The first ordination of a Romanian United Methodist elder took place on Sunday, March 25, 2018, and was one of the highlights of the 2018 session of the Annual Conference Bulgaria-Romania.
Seven years ago, Bishop Patrick Streiff visited an independent congregation in Cluj-Napoca, which considered joining The United Methodist Church (UMC). The members of this congregation had a different understanding of their ministry than most of the other Protestant congregations had. They called themselves «born-again Orthodox» and did not define their identity by opposition to the Orthodox Church. They rather wanted to put their faith into action and cared for elderly and lonely people in the villages surrounding Cluj-Napoca. In the first conversations with them, Bishop Streiff said: «Actually, you already live out what is essential for us as Methodists – even though you do not call yourselves Methodists».
The congregation was led by young Romanian adults who said: «Bishop, we have the fire of the Holy Spirit, but we need a spiritual supervision and a transparent church order, because we want this church to be still alive when our children are in our age». They had experienced too many disappointments with new Protestant congregations that came into being shortly after the turnaround in 1989/1990, that considerably grew, but that also disintegrated or were dissolved after a relatively short period of time. After this first visit of the bishop, the Romanians spent about three months praying and getting to know the doctrine and the order of the UMC, before unanimously deciding to join the UMC in summer 2011.
Rares Calugar, their pastor, started his theological education in English with the distant learning program of the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary in Tallinn, Estonia. He also completed the courses of the Methodist e-Academy, which is operating European-wide. After having been a provisional member of the Annual Conference Bulgaria-Romania for three years, he was now admitted as a full clergy member and ordained as an elder on Sunday, March 25, 2018. Parents, siblings, and children came from Romania to Varna/Bulgaria in order to celebrate this unique and memorable experience with him.
Together with Rares Calugar from Romania, Jessica Morris-Ivanova from Bulgaria was admitted as a full clergy member, as well. She had come to Bulgaria as a missionary of the Church of the Nazarene, had got to know her future husband and joined the UMC after her marriage. Her ordination as elder was recognized in the Sunday worship service that concluded the 2018 session of the Bulgaria-Romania Annual Conference. Her husband, Ivajlo Ivanov, and another pastor, Krassimir Madzharov from the Turkish-speaking congregation in Burgas, were admitted as provisional members during the Annual Conference session.
The Annual Conference had started with a «theme day» focusing on unity. Various lectures and a time for conversations and discussion had helped to highlight different aspects of the theme: biblical foundation, Methodist emphases, and missional orientation. This «theme day» had been organized against the background of questions regarding the understanding of homosexuality and the upcoming General Conference called session of the worldwide UMC in February 2019.
The next session of the Annual Conference Bulgaria-Romania will take place after the called session of General conference, from April 4 to 7, 2019. The place has not yet been decided upon.
Source: Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich/Switzerland
Foto: Rev. Jessica Morris-Ivanova and Rev. Rares Calugar are admitted as full clergy members and welcomed by Bishop Patrick Streiff