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2014 Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Annual Conference

March 21-23, 2014 in Varna, Bulgaria

The ties between the representatives from Romania and Bulgaria have already grown stronger. While there is nobody among United Methodists who could translate from Bulgarian to Romanian (or vice versa), all Romanian delegates speak English. Therefore the conference was held bilingually (Bulgarian and English).

In his report on the development of the church in Bulgaria, Superintendent Daniel Topalski stated, “It’s not all roses.” He particularly mentioned: the passive church (challenge: to empower lay people in their development and in taking over responsibilities); the silent church (challenge: to rediscover the fire of a personal faith and to share faith); the aging church (challenge: to reach and involve a younger generation with its specific talents). To know ones own weaknesses is a precondition for taking a turn for the better.

Topalski also built on his report of last year, in which he spoke about the chances to rediscover and to consciously live the United Methodist identity. The report was followed by an animated discussion, which revealed some of the rudiments of change in the local churches.

There is a real intention for an increased mutual support and cooperation. The local pastors’ Course of Study is now in its third and final year. The study is a helpful combination of electronic distance learning and block seminars based on the experiences and methods of the “Methodist e-Academy.” And since the teachers of this Course of Study are the ordained elders of the annual conference, a sustainable pastoral community has developed.

Two new local pastors were admitted and commissioned. In addition, there is a new pastor on probation, and another young man was recommended for theological studies.

It is a joyful reality that there are regularly applicants for the ordained ministry although the salaries are only slightly higher than the statutory minimum wage, which is (from the perspective of a visitor from the West) incredibly low. However, in spite of the difficult economic situation and a constant brain drain, local giving is increasing each year. On the other hand, this does not change the reality that the United Methodist Church in Bulgaria will, for many years, continue to rely on financial support from abroad in order to cover the pastors’ salaries and the expenses of the various ministries.

The next gathering of Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Annual Conference will take place from April 2-4, 2015, in Shumen (Bulgaria). There will be more time for conferencing and for dealing more intensively with important matters concerning the future of the church.

— Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich