Bulgarian Evangelical Church

September 15, 2007 by  
Filed under Research

By Kathryn Donev, M.S.

Most of Bulgarian protestant believers (73%) attend weekly services at churches with membership over 50 members (71%). The majority of these congregations are young and were established after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (68%). This is also the time when most of their members converted (71%). These numbers are easily explained with the Communist repression of faith and religious experience during the Regime (1944-1989). Perhaps the great number of recent church splits (75%) is a direct result of this repression. Despite the scars caused by splits and misfortune, the larger part of the congregation is generally happy with their pastor (78%) whose role in ministry is largely apostolic (64%) and is not necessarily a male figure (46%). The last two characteristics are new for Bulgarian evangelical congregations that historically have supported a strong, congregation-focused, male pastor figure.

Unfortunately, the noted historical discontinuity is obvious in all areas of church life. In attempt to break free from the image of a conservative, isolated, underground church, most young Bulgarian congregations are inclined to new teachings and experiences which largely affects their corporate identity as congregations, as well as the image which they promote to other confessions or nonbelievers. A rich historical heritage remains unclaimed and unexplored as an instrument to preserve church identity and claim social space that historically belongs to Bulgarian evangelicals.