Location of conference gathering: Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
Dates of conference gathering: April 4-7, 2019
Eight years ago, an independent local church in Romania joined The United Methodist Church. Since then, the work slowly but steadily grew. At this year’s meeting of the Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Conference, which took place from April 4-7, 2019, in Veliko Tarnovo, the Methodist work in Romania was constituted as a district.
In 2018, the first Romanian was ordained an elder of The United Methodist Church. One year later, a second Romanian – Cristian Istrate – was ordained as a United Methodist elder.
In addition, the Rev. Rares Calugar was appointed as superintendent of the Romanian District. In terms of numbers, Romania is quite small to be a district of its own. However, the legal and administrative requirements in Romania are quite different from the ones in Bulgaria. When The United Methodist Church was registered in Romania it was set up legally as an association. And a Romanian citizen must chair that association. There is reason for joy and thankfulness that there are well qualified people in Romania for this leadership responsibilities.
The United Methodist Church in Romania includes an urban church in Cluj-Napoca and a ministry with the Roma, an ethnic group, in a rural area close to this city. Additionally, there is another urban church in Sibiu. At all three places, the churches have comprehensive diaconal ministries. A special focus is on day-care centers for children and youth whose time in orphanages come to an end or who need to deal with the transition towards an independent life as people of legal age.
These diaconal ministries are connected with an individual, authentic life as Christians among the other leaders so that the Gospel really shines in the everyday life. It is thanks to this authentic witness that youth and young adults are open and willing to have conversations on faith issues. Additionally, there are many valuable contacts with parents and with people who are not related to any church but who want to help with these diaconal ministries.
During the conference meeting, a young man from Bulgaria – Tsvetan Iliev – was ordained elder, as well. The two districts in Romania and Bulgaria are now led by 10 ordained elders, two pastors on probation, and 11 active local pastors.
The delegates to General Conference 2020 and to Central Conference 2021 were elected, as well. Bishop Patrick Streiff also explained the decisions of General Conference 2019. Basically, the decisions to maintain the traditional understanding in regard to homosexuality was received with relief in both Bulgaria and Romania. However, the bishop pointed to the reality that – taking into account the whole episcopal area – the reactions are very diverse and tense.
In one of the evening sessions, Topalski presented an overview of the history of the denomination in Bulgaria from its beginnings 160 years ago until World War II. He connected his historical review with suggestions how the church in the present could learn from the mistakes of the past. A theme day focusing on the importance of proclamation and on opportunities for preaching enlarged upon this reflection in regard to the present age.
The next meeting of the conference is scheduled for May 28-31, 2020.
— Bishop Patrick Streiff, Central and Southern Europe Episcopal Area.