Baptist Union of Romania
The Baptist Union of Romania (Romanian: Uniunea Baptistă din România) is an alliance of Baptist churches for cooperative ministry in Romania. Since independent (or individual) churches have no legal standing in Romania, the Baptist Union also provides a mediatorial relationship between churches and government.
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The first modern-era Baptists in Romania were of German extraction. Karl Scharschmidt came to Romania from Hungary in 1856 and settled in Bucharest. Scharschmidt, a carpenter by trade, had been baptized by Johann Gerhard Oncken in Hamburg in 1845. By 1863 enough converts had been made to form a church, and Oncken sent August Liebig to serve them as pastor. This church, the oldest Baptist church in Romania, in still in existence and meets on Popa Rusu Street (Betania Baptist Church). Russian Baptist immigrants, mostly from the southern Ukraine, came to Dobrogea around 1862 and founded a church in Cataloi in 1869. Hungarian Baptists formed a church in Transylvania in 1875.
Baptist witness did not enter Old Romania until the 20th century, and Orthodox opposition was strong. Nevertheless, a church was organized in Jegalia in 1909. An ethnic Romanian church was formed in Bucharest in 1912 by Constantin Adorian (1882-1954), a Romanian who had joined the German Baptist church in Bucharest. Adorian led in forming the Baptist Union of Romania in 1919. Before 1944, the legal status of evangelical groups such as the Baptists was not well defined. Due to World War II and the military dictatorship of General Antonescu, laws were passed in 1942 and 1943 dissolving all religious associations in Romania. As a consequence, Baptists could not meet, worship or evangelize. On August 31, 1944 these laws were abolished, and the Baptists (and others) could once again engage in religious activity legally. In 1948 Baptists were recognized as a legal cult (the generic term used by the Romanian government to describe religious bodies).
Statistics and leadership
Hungarian Baptists have maintained their independence and cooperate with the Baptist Union as a "sister" denomination known as the Convention of the Hungarian Baptist Churches of Romania. Since 1999, the Hungarian Baptist Churches Convention is affiliated to the Baptist Union of Romania alongside other 15 territorial communities (or associations) - Arad, Bacău, Brăila, Bucharest, Cluj, Constanța, Craiova, Oradea, Sebiş (Arad County), Sibiu, Suceava, Hunedoara and Timişoara.
The Baptist Union of Romania is the third-largest Baptist body in Europe (after UK and Ukraine). In 2011, 1969 churches reported 107,626 members.; total Baptists in Europe in BWA sum up to 732,805. However, not all baptists are in BWA, for example Southern Baptist Convention is not.
In 1995, there were over 100,000 members in 1323 churches. By 2000 the number had risen to over 1500 churches and more than 110,000 members. According to the 2012 Romanian National Census, there are 118,003 baptist citizens in the country. The Baptist Union of Romania's leadership is established by the vote of all baptists churches representatives gathered once every four years in Congress (general assembly). They elect the National Council (which includes representatives from all the regional associations and Hungarian baptists) and the Executive Committee (which includes the President, the General Secretary, 4 Vicepresidents and the Deputy General Secretary). The Baptist Union issues a periodical magazine called The Christian - Today, a theological addendum and other books and printed materials for the use of its members. Its headquarters are in Bucharest. Many Baptist pastors and ministers are formed in one of the two Baptist theological schools in Romania: The Baptist Theological Institute in Bucharest or the Emanuel University in Oradea, Bihor. An increasing number of pastors, however, are receiving graduate training in ministry from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, which operates a campus in Arad.
Theologically, the Baptist Union of Romania is very conservative. According to remarks that President Paul Negruț delivered to the Missouri Baptist Convention, the leadership of the Baptist Union has been monitoring liberalism in the Baptist World Alliance for more than a decade. The group was claimed to have ended its participation (but hasn't) in the European Baptist Federation during the 1990s and President Negruț has publicly endorsed the withdrawal of the Southern Baptist Convention from the Baptist World Alliance.
In 2004, the Baptist Union of Romania and the Convention of the Hungarian Baptist Churches of Romania entered into a three-year partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention (an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention), primarily for the purpose of evangelism and starting new churches.
In May 2007, Otniel Bunaciu was elected president of the Union. Though the previous president indicated a withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance, the Union has never withdrawn their membership. The Union still sends active representation to the European Baptist Federation,a regional body within the Baptist World Alliance. The Baptist Union of Romania still has ties to the Southern Baptist Convention, however it still embraces relations with the Alliance and the Federation.
- Baptists Around the World, by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
- The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, by H. Leon McBeth
- Constitution of The Baptist Union of Romania, Bucureşti, 1999.
- "Romanian Leader Concurs: SBC Should Withdraw from BWA," in BP NEWS 3 Mar 2004.
- (in Romanian) Florin Mihai, "Cum s-a format comunitatea baptistă din România" Archived October 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Adevărul, October 7, 2012; accessed October 18, 2012
- Statistics Archived 2012-06-27 at the Wayback Machine made by [Baptist World Alliance]
- The status of the union (Romanian) as of 2011
- Baptist Union of Romania - Official site
- Christian Today - Official magazine
- Romanian Baptist Church of Hickory, USA