From April 16 to 17, 2010, the 58th meeting of the Bulgaria Provisional Annual Conference took place in Russe. The theme was «Jesus says: I am the way and the truth and the life.», and the Conference entailed a change of generations.
Bedros Altunian, who was Superintendent of the UMC in Bulgaria since 1993, had asked Bishop Patrick Streiff shortly before the Conference to be allowed to retire early because of personal reasons. Next month he will be 63 years old. According to the Book of Discipline the clergy members in full connection discussed this request in their closed session and placed him in the retired relation. On behalf of the Bulgaria Provisional Annual Conference Bishop Patrick Streiff expressed his thanks to the retiring Superintendent for his longstanding committed service. Bedros Altunian belongs to the generation of those people who shaped the rebuilding of the UMC in Bulgaria after the fall of the Iron Curtain with determination and faithfulness. Since he was able to establish and sustain many international contacts with the global UMC, it was possible for him to build/renovate churches and chapels in many places all over the country. The Methodists in Bulgaria will recall his ministry with appreciation.
Under the leadership of Bishop Patrick Streiff the Annual Conference took the necessary decisions for the transitional time. Daniel Topalski will be the new chairperson of the church council of the UMC in Bulgaria. Till the appointment of a new superintendent Bishop Streiff assigned ordained elders on active service with an interim supervising responsibility in their respective regions. During the upcoming conference year the Bishop will meet quarterly with these pastors.
Some additional information:
• There are three candidates for the ordained ministry. They will do a placement in a local church during the upcoming conference year.
• Despite the difficult economic situation of the country the local churches have increased their financial contributions to the UMC in Bulgaria by 20%. The percentage of self-financing could thereby be increased from 19% to 23%, which is a gratifying progress. The Annual Conference gave thanks to all members and friends of the UMC in Bulgaria. The church council hopes and requests that this development will continue and that thereby the contributions to the costs of the pastors’ salaries will increase.
• For the first time most of the charge conferences have succeeded in establish a list of church members. This resulted in a drastically reduced number of professing members compared to previous estimations, on the other hand there is now a clearer picture of the actual situation of the Church. The Annual Conference hopes that it will be possible to have such a list of church members in all charge conferences by the end of 2010. It gave thanks to all those who support and carry on the mission of the Church as committed professing members.
May the theme of the Annual Conference meeting shape the way of the UMC in Bulgaria in the new conference year: Christ is the way, the truth and the life. We want to follow and proclaim him. And we ask for his presence and for his blessings on the witness and service of the UMC in Bulgaria.
Author: Bishop Dr. Patrick Streiff
Date: April 19, 2010