Baptists in Macedonia: First Ordination in More Than 30 Years
S k o p j e (EBPS) – For the first time since the early 1970s, a Baptist pastor has been officially ordained in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Marko Grozdanov now leads the Good News Baptist Church in the capital of Skopje – the country’s sole state-registered Baptist congregation. Grozdanov reported to EBPS that only two still-unrecognised Baptists congregations and a number of house groups also exist. His ordination encourages the congregation to believe in its vision “to be salt and light in this part of the world”. Tony Peck (Prague), General-Secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and Keith Jones, Rector of Prague’s International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) both took part in the ordination service. Grozdanov had received his Master of Theology degree at IBTS.
According to the young pastor, a healthy number of young people have joined the congregation in recent months. One goal is to change and shape public thinking in this post-communist society through the planting of churches. Grozdanov reports that the congregation has nearly tripled its membership since 1999 and now numbers 70 members. Services are usually attended by 75 to 85 persons, meaning that space has become very tight in the church centre. Some service participants now need to sit in the basement, where a video transmission is possible.
Unfortunately, the congregation has not yet received permission to remodel and extend its building. According to Grozdanov’s father, Ivan, a professor for chemistry who has served as an unsalaried pastor for the congregation, all attempts have proven fruitless. The city government has been pushing all responsibility onto the provincial government, which in turn claims to be without authorisation. Unfulfilable demands have been made. Two emergency lights have been mounted over the exits, but the required fire hydrant has not been installed because the street lacks all necessary technical requirements. According to Marko Grozdanov, the congregation is now attempting with the assistance of Western friends to convince the government to reconsider. If these attempts do not succeed, one will need to build a larger church centre at a completely new location. Yet this would require major foreign financial support.
Roughly 67% of Macedonia’s population of two million is officially orthodox, 31% are Muslims, the remaining 2% are Catholics, Protestants, free-church members or unchurched.