions created for the practice of freedom of religion and human rights. The conclusion of the paper is a call toward a new democratic paradigm for the practice of religion in Bulgaria.

Read the presentation of the paper

View the power point presentation (PPT)

Read the complete paper “Postcommunist Believers in a Postmodern World” (PDF)

Consult the text of the Bulgarian Confessions Act of 20

Postcommunist Believers in a Postmodern World (Presentation)

November 16, 2004 by  
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The research I am presenting today explores the processes and dynamics which have led to the proposal, acceptance and implementation of Bulgaria’s Confessions Act of 2002. Following the chronological order of events, the paper will show the inability of the new legal definitions to resolve the problems and limitations which Christian communities in Bulgaria have been experiencing. The tensions which the new law have caused to the practice of freedom of religion and human rights in democratic Bulgaria will be identified and analyzed as the research calls for a timely resolution and a new paradigm for religious tolerance among postcommunist believers.

Slide 2: Bulgaria is located in Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania, and Turkey. A population of eight million lives in an area of approximately 43,000 square miles which is slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee.

Slide 3: Bulgaria accepted Christianity as its official religion in 864 AD under the rule of King Boris. Christian faith spread rapidly through the land revitalizing spiritual, economical and political life and setting the stage for the Golden century of Bulgarian culture. By the ninth century Bulgaria had spread over the larger part of the Balkan Peninsula, but in 1396 fell under Ottoman occupation. The Turkish Yoke over Bulgaria lasted nearly half a millennium until 1878. During these dark centuries, the Eastern Orthodox Church played a significant role in the preservation of Bulgarian culture. Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars in the 20th century, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People’s Republic in 1944. The established Communist Regime proclaimed liberty and solidarity while limiting human rights and religious freedom. The new laws demanded conformation with government policy from all religious denominations. Churches which failed to comply were severely persecuted, properties were confiscated, pastors were imprisoned and religious activities were banned. On his first official visit to West Germany in May of 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev informed Chancellor Kohl that Moscow was no longer willing to use force to prevent democratic transformation of its satellite states. On November 9 that same year the border between Eastern and Western Germany was opened. A day later the Bulgarian communist leader of over 30 years resigned and the change toward democracy began. This meant the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

Slide 4: The first steps toward freedom were sporadic and unplanned as were the first waves of revival among the evangelical believers. Although long prophesied and fervently expected, the freedom caught the Bulgarian church unprepared. Nevertheless, evangelistic meetings in towns and villages began immediately with church no longer being underground. Dr. Penov, a professor at the Sofia University and a Parliament expert on human rights and faith confessions in a recent interview confirmed that the members of Protestant churches in Bulgarian exceed 100, 000. At the same time the Catholics are 70,000 strong and Eastern Orthodox are 6,000,000. Because of Bulgaria’s strategic location, today the country is becoming an important frontier in the war on terrorism. Since this war involves religion, Bulgaria is becoming a religious frontier as well. Such is not a precedent on the Balkans, which through history have served as religious frontiers in the Far East mission campaigns, medieval crusades, and Byzantine Christianization. Based on these historical presuppositions, today both Bulgarian culture and democracy demand a clear stand on religions.

Slide 5: Pressured by the deadlines for acceptance in NATO and the European Union, the Bulgarian Government made attempts to provide legal solutions for the rising religious tensions. In the period from 2001 to 2002, three drafts were proposed to replace the Communist Law of Religion which had been the single guideline for the practice of state and church relationships since 1949. The draft which received most attention was submitted by the New Time political formation within the leading party of the former Bulgarian king. Several Religious Freedom and Human Rights concerns became obvious even before the Bill was ever passed. Regardless of the protest and warnings of over 40 religious, secular and non-government organizations in and outside of Bulgaria, on December 20, 2002, the bill was passed by the Bulgarian National Assembly, published by the State Newspaper on December 29 and became effective on January 2, 2003 as the Bulgarian Confessions Act. The Religious Freedom and Human Rights concerns, however, remained within its text. They are:

1. Status of Religious Confessions
2. Registration with the government
3. Relationship between Church and State
4. Religious Activities
5. Religious Freedom

The paper overviews in detail these 5 areas as follows:

Slide 6: Status of Religious Confessions

1. The Confessions Act presumes, but does not provide a definitive statement of traditional and non-traditional religious confessions.
2. It designates the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as a traditional religious confession. The special privileges granted to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church provide for a lack of equality between the religious confessions, which is in contradiction with the Constitution of Bulgaria and Article 9 of the European Convention.
3. The act allows the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to act independently from the state. This contradicts the historical tradition of the Orthodox Church. It also allows it to reform itself to the point where it has little to do with the structure, function and identity of the religious formation described in the law.
4. The Act does not address the religious needs of minority ethnic groups

Slide 7: Registration with the government
1. All denominations, with the exception of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, must register with the Sofia Municipal Court.
2. The Act makes no provision of the requirements which the court uses to grant such registration.
3. It is not clear what type of limitations or bans of religious activities are to be applied for reasons constituted by the Act.
4. The Act provides no definite procedures in cases when the court fails or refuses to register a religious group. This gives the court undefined control over the existence of a given confession.
5. There is no procedure for cases in which the court’s decision may be influenced by public opinion.
6. The role of the Directorate of Religious Affairs in the registration process is mentioned, but not clearly defined.
7. The lack of experts on all confessions within the Directorate’s structures also remains unaddressed.
8. Registration is granted only to organizations with an enforced centralized structure.This is against the traditions and bylaws of many of the confessions in Bulgaria and creates new problems on the local level.

Slide 8: Relationship between Church and State
1. The opinion of the Directorate of Religious Affairs is presumed as expertise on religious groups and denominations.
2. The Bulgarian Government provides financial support for the traditional confessions, mainly the Eastern Orthodox Church.
3. There is no concern with the tendency by certain regional authorities to enact regulations in order to limit religious freedom.
4. The coexistence between the state and the Eastern Orthodox Church, called “symphony” in the Byzantine tradition, is enforced as a rule on Protestant confessions. This is a contradiction with the traditions of virtually all Protestant denominations, which historically have declared separation of church and state.
5. The very fact that the law purposes to solve the problems within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is based on the presumption that the church is not a sufficient agent in solving its own problems. Therefore assistance from the state is necessary as it possesses the power to create the needed legal supplements.
6. The Act allows government interference in the affairs of all religious denominations.
7. The Act enforces the registration of religious communities and organizations. However, once registered, they are guided through predefined channels where the state has liberty to execute maximum control. This raises the question of the actual existence of religious liberty under the new Confessions Act.

Slide 9: Religious Activities
1. Public worship is prohibited without denominational registration.
2. There is no category concerning foreign missionaries and their activity on the territory of Bulgaria.
3. There is no provision for chaplaincy or pastoral care in the army, prisons, hospitals and care institutions.
4. Formation of political parties along religious lines is prohibited. This may exclude religious communities from important policy debates on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and cloning, which have a direct relation to the values they defend
5. Denominational hospitals, social centers and educational institutions are encouraged, but done so without creating actual opportunities for their realization.

Slide 10: Religious Freedom
1. The Confessions Act does not provide an atmosphere for preventing discrimination and harassments against “non-traditional” religious minorities.
2. Neither definite procedures (delays, appeals, nature and role of the Directorate of Religions), nor substantive criteria for registration are clearly defined.
3. The Act fails to recognize explicitly the freedom of conscience, as well as the right not to believe, and does not clarify the rights of the believers within unregistered religious communities.
4. The Act regulates the right and practice of belief, while the right and practice of personal convictions of Communist or atheist types are not regulated by such legal document.
5. The Act implies a limitation clause as it demands that, “Freedom of religions shall not be directed against national security, public order, people’s health and the morals or the rights and freedoms of persons under the jurisdiction of the republic of Bulgaria or other states.” Such reading is problematic, as it enforces standards not found under Article 17 of the Vienna Convention.

Slide 11: Church in the Hands of an Angry State
Religious freedom and human rights advocates warned that the attempts of the state to establish a totalitarian order in the church after fifteen years of democratic transition are unacceptable and may lead to further religious and political conflicts. Unfortunately, their warnings remained unheard.

Slide 12: It was during the development of this research, that such warnings became reality. On July 21, 2004, in a preplanned action upon the Chief Prosecutor’s order, the police stormed through 250 churches in a controversial raid to restore ownership to the official Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Father Pissarov, priest at the Dormition Orthodox Church in the capital Sofia locked the sanctuary doors to prevent police from entering. The special force’s team first scattered the citizens who were protesting around the church and then using a police vehicle pulled the temple doors open. Although the priest was unarmed and did not resist the arrest, five policemen held him on the ground while others were kicking him in the face with their army boots. Father Pissarov was hospitalized with a serious concussion, broken teeth and torso injuries.

The controversial police actions revealed that the new Confessions Act is already failing to respond to the social and spiritual needs of Bulgaria’s postcommunist context. It is unfortunate that its malfunctions prevent an atmosphere of religious freedom, pluralism and tolerance where everyone can freely experience the right to believe. Thus, the Bulgarian Confessions Act of 2002 cannot and should not be the legal text operating in Bulgaria when the country is accepted into the European Union. Forced to be unconcerned with political and social issues under Communism, the Church remains distanced from culture and society to the point of a minority complex. In the totalitarian context, the role and functions of the Church were imposed and strictly regulated by the government. As a result, today the church is failing to recover and reclaim its Biblical identity and is becoming simply a state institution with dictated interests in predetermined areas of social life.

The Confessions Act of 2002 attempts a return to an autocratic style of government, turning the postcommunist Bulgarian context into a postcommunist regime for the religious communities. In the journey of democracy such approach is without excuse. The state cannot and must not attempt regulatory interference with the rights of the church through predetermined legality and pressure of public opinion. The government cannot and should not allow tradition to dictate special privileges for any denomination. When the state fails to be the initiator of actions against discrimination and oppression, the Church must and should assume this role. And these should be the foundations of practicing religious freedom in 21st century Bulgaria.

In conclusion, please allow me to say just a few words about the rather shocking photos in this presentation. The three pictures seen here are from the mentioned police raid. The background picture is of the skull of a monk by the name of Gregory who died for his faith in 1979.

I am not a political figure and I do not have the power to change the laws in Bulgaria.
I am not a legal expert and I do not have the knowledge to draft a more suitable legal paradigm for the practice of religion in my home country.
I am not a publicist and I cannot influence public opinion.
I am not even an Orthodox priest and I can very easily satisfy my internal urge for justice by saying, “This is none of my business.”
I am just a simple preacher from Bulgaria belonging to a church which has suffered half-a-century of Communist persecution and I am simply asking the question “is it true that if I don’t speak now, when they come for me, there will be no one left to speak.”

I saw this conference as an opportunity to speak against the factors which threaten religious freedom in my home country and manipulate the Bulgarian people to return to another totalitarian regime. Therefore, today in the city of Birmingham, which has become a monument of human freedom, I present the case of all Bulgarians who desire religious tolerance, democratic pluralism and equality for all and I ask for your prayers, support and active participation in the process which will guarantee religious freedom for postcommunist believers in postmodern Bulgaria.

Read the presentation of the paper

View the power point presentation (PPT)

Read the complete paper “Postcommunist Believers in a Postmodern World” (PDF)

Consult the text of the Bulgarian Confessions Act of 20

Christianity and Human Rights

November 15, 2004 by  
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samford-seal1On November 11-13, 2004, Cup & Cross Ministries participated in the fourth annual Lilly Fellows Program National Research Conference on the theme, “Christianity and Human Rights.” The conference, which was held at Samford University, explored the deep embedding of the language of human rights in international discourse. Cup & Cross Ministries presented a paper entitled “Postcommunist Believers in a Postmodern World.”

Read the presentation of the paper

View the power point presentation (PPT)

Read the complete paper “Postcommunist Believers in a Postmodern World” (PDF)

Consult the text of the Bulgarian Confessions Act of 2002

One Year Without TV

November 10, 2004 by  
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christian-tv1On 11 November, 2003 the Council for Electronic Media in Bulgaria withdrew the legally issued license for a Christian TV station in Bulgaria. The program of TV Den [Day], where the Christian TV program “Christianity” was broadcasted, was stopped from distribution by the cable networks in Bulgaria. The decision was made by the Council for Electronic Media (CEM, the official Bulgarian media regulator) who took away the license of Union Television, author and broadcaster of the Den program. The motive for CEM’s decision was “systematic breaches of the principles for conducting broadcasting activity set forth in the Radio and TV Act, which disallows programs instigating national, political, ethnic, religious and racial intolerance”. CEM’s decision was provoked by Den’s “From Telephone to Microphone” show which had previously been fined for other instances of broadcasts instigating ethnic intolerance.” I object to the Bulgarian National Television broadcasting news in Turkish,” anchor of the show Nick Stein, a German national who has been living in Bulgaria for several years now, told his viewers in July. Director of Studio 865 Stoyko Petkov, producer of the program “Christianity”, expressed his concern about the easy way of applying the most drastic penalty to media without debate. “This is too radical decision by CEM. The law is providing other options for sanction. Actually, the same show (“From Telephone to Microphone”) was soon reproduced by another station. The penalty then affects the Christian programs more than to the mentioned show.”

The Church in Central Europe: Not Prepared for Freedom

November 5, 2004 by  
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freedom-for-all1David Machajdik and Juraj Kusnierik

The mid-1980s saw some Christians in some local churches starting to speak about and “do” evangelism. The climate in society was changing. It became possible to share one’s faith in a secular environment. People from a completely atheistic background became Christian. It was not a mass movement, nor was it a “national revival.” The only possible (and still today probably the best) method of evangelism was sharing one’s life—including one’s relationship with God—with friends and relatives. All this was done informally, sometimes secretly. The word “ministry” with its spiritual connotations was as yet unknown.

Then came the revolutionary changes in 1989. Christians “went public.” The first (and at the same time the last) big evangelistic events took place. Famous evangelists visited Eastern and Central European capitals. Mission organizations supported by local churches started to do “street evangelism.” Religion was given air time on radio and television. Foreign missionaries arrived. It was only natural to expect a great growth in the church. However, this growth has not taken place. People see the church as important and as a useful component of society, but they themselves do not want to be under its influence. After the initial enthusiasm was over, the church somehow “faded out.” It is still there; it is surviving, but not growing very much.* The reasons are many. We are able to perceive and comment on only some of them.

The Church was surprised by the complexity of the free world. After 1989 Christian leaders did not have much to say about issues discussed in society such as nationalism, business ethics, or the role of the state. Even topics frequently discussed by Christians in the West (such as abortion, ethics, social involvement, or education) were new to the church in post-Communist countries. During the first years after the change of regime, leading personalities in the church did not see these issues as important. They thought that preaching the message of personal salvation did not need to take a new context into consideration. The Gospel was thus unintentionally reduced to a set of slogans without any connection with the complex reality of life. Methods learned from nineteenth century revivals did not always work in a post-Communist society.

Gaps in theology were patched up by fervent activism. Only a handful of English or German speaking pastors had limited access to theological literature and even that was more on a popular level. Classical works of systematic and historical theology were not available. There were big and significant gaps in theology as a result of forty years of atheistic socialism. Problems arose when a lack of theological insight was perceived as a virtue. Weakness was called strength. Theology was seen as a useless intellectualism, leading one to confusion. Many activities were going on, but superficiality was often their common denominator. Religious programs on television are easily recognizable by their naiveté, simplicity, superficiality, and cultural weirdness. They are also very boring. They do not usually have much to say to the ordinary skeptical Central European even if he or she is searching for truth and the meaning of life.

The Church in post-Communist countries has been burdened by its unresolved past. The great majority of Christians living under Communism were apolitical. That meant that they did not openly criticize the totalitarian regime in which they lived. They very rarely supported or had any relationships with dissidents. Some church leaders tried, with varying degrees of success, to win more freedom for their churches by a “controlled collaboration” with the Communist regime. An example of this was that some signed statements rejecting the demands voiced by any given dissident movement, even if they were usually convinced that the truth was on the side of the dissidents, in order to gain greater freedom for various ministries in their churches. It is difficult now to judge these acts. The Church has not as yet gone through the process of reflecting on its activities under the Communist regime. It is awkward now to speak about a life of truth, about ethics, or about a radical rejection of evil. It makes it very difficult to react to accusations of compromising behavior on the part of the church and its leaders.

An inferiority complex fostered a small view of God. Many Christians, when they entered the “public arena,” were embarrassed by the questions they were asked. People who did not take Christian assumptions for granted asked questions which Christian activists, whose message was “Jesus is the answer,” were not able to answer. To avoid this embarrassment, they did not give space for dialogue and swept unpleasant questions under the carpet. A strange kind of inferiority complex has developed: those who in theory believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God, those who in theory boldly proclaim that Christianity has all the answers, in practice are afraid of questions. Jesus is viewed as loving, compassionate, and pious. He is not very often seen as the most intelligent person who ever lived.

Evangelical churches remain inaccessible. Like a hangover from the previous regime Evangelical churches remain locked up and fenced in. Only the initiated can find their way around. To outsiders, churches are practically inaccessible. It is no surprise that in some smaller towns or villages strange rumors are spread about bizarre religious rituals which take place behind closed doors. Shortly after the fall of Communism we were putting up posters in the streets of Bratislava, advertising a public evangelistic meeting. A young Gypsy stopped by and asked us about other similar events. He was very much interested, but only until he found out that sexual orgies are not part of the program. For him Evangelical fellowships had that connotation.

The Church is distant from its cultural and social environment. This might be a residue of the fears inherited from the times of Communism, when Christians were afraid of spies and secret police. It could also be based on a subconscious, but often correct, assumption that if they enter into an authentic dialogue with non-Christian fellow citizens, they will not be able to give meaningful answers to their questions. They know Jesus is the answer, but they do not know what the question is. The Church has a tendency to accept the role imposed on it by the expectations of society. It then becomes a social institution, aimed at the development of ethics and charity. It loses sight of its ultimate goal, which alone gives meaning to its existence: to know God as the creator and the one giving meaning and purpose to the whole of life.

Revival in Progress

November 1, 2004 by  
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revival1Revival is in progress. In the month of November we will be ministering in the Carolinas and Alabama. The purpose of this campaign is to reach lost souls and to encourage the local congregations through prayer and preaching. If you would like us to schedule a service with your congregation, please contact us by clicking here.