CYBER MONDAY: NEW KINDLE books from Cup & Cross

November 30, 2021 by  
Filed under Featured, News

CYBER MONDAY 2021: Several of our best sellers now on Kindle for quick and easy read. Stay tune for our new titles in 2020…

BLACK FRIDAY BOOK SALE

November 25, 2021 by  
Filed under Books, Events, Featured, News

All books by Cup&Cross on SALE

Final clearance sale for the year with new titles coming up in early 2021

CLICK the picture below to view all titles on Amazon.com

Bulgaria Set for Yet Another Election in the Spring of 2022

November 20, 2021 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

Current Socialist Bulgarian President won a second term with the overwhelming support of President Biden. However, during the election debates, President Radev slipped and claimed the Ukrainian Crimea belonged to Russia. By the time the election results were finalized on Monday, both the European Union and the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria issued notes of warning stating that, Crimea is part of the Ukraine and is currently under Russian occupation. Also on Monday, U.S. Congress forwarded a letter to the Bulgarian government for an immediate decision on the acceptance of Macedonia in the European Union.

These escalations occur in the midst of Bulgaria unable to form a government after three consecutive elections in 2021. As it is highly improbable the current election winner with only 26% will be able to form a government without a political majority, another election may be on the horizon of 2022.
Apart from the Crimean and Macedonian questions, the next Bulgarian government has committed to President Biden’s tri-sea initiative leading to most drastic political restructuring as follows:
1. Accepting the cross-gender Istanbul Convention
2. Pushing Bulgaria toward military involvement in the Crimean Crises
3. Opening Bulgaria as a regional big-pharma hub for modern vaccine testing

Changes in the Bulgarian Constitution may push the country from Parliamentarian to a Presidential republic alike the Russian model set by Putin’s “democracy.” But before all this happens, an actual government will have to be formed in the midst of a very cold winter with rising gas prices and electricity prices already increased by some 30%. Drained by the 2020 pandemic and with no government help or any tax break, the evangelical churches in Bulgaria are not prepared for any of these new challenges.

Bulgarian Election Results Bring More Uncertainty for 2022

November 15, 2021 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

New centrist party poised to win Bulgarian election, will not end the long months of deadlock as Routers projects. With the lowest activity ever recorded in Bulgaria, the new election winner cannot form a majority parliament with only 25.34% of the vote. In an even more complicated scenario, to possibly form a coalition with the 2nd highest vote party will add only 22.4% percent, which will still be insufficient for a 51% parliamentarian majority. It certainly looks like a new (fourth) round of parliamentarian elections in the Spring of 2022.

Even more uncertain are the results of the parallel Presidential vote where current socialist president won with 49.4% – just a notch short from the 51% needed to remain in power. It is also disturbing that the current Bulgarian president who represents the Socialist Party in the country was mentioned by name (sic [b]Radev) as an ally and partner (in the video below) by U.S. President Joe Biden. The hope is that in the ballot this coming weekend, the second candidate in the election may overturn the vote in his favor so Bulgaria can receive at least a bit more democracy-oriented new President. For all this, your prayers are still coveted.

New centrist party poised to win Bulgarian election, could end months of deadlock

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/new-centrist-party-poised-win-bulgarias-election-partial-results-show-2021-11-15/

• Bulgaria holds third parliamentary election this year
• New party set up by two entrepreneurs tops the poll
• Parliament still fragmented, tough coalition talks loom
• Incumbent Radev is frontrunner for presidential run-off

SOFIA, Nov 15 (Reuters) – A new centrist political party emerged as the likely winner of Bulgaria’s national election on Monday, partial data showed, boosting hopes for an end to months of political deadlock in the European Union’s poorest member state. The anti-graft We Continue The Change party (PP), launched by two former interim ministers only two months ago, was in the lead with 25.4% of the vote, based on 61% of ballots counted from Sunday’s election,the third in Bulgaria this year. After two previous elections in April and July produced an inconclusive outcome, Bulgarian voters are keen to see a new government formed quickly to tackle a dire COVID-19 situation, surging energy prices and widespread graft.

“I voted for what we are fighting for and hoping to happen – a more serious change in everything, so that we can have a better life here, at least for our children,” Kostadin Manov, a 39-year-old father of two, said after casting his vote in the capital Sofia.

“This corruption and all this theft should stop.”

But the partial results show the next parliament will be even more fragmented than in April and July, with seven parties represented.

TOUGH COALITION TALKS
Voter turnout in Sunday’s vote is estimated at about 40% – a historic low amid public disillusionment and apathy and also coronavirus infections that have left hospitals overwhelmed. The centre-right GERB party of long-serving premier Boyko Borissov was seen coming in second place with 22.2% of the vote. His decade-long rule ended with the April election amid public anger over his failure to crack down on corruption.

President Rumen Radev, a harsh critic of Borissov, won 49.2% of votes in a presidential election that also took place on Sunday and is tipped to win a second five-year term in the largely ceremonial post in a runoff set for Nov. 21.

Analysts said the new PP party – set up by two Harvard-educated entrepreneurs – looked better positioned to seal a coalition with the support of the Socialists, who won 10.3% of the vote, the anti-graft alliance Democratic Bulgaria with 6% and the ITN party of TV talk show host Slavi Trifonov.
Trifonov’s party had topped the July vote with 24% but the partial results show it now getting just 9.8% after his failure to forge a government.

However, tough coalition negotiations lie ahead before a workable government can be formed.
“Forming a government… will be more complicated because at least four parties will be needed for a majority,” said Dobromir Zhivkov, political analyst with Market Links pollster.
PP leader Kiril Petkov promised on Sunday to be open to dialogue and compromise in coalition talks but said his party would not renege on pledges to overhaul the judiciary and clamp down on corruption. read more

“Bulgaria is headed onto a new path,” said Petkov, who hopes to become prime minister and to have his PP co-founder, Assen Vassilev, as finance minister.

Third National Elections for 2021 in Bulgaria

November 10, 2021 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication

This weekend, Bulgaria is holding another, third national elections for 2021. This one has a double outcome – new parliament and a new president. After not being able to form a government in the first two elections for 2021, the country is heading to a major political storm within the growing pandemic. Apart from struggling economically with other EU countries, Bulgaria is currently leading with death cases due to COVID and the temporary acting government has been hopelessly drifting between strong restriction measures of virtually all business and gatherings or a complete lock-down for weeks at the time. None of these has brought any desired results.

On the contrary, virtually all evangelical churches are struggling to respond to the needs of their congregations pressed between the harsh restrictions and keeping the lights on as commercial electricity cost has increased over 33% this year alone. While the Eastern Orthodox church in Bulgaria is subsidized with some $10-25 million and the Muslim confession with $3 million, the evangelical churches are only hoping to get some grants after this year’s national census is counted. By accepting state subsidy, however, religious groups in Bulgaria are entering a season of dependence on secular government. For the evangelicals this means:

  1. Churches and ministers must declare all foreign currency money flow and foreign bank accounts
  2. Participation of foreign persons in the administration of any denomination is strictly forbidden
  3. Foreign parsons shall not be allowed to speak at religious meetings in any way shape or form especially religious sermons
  4. Anonymous donations and donorship to religious organization is not permitted
  5. Bulgarian flag shall be present in every temple of worship
  6. The new measure will block all foreign interference in the faith confessions and denominations in Bulgaria

 

As if all this is not enough, just a week before the elections it was revealed that the electronic vote this time will be done on voting machines purchased from nowhere else but Venezuela. Over 400 such machines have been brought into the country without registration “for spare parts,” which brings even more confusion and suspicion to the already fragile election process that has occurred in Bulgaria almost every year since 2005.

 

Government Elections in Bulgaria (2005-2019):

2005 Parliamentary Elections
2006 Presidential Elections
2007 Municipal Elections
2009 Parliamentary Elections
2009 European Parliament elections
2011 Presidential Elections
2011 Local Elections
2013 Early parliamentary elections
2014 Early Parliamentary Elections
2015 Municipal Elections
2016 Presidential election
2017 Parliamentary elections
2019 European Parliament election (23-26 May)
2019 Bulgarian local elections
2019 Municipal Elections
2021 March National Parliament election
2021 Second National Parliament election
2021 Third National Parliament and Presidential elections

Bulgaria: What to Watch for in the November 14 Elections

November 5, 2021 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

Although the third for the year, on November 14 for the first time the elections will be 2 in 1 – for president and MPs. The vote is taking place at the peak of the fourth wave of coronavirus in Bulgaria and anti-epidemic measures will again be observed, and the number of those who voted with a mobile ballot box will be clear on election day.

For the second time, the voting in the sections with 300 and more voters will be only with machines, but for both votes the voting procedure will be with one device, and it will be necessary to indicate what to vote for and wait for the printing of two receipts. Therefore, it is expected that the process will be slower, and if the cases of patients in the coming days increase – this will affect the turnout.

In front of the voters
The third election of the year will be held at the peak of the fourth wave of the coronavirus epidemic, which may be a cause for concern among some eligible voters. For now, there will be no stricter anti-epidemic measures in the polling stations and they will remain known until now – wearing masks, disinfection, distance and frequent ventilation in the premises. From the previous two votes it cannot be concluded that the incidence will be denied by voters, as on April 4, when the peak of the third wave was, voter turnout was 50.61%, while on July 11, when there were few registered cases – only 42.19% .

Quarantined voters will be able to ask to vote with a mobile ballot box at the address where they are isolated, even on election day. It would be an obstacle if by the day of the vote in a given settlement there is no section for quarantined, as a condition to have only 10 applications submitted before. However, the Central Election Commission did not know whether it would be possible to open so many quarantined sections in recent weeks.

For the first time this year, the elections will be 2 in 1 – for president and MPs, which could lead to delays and queues in some sections. In the sections with 300 and more voters, the voting is only with machines, and the voting time is expected to be 5 minutes again.

There are two points that a voter using a device should be aware of. The first is at the beginning, when the machine asks which type of election the voter wants to vote for and whether for both – he/she can mark once and by continuing, confirm, after which he/she has no right to correction. The second is when printing the segments with the choice at the end – if the voter has exercised his/her right to vote in both votes, he/she must wait for the machine to print two receipts – one short and one longer, and pull them out after hearing a beep. If it does so while printing, the machine may lock.

The voter will also have a problem if he/she decides to take pictures of how they vote, as the recording of the vote is prohibited and the sanction is BGN 1,000.

Possible problems for the election commissions
There seem to be two main challenges for sectional election commissions – one is related to the machines and the other is to the counting of the voting receipts.

The problems with the machines can be of different nature – technical malfunctions, errors in the lists as on April 4 in Veliko Tarnovo, when there were exchanged names and numbers in one of the candidate lists, errors in cleaning, which can only be done with alcohol, etc. . A technician will be available, but if the fault is not rectified, a paper ballot will be put to the vote following a decision by the district or central commission.

Difficulty and delays in reporting the results would be caused by the decision to count all machine voting receipts, which were taken by the Central Election Commission but revoked by the Supreme Administrative Court. The commission should now determine in how many and in which sections the control receipts should be counted, and the result will be taken from the protocol printed by the machine, and the result of the control count will not be entered in the protocol.

However, the count will slow down the section commissions where it is done. After the end of the election day, the commissions will have to open the box with the receipts, divide into two piles those for the presidential and those for the parliamentary vote and then count, without taking into account the preferences for MPs. According to experts, voluntary or unintentional human errors are possible during the counting, as well as manipulations by destroying part of the receipts. This will certainly delay the transmission of the results to the district election commissions.

Pentecostal Education in Bulgaria Two Decades Later

November 1, 2021 by  
Filed under Featured, News

This article was originally authored in 2008 and now addresses issue that have been ongoing for over 20 years 

The missionary strategy of Protestant denominations toward Bulgaria within the 19th century effectively included evangelistic, publishing and educational outreaches. The educational paradigms, which the western missionaries introduced, were soon adopted by the Bulgarian people, quickly realized as progressive and successfully implemented in both religious and secular Bulgarian schools. These trends continued in the next several decades, educating Bulgarian youth and producing the first generation of Bulgarian leaders who took their rightful place in political, economical, social and religious structures in the Bulgarian lands.

Unfortunately, when the Communist Revolution took place in Bulgaria, all religious schools, with the exception of the Eastern Orthodox Seminary in Sofia, were closed down and religious education was outlawed. For the next half century, Bulgarian evangelical ministers were destined to do ministry without any former religious education.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the tension for religious education reached its culmination and a number of religious schools were quickly established across Bulgaria. The instruction methods used ranged from Bible study home groups to Bible colleges all to fulfill the niche for religious education. Two important milestones must be mentioned here, and they are the opening of the Logos Bible Academy in the Danube town of Russe and the starting of a long distance program by ORA International.

Naturally, the general trend of Bulgaria’s post communist governments to control these educational institutions resulted in the registration of a religious institute under the Directorate of Religious Affairs, a government agency formed to register, manage and supervise the activity of religious formation on the territory of Bulgaria. It was in this context that the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute (BETI) was formed and registered in the capital Sofia. It included five departments (often called faculties), representing Bulgarian evangelical denominations with a predominant focus on the Pentecostal wing.

The Theological College in Stara Zagora, often mistakenly called a Theological Seminary, was established in 1998 as one of these departments to represent the Bulgarian Church of God. Because of current developments within the Bulgarian Church of God, the department was started in the city of Stara Zagora, located some four hours east of the capital and became the only of the faculties not located in Sofia. Naturally, its location, staff, affiliation and purpose created a sense of independence, both in its theology and structure.

With the acceptance of the new Act of Confessions in 2002, the Bulgarian government employed a more drastic approach toward all religious institutions not fitting the standard denominational profile. Since BETI was among them, the government initiated the process of the Institute’s accreditation with the Ministry of Education. Five years later, the government is yet to grant the accreditation. It was not until the publication of this article in March, 2008 that the Bulgarian Government moved toward finalizing the long-awaited accreditation of BETI.

Meanwhile the Institute’s management is facing a tri-dimensional dilemma which includes economic, cultural and leadership tensions. Some of them have not been resolved due to the lack of recourses; others have not been resolved due to the lack of essential prerequisites in the long-term educational strategy of the school. The following is a list of the challenges, which must be resolved immediately in order for the Institute to continue to operate under the said government accreditation:

1. The school’s baccalaureate program, structured primarily after 20th century American Bible college model, is practically incompatible with the requirements of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education. The dilemma of changing the program to meet the accreditation requirements or to retain the school’s evangelical identity is yet to be resolved on part of BETI as a whole, as well as its theological departments individually.

2. Three masters programs that were to focus on the subjects of Christian counseling, chaplaincy ministry and missions were secured from the Bulgarian government several years ago. However, because of the lack of students and experts on the said topics, only one of them, the master’s program in counseling, has been partially developed. Today, it remains in its initial phase as a distance-learning program, while the other two programs are virtually untouched.

3. It has taken BETI over a decade to comply with the country’s requirements for higher education. In this process, the school has not facilitated the opportunity for religious master’s programs thus missing its mission to become a higher education authority in religious studies.

4. The resistance toward the evangelical movement and more specifically its presence within the educational process of Bulgarian adolescents has resulted in continuous protests on part of the Bulgarian community. They have been followed by restrictions from the government, which has forced the Institute at the periphery of the educational process. Two waves of attacks against Bulgarian evangelicals in 1990-1993, 2002-2004 and the current trend of the government to establish mandatory religious classes for children ages seven to twelve has contributed to this alienation and has forced the inability of evangelical education to find and establish its place within the Bulgaria community. Much of this has to do with the lack of an adequate placement strategy for graduates upon the completion of the college’s program.

5. Furthermore, scholarships for individual students and sponsorship for the colleges of the Institute has weekend since 9/11 creating an economical dilemma with which the Institute is still struggling. The financial crisis has brought about the rethinking of the economic strategy of the Institute, its dependency on religious support sources and its financial self-sufficiency.

6. Additionally, a number of Roma/Gipsy communities have received substantial educational grants from the European Union upon Bulgaria’s official membership. This has taken a great number of the Roma/Gipsy students within the Institute in a different direction.

7. Immigration has also taken its toll on the Institute’s graduates, as many of them have seized the opportunity to continue their training in religious educational institutions abroad, while other have simple forgone their higher religious education in the struggle for personal survival, both groups never to return and practice in Bulgaria.

8. It is also unfortunate, that most of the professionally trained Bulgarians who have graduated with a higher degree in religious studies from foreign colleges and universities, have been unable to find their place within the structure of the BETI and have been employed in educational institutions, religious centers, ministries and missions which often have to do very little with Bulgaria.

9. The denominational affiliation of each of the departments, has contributed to the dilemma of structural incompatibility with the leadership and vision differences between the denominations that are affiliated with the Institute. The recent crises in several of the member dominations have added to the escalation of the above dilemmas and the incapability for the resolution from a denominational standpoint.

10. Naturally, the well-educated graduates have chosen not to occupy themselves with denominational politics both to avoid confrontation and to express their disagreement. This dynamic has been partially ignored by leadership remaining from the period of the underground church when religious education was virtually nonexistent and lacking a complete realization of the power of education. This unnoticed trend, however, endangers Bulgarian Evangelism creating a lack of continuity within the leadership and preparing the context for the emerging leadership crises.

As an educational institution of the Bulgarian Church of God and a member of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute, the Theological College in Stara Zagora has experienced all of the above dilemmas and more. Its physical distance from the capital Sofia has jeopardized its accreditation with Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education, the latest guidelines of which have constituted that a school department cannot be more than 25 miles away from its main office. Since Stara Zagora is almost 200 miles away, the Church of God Bible College has been forced to find a suitable alternative. One logical solution may be to move the school or parts of the school to a Sofia location.

However, the Stara Zagora Theological College has had very little if any representation in the capital for its decade of existence. A move to Sofia would propose a number of new problems such as the relocation of teachers and a forced split of focus between two campuses. Another immediate challenge would be the development of a long-term financial strategy to meet a budget, which in the capital would be three-four times the cost of the same operation in the city Stara Zagora. And finally, a successful strategy for establishing a new level of cooperation with the rest of the Institute’s departments, which have operated in the capital Sofia for over a decade is a must, before a successful educational program can be initiated by the Bulgarian Theological College at the new location.