Read Part Unu.
Romanians know how to hold a graduation service. Combined with a Sunday morning worship service, the commencement lasted, non-stop, somewhere north of four hours. It featured two full-length sermons and a half-dozen or more exhortations and extended testimonies, including one in which the Old Testament professor quoted the entire first psalm in Hebrew from memory. A mixed choir and a mandolin orchestra each presented three musical selections. The service, which ended at 1:00 PM, was followed by a formal dinner and then an afternoon service at 4:00. Uncharacteristically, the Romanians kept the afternoon service under two hours in length, but compensated with another feast afterwards.
Twenty-one men received seminary degrees. These men were almost all pastors, and they came from all across the country of Romania. They minister in different contexts: some to Romanians, some to Hungarians, some to the Roma. A few of them are assistant pastors or co-pastors of large churches, but most of them pastor multiple congregations.
Most Baptists in Romania are affiliated with that nation’s Baptist Union. American missionaries often prefer to limit their contact with Baptist Union pastors. As an educational institution, however, we have chosen to train pastors of Baptist Union churches. The line between Union and unregistered churches was not clear, even under communism. One pastor might be ministering to Baptist Union churches and unregistered churches at the same time. After the dictatorship was overthrown, virtually all of the unregistered churches entered the Baptist Union. Today, Romania has few unaffiliated Baptist churches except those that have been organized under foreign (usually American) auspices.
In fact, Romanian law makes unaffiliated churches impossible. Only recognized church bodies have a legal right to hold property or perform “churchly” functions such as baptism and communion. These laws are not always enforced, but they are on the books. In order to organize unaffiliated churches, missionaries often register them as “religious associations,” a separate, non-church category under Romanian law. Most Romanian Baptist pastors view this tactic as deceitful and unethical, so they prefer to maintain a connection with the Baptist Union. read more