June 3, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY –A two-man delegation from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has flown to Romania, kicking off a three-year partnership between the MBC and Baptists in the European country.
Roy Spannagel, MBC associate executive director, and David Tolliver, pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, spent time in Romania May 26 through June 3 getting to know the people. Spannagel and Tolliver are returning from the capital city of Bucharest with a signed agreement that will formalize the ministry link between Missouri and Romania.
“As Missouri Baptists, a major emphasis in our convention is evangelism and church planting,” Spannagel said. “We want to see this carried into our partnerships. Our biggest emphasis in this partnership is going to be helping the Romanian Baptists develop better skills in evangelism and then helping them in church planting efforts across the nation.”
Romania is about the size of Oregon, only with an estimated population of 22.3 million. (New York, by comparison, has a population of about 18 million.) In 1989, the Communist government of Romania fell, resulting in increased religious freedom and a new-found energy in starting new churches. Since then Romanians have planted more than 500 churches, according to the International Mission Board (IMB).
A goal for the MBC-Romania partnership, Spannagel said, is for one body to spur on the other to plant 100 churches a year starting in 2004.
Spannagel and Tolliver flew into Bucharest and were greeted by Larry Carnes, IMB missionary to Romania since 1994 who serves as strategy coordinator for the IMB in southern and eastern Romania. They traveled by car to Oradea, a city near the border with Hungary, where Spannagel preached twice by way of the Baptist Union of Romania, the second-largest Baptist body in Europe.
“Our goal for the trip was to assess the needs of Romania and see which of those needs we can meet and how Missouri Baptists can get involved,” Tolliver said.
Tolliver is a trustee at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Phil Roberts is president. Roberts is well connected with Romanian ministry, having served as a founding dean of Emmanuel University of Oradea, the largest evangelical seminary in Europe. Roberts and the Emmanuel president, Paul Negrut, are good friends.
“I’m particularly interested in how we may be able to work with the seminary in Oradea,” Tolliver said. “I look for a good partnership there that will be beneficial for all. Part of this will be exchanging students.”
German Baptists brought the Baptist witness to Bucharest in 1856, according to the Baptist World Alliance. Influence has grown to where the Baptist Union of Romania has 90,000 members in 1,500 churches. A second union, originating in Hungary, has 8,500 Romanian members in 210 churches.