The UMC in Bulgaria has more than 160 years of history behind it. As a minority denomination, it often struggled to survive — especially in the 40 years after the Second World War when almost all church activities were forbidden. By 1989, only three of the original 16 local churches had survived. But as a result of a huge commitment, the church was structurally re-organized and filled with life. At the center of this growth process, the founding of new churches exists side by side with the consolidation and stabilization of the existing ones. Many local churches and individuals have recognized that in a society going through a radical transition they are only credible when the proclamation of the Gospel goes hand in hand with practical help. Their current activities therefore combine both words and deeds in many different ways (e.g. ministry with prison inmates, educational programs, ministry with homeless people, etc.). Children and youth as well as people fromthe margins of society – particularly members from minority groups (Roma, Armenians, Turks)–aregiven special attention. In so doing, the UMC in Bulgaria has succeeded in becoming a model of peaceful coexistence and collaboration of people belonging to various ethnic groups – and this is a very important Christian witness in a region still challenged by ethnic and religious tensions.
Population: 7.3 millions
Area: 110,910 km2
Religion: Orthodox (76%),
UMC Churches: 29
Professing members: 1141
Active Clergy: 20
Pleven is the seventh most populous city of Bulgaria with approximately 100.000 inhabitants. It is not only the biggest economic center in Northwestern Bulgaria, but also home of a major Medical University with more than 1.000 students and academic employees. How can United Methodists reach out to these students if Bulgarian law does not make this easy at all?
The Bulgarian parliament passed the final version of the new religious law – after having dropped the most prohibitive provisions. Methodists and adherents of other minority denominations expressed their thankfulness and relief.
The proposed changes to the Bulgarian Religious Law, which would have drastic consequences not only for The United Methodist Church in Bulgaria, cleared a first hurdle.