New Church in the Spirit

The struggles surrounding the Bulgarian Confessions Act are not over. The search for a democratic paradigm which integrates religious freedom and freedom of conscience is not completed. As religious pluralism in Bulgaria occurs, unfortunately, in the forming postmodern context, the time has come for the Bulgarian Church to rediscover its historic identity by revisiting its Biblical theology. Common theological presuppositions presented within the faith of all Bulgarian Christians must lobby religious tolerance and create a healthy environment for the implementation of a new paradigm for ministry which will successfully incorporate interdenominational partnership.

The first step toward such a paradigm may have been made as Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant believers came together on October 23, 2004. In an “Universal Character of the Christian Church” round table discussion, they considered the possibility of the establishment of a religious community where Christians from various denominations can come together to worship in freedom from fear and according to their religious convictions.

As a direct result of the round table, on February 19, 2005 the participants came together again to establish a new church based on unity and tolerance. It was named, Christian Catholic (with the meaning of Universal) and Apostolic Church. Orthodox priests and protestant pastors came together to set forth into ministry the pastor of the new church the Pentecostal minister and scholar, Vili Altanov. The service was moderated by bishop Alexy Dardakius from the Russian Orthodox Reformed Church.

The participation of protestant and orthodox ministers in one church by itself is a global precedent. In Bulgaria it is an indication of religious freedom and tolerance. The new paradigm incorporates the protestant style of preaching along with eastern experiential theology. The church claims this is not simply a new form of institutional ecumenism, but a new paradigm for ministry in unity created by the Spirit.

The idea for the new formation comes from father Christo Pissarov, who was involved in the struggles for new social space within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 2004. According to him, this new paradigm of ministry does not purpose reform of any of the existing in denomination. On the contrary, it is an attempt of coming together in the Spirit and ministering in the presence of God in unity.