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Pentecostal Union of Romania

Pentecostal Union of Romania

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The Pentecostal Union of Romania is Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

's fourth-largest religious body and one of its eighteen officially recognised religious denominations. At the 2002 census, 330,486 Romanians (1.5% of the population) declared themselves to be Pentecostals
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

; ethnically, they were 85.2% Romanians
The Romanians are an ethnic group native to Romania, who speak Romanian; they are the majority inhabitants of Romania....

, 10.6% Roma
Roma minority in Romania
The Roma constitute one of the major minorities in Romania. According to the 2002 census, they number 535,140 people or 2.5% of the total population, being the second-largest ethnic minority in Romania after Hungarians...

, 1.9% Ukrainians
Ukrainians of Romania
The Ukrainians are the third-largest ethnic minority in Romania. According to the 2002 Romanian census they number 61,091 people, making up 0.3% of the total population. Ukrainians claim that the number is actually 250,000-300,000. Ukrainians mainly live in northern Romania, in areas close to...

, 1.8% Hungarians
Hungarians in Romania
The Hungarian minority of Romania is the largest ethnic minority in Romania, consisting of 1,431,807 people and making up 6.6% of the total population, according to the 2002 census....

 and 0.5% belonged to other groups. They have 1,343 churches, 7,879 affiliates and 354 pastors, along with strong lay
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 leadership. The denomination originates in the early 1920s and, headed by a central leadership, is divided into nine regional communities: Arad
Arad, Romania
Arad is the capital city of Arad County, in western Romania, in the Crişana region, on the river Mureş.An important industrial center and transportation hub, Arad is also the seat of a Romanian Orthodox archbishop and features two universities, a Romanian Orthodox theological seminary, a training...

, Braşov
Brașov is a city in Romania and the capital of Brașov County.According to the last Romanian census, from 2002, there were 284,596 people living within the city of Brașov, making it the 8th most populated city in Romania....

, Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

, Cluj-Napoca
Cluj-Napoca , commonly known as Cluj, is the fourth most populous city in Romania and the seat of Cluj County in the northwestern part of the country. Geographically, it is roughly equidistant from Bucharest , Budapest and Belgrade...

, Constanţa
Constanța is the oldest extant city in Romania, founded around 600 BC. The city is located in the Dobruja region of Romania, on the Black Sea coast. It is the capital of Constanța County and the largest city in the region....

, Oradea
Oradea is the capital city of Bihor County, in the Crișana region of north-western Romania. The city has a population of 204,477, according to the 2009 estimates. The wider Oradea metropolitan area has a total population of 245,832.-Geography:...

, Oltenia
Oltenia is a historical province and geographical region of Romania, in western Wallachia. It is situated between the Danube, the Southern Carpathians and the Olt river ....

Arges County
Argeș is a county of Romania, in Wallachia, with the capital city at Pitești.-Demographics:In 2002, it had a population of 652,625 and the population density was 95/km².*Romanians – 96%*Roma , and other.-Geography:...

Craiova , Romania's 6th largest city and capital of Dolj County, is situated near the east bank of the river Jiu in central Oltenia. It is a longstanding political center, and is located at approximately equal distances from the Southern Carpathians and the River Danube . Craiova is the chief...

), Maramureş
Maramures County
Maramureș is a county of Romania, in the Maramureș region. The county seat is Baia Mare.- History :* The 10th century frontier county of Borsova was founded by Stephen I of Hungary. Since then Máramaros served as the north-eastern border of the Hungarian Kingdom until 1920, the Trianon Peace...

Satu Mare County
Satu Mare County is a county of Romania. The capital city is Satu Mare. Besides Romanians , Satu Mare features a significant ethnic minority of Hungarians .-Demographics:...

 (Baia Mare
Baia Mare
Baia Mare is a municipality in northwestern Romania and the capital of Maramureş County. The city is situated about 600 kilometres from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, 70 kilometres from the border with Hungary and 50 kilometres from the border with Ukraine...

) and Suceava
Suceava is the Suceava County seat in Bukovina, Moldavia region, in north-eastern Romania. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1388 to 1565.-History:...

. Membership is concentrated in Crişana
Crișana is a geographical and historical region divided today between Romania and Hungary, named after the Criș River and its three tributaries: the Crișul Alb, Crișul Negru and Crișul Repede....

, Banat
The Banat is a geographical and historical region in Central Europe currently divided between three countries: the eastern part lies in western Romania , the western part in northeastern Serbia , and a small...

 and northern Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...



Pentecostalism was introduced to Romania in 1922 by Gheorghe Bradin, who set up a thirty-member church in Păuliş
Paulis, Arad
Păuliş is a commune in Arad County, Romania, is situated in the contact zone of the Mureș Couloir with the Aradului Plateau and Zărand Mountains. The administrative territory of the commune is 12,806 hectares. The commune centre is situated at 25 km from Arad...

, Arad County
Arad County
Arad is an administrative division of Romania roughly translated into county in the western part of the country on the border with Hungary, mostly in the region of Crişana and few villages in Banat. The administrative center of the county lies in the city of Arad...

 after living in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 since before 1910; the new movement responded to a deep concern for spiritual renewal following the trauma of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The church grew rapidly and it was declared illegal in 1923, presumably due to internal divisions within the church regarding its basic convictions, shared only by a few "initiated" individuals. Still, growth continued, but appeals for official status were denied in 1924 and 1929. During this time, a significant number of Pentecostal churches identified as Baptist
Baptist Union of Romania
The Baptist Union of Romania is an alliance of Baptist churches for cooperative ministry in Romania. Since independent churches have no legal standing in Romania, the Baptist Union also provides a mediatorial relationship between churches and government.The first modern-era Baptists in Romania...

 in order to be registered with an official religious organisation as specified by the 1928 Law on Cults.

In 1940 the Antonescu
Ion Antonescu
Ion Victor Antonescu was a Romanian soldier, authoritarian politician and convicted war criminal. The Prime Minister and Conducător during most of World War II, he presided over two successive wartime dictatorships...

 regime imprisoned a large number of Pentecostalists and Baptists, even planning to send them to concentration camps in Transnistria
Transnistria (World War II)
Transnistria Governorate was a Romanian administered territory, conquered by the Axis Powers from the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa, and occupied from 19 August 1941 to 29 January 1944...

; the church was outlawed from 1942 until after the King Michael Coup of 1944. It received provisional recognition in 1946 and was finally granted official state recognition in 1950, at which point membership stood at 36,000. A merger took place among at least three different groups, one of which practiced ritual foot washing. The group held its first nationwide congress in July 1951 and moved its main administrative offices to Bucharest in 1954. Bradin was its first president, succeeded after his death in 1962 by Pavel Bochian. Largely a rural phenomenon until the 1950s, it now has an established presence in cities as well, with about a 60%-40% rural-urban split in 2002. A seminary was opened in 1976.

During the Communist period
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

 (1947-89), Pentecostalist leaders were models of cautious discretion in their relationship with the state. Bochian spoke eloquently at home and abroad about the accomplishments of President Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

 and the freedom his church enjoyed. He took part in the 50th Interconfessional Theological Conference at Bucharest in 1987 and was the only neo-Protestant quoted by the international press. He declared that his country had become "more beautiful and stronger" each year, and expressed special gratitude to the state for the pastoral programme and the publications the churches were allowed to have. He called particular attention to the cross-cultural appeal of his church (generally lacking in more established bodies), noting that services were conducted in Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Slovak
Slovak language
Slovak , is an Indo-European language that belongs to the West Slavic languages .Slovak is the official language of Slovakia, where it is spoken by 5 million people...

 and Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

 in addition to the Romanian language of the majority. At the close of his address, he praised Ceauşescu's "indefatigable work" for global peace.

The church strove to transform its members to become model socialist citizens of industry and integrity; while some Pentecostal views clearly perplexed state authorities, they found within these communities signs of the moral qualities and ethnic reconciliation needed in Romanian society. By the 1980s, the church was anxious for better relations with other religious groups, particularly the dominant Romanian Orthodox Church
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

 from which it had long been estranged, and the Baptists, severe critics of their focus on glossolalia
Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. The significance of glossolalia has varied with time and place, with some considering it a part of a sacred language...

. Periodic reports continued of Pentecostal believers' difficulties over the smuggling of Bibles, holding unapproved Bible classes or permitting insistent American missionaries to speak at services without approval. In 1974, Pentecostal activist Vasile Rascol was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for illegal distribution of Romanian-language religious literature printed abroad, including translations of the Bible and The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been...

. Overall, however, the church did not give state authorities as much trouble as did the Baptist church; its leaders vigorously sought to promote their views and develop their communities within the context of the 1948 Law of Cults and the interpretations provided by the Department of Cults. By the end of Ceauşescu's rule, estimates place membership at over 250,000 in about 1,200 registered churches, with a further 300 awaiting authorisation and perhaps greater numbers that had not applied for official status.

Since the Romanian Revolution of 1989
Romanian Revolution of 1989
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was a series of riots and clashes in December 1989. These were part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several Warsaw Pact countries...

, the church has been represented at European and world Pentecostal conferences, and their leaders have visited various Pentecostal churches abroad. In particular, it has close relationships with the Cleveland Church of God
Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)
The Church of God, with headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee, is a Pentecostal Christian denomination. With over seven million members in over 170 countries, it is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world...

 and the Assemblies of God
Assemblies of God
The Assemblies of God , officially the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, is a group of over 140 autonomous but loosely-associated national groupings of churches which together form the world's largest Pentecostal denomination...

. Its leaders have made frequent trips to the United States, where the Romanian Pentecostal Church has seen strong growth, due in large measure to a steady stream of immigrants. In Romania, the real strength of the movement is subject to some dispute: some sources suggest 450,000 or over 800,000 adherents, with church authorities claiming undercounting by hostile or careless census-takers. Even the census recorded a 50% jump in membership between 1992 and 2002, growth has been attributed to conversion efforts and a high birthrate among members 6.5% of self-declared Roma
Roma minority in Romania
The Roma constitute one of the major minorities in Romania. According to the 2002 census, they number 535,140 people or 2.5% of the total population, being the second-largest ethnic minority in Romania after Hungarians...

 were recorded as Pentecostals in 2002, and a number of churches for Roma exist, with worship said in Romani
Romani language
Romani or Romany, Gypsy or Gipsy is any of several languages of the Romani people. They are Indic, sometimes classified in the "Central" or "Northwestern" zone, and sometimes treated as a branch of their own....

. The church receives state subsidies but also relies on annual membership fees and donations; in addition to functions like praying and Sunday school, its activities include education, social development, social assistance (often in collaboration with NGOs), spiritual support and commercial enterprises.

The church has held congresses in 1951, 1956 and every four years since 1986. After Bochian, who retired in 1990, Emil Bulgar was president until 1994, when he was succeeded by Pavel Riviş Tipei, the present incumbent. Each congress, made up of community representatives and other church notables, elects a 21-member Church Council and a 7-member Executive Board, including the president. Pastors are trained in Bucharest at the Pentecostal Theological Institute and at the Betania Pentecostal Theological Faculty in Arad
Arad, Romania
Arad is the capital city of Arad County, in western Romania, in the Crişana region, on the river Mureş.An important industrial center and transportation hub, Arad is also the seat of a Romanian Orthodox archbishop and features two universities, a Romanian Orthodox theological seminary, a training...

; the church also has three high school-level seminaries, two post-secondary schools, and schools for younger children. The church's first magazine, Glasul Adevărului ("The Voice of Truth"), was printed in Brăila
Brăila is a city in Muntenia, eastern Romania, a port on the Danube and the capital of Brăila County, in the close vicinity of Galaţi.According to the 2002 Romanian census there were 216,292 people living within the city of Brăila, making it the 10th most populous city in Romania.-History:A...

 in 1929; its name was changed to Cuvântul Adevărului ("The Word of Truth") two months later. Banned in 1937, it was revived as Buletinul Cultului Penticostal ("Newsletter of the Pentecostal Cult") in 1953 and restored to its interwar name in 1990. The church now has several other publications as well as a presence on radio, television and the Internet.

Demographic history

Year Number
1922 20
1945 15,000
1950 30,000
1956 54,000
1976 100,000
1982 150,000
1989 170,000
1992 219,151
2002 330,486
2008 500,000

Pentecostal Dissidents

During the Communist era, the Pentecostal Dissidents were one of the Romania's least known unofficial religious communities. They represented groups of believers scattered throughout the country, some of whom may also have belonged to the official church but who gathered in rural areas for their own unauthorised Bible studies and prayer meetings. The official church was restrained in its public exercise of the spiritual gift
Spiritual gift
In Christianity, spiritual gifts are endowments given by the Holy Spirit. These are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need to fulfill the mission of the church. They are described in the New Testament, primarily in , , and . also touches on the spiritual gifts...

s, and this attitude may have been important in bringing about extralegal inspirational meetings. The group may also have included a segment of the church that originally remained outside the union because of what it perceived as the official body's unacceptable relationship to the state. Additional concerns were similar to those openly voiced by the Baptists: difficulties in building new churches, baptism restrictions, registration of church members, evangelism and approval of pastors. They deplored what they saw as their leaders' "blind submissiveness", the "political elements" expected to be embodied in preaching, the censorship of the Buletin, the control of visits from abroad, and reports that had to be filed with the Securitate
The Securitate was the secret police agency of Communist Romania. Previously, the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului. Founded on August 30, 1948, with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceaușescu was...

. The Dissidents maintained an extremely low profile and no accurate estimate of their strength can be made. It may have experienced considerable growth alongside the official church, attracting those who favoured more independent leadership. It very likely had close ties with Eastern European missions in Western Europe and the US that strongly supported this type of clandestine community.