The Council of Ministers of the Bulgarian government granted official registration to the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute (BETI) on 14 June 1999, almost ten years after the fall of Communism. Before the collapse of Marxist rule, Evangelical Christians faced much opposition from the government, although several Bible schools held classes unofficially. Classes at BETI began in September 1999, with an official opening ceremony at the Dr. Long Memorial Methodist Church in Sofia on 15 October 1999.
At the new institute, each of the six registered Bulgarian Evangelical denominations may operate its own school or faculty. The Institute's academic committee determines instructional requirements for each qualifying faculty, which maintains a standard curriculum and academic level, with approval from the Bulgarian government. The six denominations are: The Union of Evangelical Congregational Churches, the Evangelical Methodist Episcopal Church, the Union of Evangelical Pentecostal Churches, the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches, the Bulgarian Church of God, and the United Churches of God in Bulgaria.
The Institute's board of directors consists of representatives from each of the denominations. Daniel Ignatov serves as rector, Roger Capps as dean, and Milcho Angelov as director of academic affairs. Four faculties have thus far been established, each with its own dean and faculty council: The Faculty of the Evangelical Pentecostal Church, The Counseling Faculty of the Church of God, The Faculty of the United Churches of God, and The United Theological Faculty. The United Theological Faculty represents Baptist, Church of God, Congregational, and Methodist denominations and follows in the tradition of the former Bulgarian Biblical Academy--Logos.
After four and one half years of study and successful defense of a diploma project, students will receive a bachelors degree recognized by the Bulgarian government. The European Evangelical Accrediting Association (EEAA), of which the Institute is a member, is currently reviewing the Institute's program in consideration of accreditation status. The Institute is also a member of the Council for East European Theological Education (CEETE). Funding for the Institute will come initially from foreign sources through gifts to the Institute or individual faculties. Nik Nedelchev, former director of the Bulgarian Biblical Academy--Logos, and president of the European Evangelical Alliance, commented on the focus of the Institute: "Our purpose continues to be to prepare Bulgarian Christians for the ministry and so we offer solid theological training. The fact that the students will now receive a recognized bachelors degree for their efforts makes it all that much more worthwhile and we praise God for this opportunity!"
Gary Griffith is dean of the United Theological Faculty of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.
© 2000 East-West Church and Ministry Report