My “Sinfully” English Rant [into the Romanian Pentecostal Church]

By Dan Chirilenco March 11 2011.
http://www.insighter.ca/2011/01/english-is-satans-tool/

A quick look at the history of Roman Catholic Church during the Medieval and Renaissance periods will unveil certain elements which have been carried over into the contemporary Romanian Pentecostal Church. The most glaring of these are intolerance of different ideas, blind adherence to traditions, and the belief in the sacredness of the Latin language. My intent here is not to bash the Roman Catholic Church, for even they have recanted and apologized for their past abuses. However, I do intend on harping on the latter point, mainly the belief in the existence of a sacred language which is upheld above all others. Within many Romanian Pentecostal Churches in the diaspora, particularly within North America, several obstacles have been put up to prevent the introduction of English and other languages in their services. This reality is often to the detriment of the younger generations who have little or no knowledge of Romanian. Although the reason for this is nationalistic in origin, it has become entrenched in many Romanian Pentecostal Churches even though nationalism has no business in churches. As a result of this situation, it would be of use to examine the cause and effects of these state of affairs which cause so much controversy.

A plausible explanation for the insistence by older generations in using Romanian exclusively within services, is one which is cultural in nature. Due to the Communist past of the Romanian state, severe laws and regulations were in place which prevented the free movement of people, free speech and expression of the individual. The state itself was permitted to intrude in every aspect of private life, giving it a totalitarian flare. Although this past seems austere in nature, it went hand in hand with the legalist mindset of several Pentecostal Churches at the time. Legalism as we know it seeks to control the behaviour of people and is made clear by analyzing some of the rules intended to control how Pentecostal Christians dressed, who they interacted with others, the music they listened to, the literature they read etc. The difference between control imposed by the Communist state and control perpetuated by the Pentecostal Church, was that one aspired to achieve citizen subservience to the state, and the other spiritual fulfillment. The collapse of Communism in 1989 was followed by an explosion of mass migrations from Romania to other developed countries like Australia, Canada and the US. This migration still occurs although the destination countries now tend to be in Western Europe and this is due to the accession of Romania into the European Union.

Upon arrival to their destination countries, I suspect culture shock sets in. The typical Romanian who was once subject to severe rules and regulations, suddenly came into contact with the alien concepts of rights and freedoms. In addition to these new concepts, migrants were faced with different social interactions in the destination countries, ones that were grounded in the belief that each individual has the right to their own fulfillment without interference. This translated into behaviours which Romanians found to be abhorrent or sinful. The psyche of each conservative Romanian individual was ill prepared to grapple with the supposed “immorality” ensuing all around them. In response to this, Romanians created an “us” and “them” mentality. And this was cemented over by using language as a barrier to filter out any non-Romanian individuals who may bring the “immorality” of the native Canadians or Americans into the church. As a result many sermons are only given in Romanian, congregational hymns must be in Romanian, even English in Sunday school lessons is severely curtailed. The negative effects of these draconian measures to prevent the “anglicization” of Romanians has led to monumental problems within the Romanian Pentecostal community. The first is the apparent attack on the identities of the younger generations. The realization has not yet set in with some Romanian immigrants that their children may not consider themselves fully Romanian in their new country.

Taking myself as an example, I was born and raised in Canada, was taught English and French, was educated in only English institutions, have strong allegiances to the Canadian federation, have never stepped foot in Romania and hold no loyalty to the Romanian state. The only tie I have to that country is the reality that my parents were born and raised there for a short period of time. If I were uprooted and deported to Romania, I wouldn’t feel at home at all. Therefore I cannot call myself Romanian in the fullest sense, but Canadian with a Romanian heritage. Sadly though, this situation is not recognized by many Romanian churches. The perception is that even children born outside of Romania to Romanian parents are Romanian in the fullest sense. There is no room for tolerance of what is called hyphenated Romanians (Canadian-Romanian, American- Romanian, British-Romanian, French- Romanian etc). And what this intolerance of hyphenated identities entails, is the complete rejection of other languages which may be spoken by these individuals EVEN if it’s easier for these people to understand the message of Christ in their own language. In essence, upholding one language to the exclusion of all others becomes more important than spreading the message of Christ to as many people as possible. In addition, the absurdity of this situation arises when the realization sets in that I (among many others) get told by foreigners what language to speak.IN OUR OWN COUNTRY. It would be the same as myself moving to Romania and telling the people in churches there to stop speaking their own language. If that sounds extreme, why must we tolerate it here?!

In addition to the attack on hyphenated identities, two other related effects of this situation are the slow integration of Romanian migrants into the host country’s society and the lack of community involvement of the church as a whole. What I mean by integration is the extent to which Romanians incorporate themselves into the destination country. Examples include voting in national elections, interacting with non-Romanian people and creating social contacts with them. Learning the language is a major component in this process. However, if the Romanian church acts as the main social hub of interactions amongst Romanians (as is the case), and if at the same time the church looks with disdain on other national languages (English in most cases), there is little incentive for Romanian Pentecostal migrants to learn the language and become productive citizens within the country. I do not extend this criticism to aged migrants who may find difficulty in learning a new language, but I do have a problem with those who migrate to a new country and live there for several years with little to no effort to learn the national language(s). With slowed integration also comes less interaction between the Romanian Church and the community surrounding it. Interactions such as ministering to the destitute, providing spiritual counsel to those who are spiritually broken, and fighting for social justice. This is not to say that Romanian churches do not engage in such activities, but for many churches these types of services are only offered to other Romanians, therefore making the church inaccessible to other people of different national identities. This strikes at the core of the universal nature of Christ and transforms His message into a cheap tool of nationalistic aspirations within the Romanian community.

At this point, I am well aware what my growing number of critics will say. “Move to another church if you don’t like it!” will be a common response after this is posted online. My pre-emptive response to them is: Why should I move to another church when I was born and raised in my current church? Why must I succumb to the demands of migrant Romanians who have a xenophobic attitude towards other cultures? Considering the fact that Romanian churches in Canada operate on a tax-exempt status granted by the national government, in addition to operating under the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I have every right to stay within my own church while promoting my own linguistic and cultural identity. It is those who oppose this who should ask themselves what exactly they are doing in a non-Romanian country if they have such a profound dislike for it. And this applies to all other Romanians finding themselves in other countries. It is high time that the realization is made that individuals born to Romanian Pentecostal parents outside of Romania will develop an identity other than Romanian. And after this realization takes place, accommodation is next on the to do list. Actions such as allowing some congregational hymns to be sung in English (or other languages depending on where in the world you find yourself), actively encouraging non-Romanian sermons, and allowing small children to learn about God in their language of choice, would be a great step forward in accommodating differences. I must note that I am well aware of several Romanian Pentecostal Churches in the diaspora which have taken significant steps in accommodating these differences, but at the same time, I daresay these churches are a minority when compared to all the Romanian Churches globally who still harbour nationalistic sentiments and a fear of other languages and cultures.

For all the romanian christians, please feel free to publish this article on your websites.

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17 Responses to My “Sinfully” English Rant [into the Romanian Pentecostal Church]

  1. Rodica says:

    If you haven’t yet heard of ‘Tinerii Romani Americani, you should know that they are a group of young Romanian Americans that are asking for churches to devote at least a part of their Sunday programs to preach to the youth in the language they know best (in some cases, it’s the only language they understand)- English.
    It is heart breaking for me to continuously see and read their pleas on the internet, and to see some of the lashback and negative responses they receive. It is heart breaking to me to see young people leaving Romanian churches forever.

    Biblically we the Romanian Christ following community have a responsibility to take care of our ‘least of these’ children, and to devote a small amount of time to preach the word of God in English, is not a big thing to ask. Please pray for the Romanian youth, and as you read the letter below, please do not get stuck on any doctrinal or sticking points. Please read through the words and seek to understand and have a heart for these (our) young people and pray that the Lord works on the hearts of those that can have an impact on this situation, and pray that these young people do not forsake God, even if they will eventually walk away from the Romanian churches.

    Matthew 25:31-46

    Every time I visit their website this is the passage that convicts me. So Jesus said that (v 42-43) I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

    How will we justify ourselves? And the passage above?

    If we were to go into missions, would we demand that the natives learn our language in order so we may preach to them? Or would we learn their language so we could preach the word of God? Then why can’t/won’t we do the same for our own kids?

    Then when I see this picture on their website, I want to cry out to God: God have mercy so that we do not lose our children to the world because we refuse to preach to them in an understandable language! (Rodica)

  2. Gabi Bogdan says:

    I agree having English sermons in our churches every Sunday is a necessity . The problem is do you have someone that can preach in English ? One of the problems is that we have few Romanian preachers that can do it( and I am referring to man of God that have the imprint of the Holy Spirit on their lives, Leonard Semenea comes to mined and few, very few others). Just to have someone speak in English that has no calling is a waste of everyones time. And we tried it here in Portland , one of the churches opened few years ago trying to go the rout that is asked above( language, music, clothes etc.). Guess what? most of their youth go to American churches on Sunday morning. And most of the youth in Portland ( maybe over 90%) , don’t even go there, they go to the traditional Philadelphia Romanian Church. And what is their main complain about the style of the other church? They are trying too hard to be Americans . Most of the people can detect when someone tries to be .. phony , to be someone that they are not, like a white guy trying to act black. Like a Romanian ” care are inca mamaliga intre dinti” ( vorba lui fr. N. Pop) si incearca sa poarta palarie de cowboy.Sugestia mea a fost, decit sa ascultam pe cineva predicand in engleza, care nu are nici un business sa predice, mai bine sa Se puna o predica pe ecran a unui predicator real, de la care se poate invata ceva si peste care se vede puterea Duhului Sfint.

  3. Rodi says:

    That is a novel idea, about showing a significant sermon video in English. I think you hit the nail on the head in your point on having a calling. And, if a church does not prepare its young to become preachers, then they will not be able to fulfill the call and preach in English. There is a fear in the Romanian community that if English is encouraged, then Romanian will be put aside. However, if English is not preached, the Romanian churches will eventually become extinct in the next 2 generations. Our youth need God at this stage more than any other, so I think unless someone in leadership takes initiative and shows the rest of the country’s Romanian churches how this can work, then the next generation may become a lost cause. May God help us! I think for an outside observer (non Romanian) looking at this, they may think we are nuts, refusing to fix this problem for ‘our own’ children, while we preach ‘love thy neighbor’.

  4. Gabi Bogdan says:

    The job of a pastor( one of them) is to always look for the young guy that shows potential, and desciple him one on one. It takes years. Fratele Mitoi has a young man in his church, that is his carbon copy almost. That is how you raise leaders that can keep the local church going. That is what we are missing. And we have a excellent example in Paul and tit and Timothy. When you have young kids preach before they are ready, you pretty much kill them, for most of the time pride and arrogance sets in. I have seen it in some of my friends.

  5. J. E. Diaz says:

    “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness…” -E.S.V-

    We can’t deny that in today’s majority of “appointed leaders” what ppl are getting is a GQ figure with fine rhetoric and a high theoretical IQ w/out the approved and tested passion that it takes to serve in God’s work. The vast ecclesiastical leadership of today uses the pulpit as a platform to keep an image and make a comfortable living, not to keep the legacy and personally follow the example of Christ while modeling a genuine godly walk.

    The word “example” is used a number of times in scripture; but it’s used only twice to speak specifically about the two most important practical qualities of our Lord Christ Jesus; they are found in (John 13:15) and (1Peter 2:21) The first one speaking of the example of humble service; the other about the willingness of Jesus to suffer for us “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…”

    These monumentally worthy characteristics are the first and foremost qualities we should look out for in a so called “man of God” because I tell you that if we had more men and women in our pulpits with this spirit and sense of duty, we would’nt have so many abberations going on and w/out a doubt we would’nt have our beloved brethren so disoriented in our congregations. Bottom-line is that we are tolerating things and ppl that God does not approve of and “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin…”

    I will certainly keep my Romanian brothers in all my prayers, hey maybe one day we can join forces and go help them… GLORY!

  6. Ev Er Eady spunea... says:

    God bless America
    I wish to commend the author Dan Chirilenco for voicing his opinion on these matters.
    While I do not share all his views to the most part I believe he has good and fair points
    addressed in his “Sinfully” English Rant. Arguments that shouldn’t be over-looked lightly.

  7. Ikeepzitclean says:

    Oh nice yeah i read this blog entry a while back off his website. he def. hit the nail on the head w/ those key points he mentioned. i like it. great article

  8. Anonim says:

    Sunt multe biserici unde se predica numai in engleza dar probabil acolo numai cei care sunt binecuvintati cu haru de a predica au un cuvint de spus…acum multi vor sa se predice si in bisericile romane in engleza ca sa poata predica aproape toti care vorbesc engleza chiar daca nu au acest dar.

  9. Pastor Cristi says:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the e-mail.
    Interesting and useful analysis. It’s good to know that more pastors/churches from North America (that have a Romanian component/heritage) understand the need to diversify the ministry of the Word and speak to the young people in the language of their culture.

    May we have the Faith, Courage and Creativity to take the Gospel, in a relevant way, not just to all the corners of the world, but to each community and social group under our influence. Romans, 1:16-17

    Blessings from Bucharest, the capital of our dear and frustrating Romania, a city that needs a lot of prayers and renewal.

    Pastor Cristi
    Lead Pastor
    Bucharest International Church (a multicultural community of faith where Romanian and English are the main (not only, though) languages of communication.

  10. Flavius Giurgiu says:

    I do acknowledge that some individuals may blindly deny anything to do with English. But do you acknowledge that the teachings of those Romanians back 50 years ago was healthy? That’s when there were prophecies 100% on the dot specific and accurate, that’s when blind people were healed upon prayer in church, that’s when entire churches spoke in tongues in their prayer meetings, that’s when the Spirit of God was at work-because those Romanians lived in holy reverence and in fear of the Lord and truly lived the Apostolic Pentecostal life. Sadly, almost all Romanian Pentecostal Churches are nothing more than a clanging bell. “We are Pentecostal, we are Pentecostal.” Where is the Spirit? “He’s in us,” they would say. But the Spirit is not with them because they have taken after the majority of Christians in the U.S., a compromised life lacking in power and holiness. This is certainly one thing our parents were afraid of when they arrived in the U.S.: the libertarian movements in the American Christian churches. They wanted to protect us from this dead Christian influence mostly due to the liberty and prosperity in this nation. America is no longer a godly nation. Also, introducing English in the churches is not a problem. However, for the sake of your soul and those who hear, you and I had better turn to the pure healthy teachings that the first generation of Romanian Pentecostals once had. That is when the Holy Spirit was working in full power and freedom in the church.

    Nowadays, we’ve kicked the Holy Spirit out of the church and we’ve let the ‘self’ in. That’s exactly what the Devil intended. We must be full of the Holy Spirit and be led by the Spirit, exactly as the Apostles were. Common teachings nowadays are as follows: once saved always saved, you get the Holy Spirit when your baptised in water or when your saved, you can have pre-marital sex in order to find the right partner, theaters and rock concerts are fine, jewelry is good for the saints, beer is fine for Christians, etc. These are all deadly lies. We are saved as long as we continue to fight the good fight and run the good race. Even though God won’t let go of us, we’ve got the liberty to let go ourselves. Also, one is baptised with the Holy Spirit when the sign of that baptism is present-speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables. The moment of being born again, the baptism in water, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are all independent events, as Peter lists them in Acts 2. All in all, the English language is not the only problem. The problem is the effect of the liberal movement of American churches upon Romanian churches. We may speak in English and forget Romanian, BUT we had better remember and keep the doctrine of the Apostles as the first generation of Romanian Pentecostals did. “Oh, but that was so long ago. We’re modern and educated.” God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. So are His expectations of a godly Spirit filled life! God be with us all, and may we be full of the Holy Spirit and God’s love if we would like to take part of the first resurrection, the rapture of the Bride of Christ!

  11. Faulkner Ursu says:

    Being an American living in Romania for 20 years now, I have often wondered what Romanians would think of me if I and other expats living here, had formed a church which conducted it’s services exclusively in English. How would they have viewed us if we had limited our social activities to mixing only among ourselves. Just sayin’.

  12. Anna says:

    There are a few good key points to which I can relate to the author of this article. I was born in Romania but moved to the States at a very young age. I didn’t fit in with the older generation within the church and at the same time I didn’t fit in with my classmates and outside friends. I agree that our churches should be more flexible with the language and culture but at the same time I also agree to the response that Flavius Giurgiu said. How flexible is too flexible? It is sad to see our “Romanian kids” act and behave in negative ways, even worse than I’ve seen non-Christian Americans act.

    I am married to an American, he sometimes goes to Romanian churches and has engulfed himself with-in our traditions, but at the same time he wonders if our Romanian-Pentecostal traditions have turned into a semi-cult. It seems to be a us versus them mentality (Romanian verses Americans) it’s more of a racism. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, American, Canadians, Black, Indian ext. I have seen more segregation within our churches than in the outside world. If you don’t have the expensive car, clothes, or house you won’t be invited to certain church functions or parties. Our parents and grandparents have come from an oppressed and judgmental government yet they raise the younger generation to be judgmental and segregate.

    The common trend at our church’s is “we live in a sinful place, these Americans are sinful, don’t associates with them” But they speak at church about being a light and an example to the people around us. I hear more often of people within the church getting divorced having issues and I wonder how much this is an influence of the outside world or just the devil getting into the hearts and lives of all people regardless of where they go to church or what language they speak.

    People from our churches go on missions trips to Asia, India, and ext. But what about the people that live near us? I have run into so many people that don’t believe in God, the growing trend in United States is, being a Christian is a minority. If you talk about God or church in the workplace you’re shunned and could lose a promotion. Although Homosexuals are allowed to have office parties, and clubs.
    God is near and we as his children not any specific nationality, should be his example and walk in Jesus’s footprints. We need to be an example to ALL of those around us and try to attract everyone.

  13. George Beck says:

    The “straightforwardness” and relevant pragmatism that transpired from the “Sinful rant” is worth the praise. I have used some of those ideas in an essay about “The melting pot” while studying Cisnero’s writings in Engl 2385 (American Literature). The teacher was absolutely blown away to see an insider talking with so much passions about things that are of absolut necessity; cultural integration of hyphenated identities.
    Absolutely magnificent! I commend you for your clarity. You would not fit the “pastor” profile though. In order to be a pastor, you need to have a baggage of stories with cows, ships, rail roads, agriculture, etc which will eventually fill half of your sermon.
    Great job and keep on posting!

  14. MS Volosen says:

    You my friend are the first person that I know who admitted to have a “keen interest in church politics.” And that is no compliment to you.
    Here is where I am coming from.
    At this point I have spent exactly half of my life in Romania and the other half here in the states. I consider myself to be a Romanian-first, for the simple fact that I was born in Romania to Romanian parents. I currently attend and try to serve and be involved in the same Romanian church that I attended for twelve years – a church that I love dearly. I have many great friends that are pastors and leaders in great American churches and for the past two years I have been myself involved in some aspects of ministry in a great American church –which I also love
    ….
    I would like to say that I agree that the Romanian churches here in the states need to allow English services in order to give the English speaking youth the opportunity to worship in their “first language” because unfortunately many parents have not been responsible enough to teach their kids Romanian.
    I would also agree that the Romanian church should have more of an impact on the society, and I believe that the American church also has lots to learn from the Romanian church.
    The rest of your rant is just that; bitter, pointless frustration that is coming from a person who has no humility or respect for his elders. A person fascinated by arguments and “church politics.”

  15. Ioan says:

    Ioan spunea…
    See http://www.bisericabiruinta.info
    in Romania for bilingual services.

  16. Raul Tomsa says:

    Truth is we can’t do American better than the Americans can. We have our own brand of religion and if you have someone that can preach WELL in English in your church, all power to you. If you don’t, it’s awkward for everyone sitting in the pews.

    We can’t be yelling at the people who, ok I’ll say it, PAY for everything. Is that shallow of me? Maybe. If we want to keep our brand of religion and do all English, I’d be curious to see who goes out and starts their own church. But be aware that’s it’s been done in both Phoenix and Portland and too be honest, doesn’t show much success at all.

  17. antonia says:

    I’m a Canadian-Romanian living in Romanian for now and have not experienced this problem at all. On the contrary, there are many churches in Cluj that are run by American pastors in English. I haven’t gone to a Pentecostal Church nor am I planning to visit one but I do think it’s important to experience Romania before you make such generalizations.

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