Origins of The United Methodist Church in Romania
The origins of the current United Methodist work in Romania began in 1995, when an independent missionary with a United Methodist background from the United States went to the city of Cluj-Napoca, commonly known as Cluj, which is the second most populous city in Romania.
Together, this missionary and his family ministered to people in several villages, setting up home groups, distributing medicines and food, and bringing them the good news. After he left, the leaders of the nondenominational churches he had started (two “Way of Faith” churches in Micesti and Cluj) realized that, for sustainability and future growth, they needed to affiliate with an established denomination.
After much discussion with and visits from United Methodist leaders in Europe, including Űllas Tankler from Global Ministries and Bishop Patrick Streiff of Central and Southern Europe, the congregations in Micesti and Cluj decided to join the United Methodist denomination. On September 4, 2011, the official service took place forming the first United Methodist church in Romania.
The Way of Faith United Methodist churches in Cluj and Micesti want to offer people a different expression of church life, allowing them to experience new birth in Christ and a personal relationship with God. Their vision is to start a new home group in a different area each year, expecting that some of these groups will become new local churches.
Today, there are three United Methodist churches—two in urban areas of Cluj-Napoca and Sibiu and one in the rural area of Micesti. A fourth one is being established in a Roma rural community.
Cluj UMC, under Pastor Rares Calugar, the first United Methodist pastor in Romania, holds weekly worship, Bible studies, and home groups, and has a ministry with teenage orphans. Sibiu UMC was planted three years ago by Pastor Christian Istrate, who has formed a small congregation and whose work is focused on ministry to skateboarding teenagers. He will soon start another ministry in a senior citizens home.
Micesti UMC and the Roma church are focused on working with poor families, especially those from Roma communities outside of Cluj. Samuel Goia, a lay missionary, visits communities weekly for fellowship and worship and is working with teenagers through camps, sports, and meetings to present the gospel.
Church growth in Romania is supported by Global Ministries through its In Mission Together 50/50 Partnership-Covenant program, which embraces an asset-based, long-term development approach, whereby mission partners participate in the work equally, utilizing everyone’s skills and resources. In addition, Global Ministries’ Nationals-in-Mission program supported pastor Rares so he could study and graduate from the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary in Tallinn
By Dick Arnold. Dick Arnold is Global Ministries’ In Mission Together partnership coordinator for Eastern Europe and the Balkans, which includes Romania. This article was originally published in the November-December 2015 issue of New World Outlook magazine. Used by permission.