Moldova Union of Churches Conference

By Robert I. Leahu

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Robert I. Leahu

First Published: February 23, 2021

Moldova Union of Churches Conference (MUC) is a part of the Euro-Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists. It was organized in 2008. Its headquarters is in Chisinau, Moldova.
The Moldova Union of Churches Conference is comprised of the Republic of Moldova. As of June 30, 2020, it had 140 churches with a membership of 8,479. The population of Moldova was 3,535,000.

Organizational History

The history of the Moldova Union of Churches Conference dates back to January 1989, when the Adventist Church decided to reorganize the existing Moldavian Conference into the Moldova Union Conference.

According to historical records, in the late 1920s or early 1930s the two local conferences—the North Moldova (Cernăuți) Conference and the South Moldova (Galaţi) Conference—were organized in the territory of Bessarabia. At that time, both conferences were part of the Romanian Union.1 When Moldova became part of the Soviet Union in 1944, the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists (ACSDA) was given authority to attach Adventist communities located in the Soviet Union’s western regions of Moldova, Western Ukraine, Western Belarus, and Baltics to a single center in Moscow.2

In 1988, the Inter-Republican Coordinating Council of Seventh-day Adventists in the Soviet Union forwarded a request to the General Conference for organizing a new division in the territory of the Soviet Union. However, it was first necessary to establish union organizations.3 Consequently, five unions were organized in 1989—the Russian, Ukrainian, Baltic, Central Asia, and Moldova unions. The Moldova Union Conference consisted of two local conferences: the North Moldova Conference and the South Moldova Conference.4

In 1989, Grigoriy Vasilievich Kochmar was elected the first president of the Moldova Union Conference for a term of five years, and Ivan Ivanovich Zgerea was elected union secretary-treasurer. The union headquarters was located in the Central Chișinău church building located at Bernardazzi Street 22, Chișinău.5

Union Headquarters and Buildings

After the organization of the Moldova Union Conference, there was a great need for office space. The Chișinău church, the first and oldest Adventist church in the city, did not have enough space to accommodate the offices of both the Moldova Union Conference and the South Moldova Conference. Therefore, it was decided to purchase new premises to which the MUC headquarters could move. This took several years. Ultimately, the MUC headquarters was established in 1993 at Valea Dicescu Street 56, Chișinău.

As the Adventist Church in Moldova continued to grow, union leaders proposed the idea to build an “Adventist Spiritual Center.” In 1998, a plot of land was purchased at 1/1 Yalovenskaya Street, and ground was broken for the construction of this center. Four years later, on October 30, 2002, the center was dedicated, which simultaneously accommodated the union conference headquarters and the seventh church in the city of Chișinău. The ceremony was attended by Jan Paulsen, the acting General Conference president, and Artur Arturovich Stele, the ESD president at that time. During this period, the Moldova Union Conference was led by Ilie Stepanovich Leahu.6

In 2018, the MUC president, Valentine I. Grubii, and his fellow officers decided to sign over the MUC building to the Adventist secondary school. For this reason, the MUC headquarters moved to a new building located at Hînceşti Street 136/1.

Reorganization of the Church Structure

In the course of its existence, the Moldova Union Conference conducted four constituency meetings. In 2008, after careful consideration, church leaders in Euro-Asia Division deemed it advisable to reorganize the Moldova Union Conference into the Moldova Union of Churches Conference. This new organization was established in 2009, with the two former local conferences —North Moldova and South Moldova—disbanded and merged into the MUC.7 A. M. Moldovanu was elected president, V. A. Lotca, secretary, and V. N. Garashchuk, treasurer.

In 2010 the extraordinary fifth MUC constituency meeting was tasked with synchronizing the work and interaction of all church structures in Moldova with those in the Euro-Asia Division. The delegates agreed to extend the powers of the MUC officers an additional five years (2010-2015).

Church Growth in MUC

The Moldova Union of Churches Conference grew from thirteen registered churches with about 300 members in 1946 to 8,8028 members organized in 140 churches in 2018.9 It achieved its highest membership in 2008 with 11,079 members meeting in 153 churches and eighty-eight companies.10 One of the reasons for the decline of membership was the migration of members abroad due to poor economic conditions.

Overview of church membership:

1946 – 13 churches with about 300 members

January 1, 1955 – 19 churches (13 registered, 6 unregistered) with 1,174 members (869 in registered churches, 305 in unregistered churches)

January 1, 1965 - 20 churches with 1,810 members

January 1, 1970 - 27 churches with 2,398 members

January 1, 1975 - 30 churches with 2,781 members

January 1, 1980 - 47 churches with 3,538 members

January 1, 1985 - 57 churches with 4,000 members (living in more than 300 localities). The church staff consisted of 18 ordained pastors and 1 licensed pastor, 23 Bible workers, 5 full-time and 8 part-time missionaries, and 3 frontline workers

January 1, 1990 - 54 churches with 4,453 members

January 1, 1995 - 87 churches with 7,652 members

January 1, 2000 - 127 churches with 10,830 members

2008 – 153 churches and 88 companies with 11,079 members

June 30, 2018 – 140 churches with 8,802 members

Social Ministry

The Church in Moldova has always viewed itself as sensitive to the needs of the local community, addressing them in a timely and relevant manner. The Church’s social ministry has found expression in numerous projects and initiatives, such as offering free meals and clothing to the needy, prison ministry, reintegration of former prisoners into society, and New Year's gifts for children from low-income families among other outreach activities.

Among Moldovan Adventist members “the social ministry of the Church should be considered in two dimensions: theological and socio-historical. On the one hand, the Church correlates its ministry with the life of Christ and the Scripture, and, on the other hand, with the reality in which it exists in the world.”11 In addition, “the social service of the Church means not only the charity of wealthy people in relation to those in need, but also the hard work of liberation of a person from the power of the inherent evil and restoration of God's image and likeness in him.”12

Supporting this philosophy, the work of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Moldova began in 1992. The first director of ADRA Moldova was Andrei Melnichuk. His contribution to the development of this organization cannot be overstated, especially given that ADRA had to operate on the fringes of the law until 1999 when it was officially registered. In 2003, Andrei Melnichuk was succeeded by Alyona Tarleva. Since 2004, the office of the ADRA Moldova director has been occupied by Andrei Girleanu.13

Gospel Ministry

Since 1980, the attitude of the state towards the Adventist Church has significantly improved. In 1991, when Soviet Moldavia became an independent state, the Adventist Church began to send evangelists to conduct evangelistic programs. As a result of the ministry of foreign evangelists and Moldovan ministers, new churches were organized in many cities in Moldova including Chișinău (eight new churches), Bălți (two new churches), Cahul (two new churches), Orhei, Edineţ, Rîbnița, Comrat, and Soroca among others. After the first evangelistic program in Chișinău, some seventy people were baptized. In 1993, public evangelism reached Transnistria. The good news was proclaimed in major cities such as Bender and Tiraspol, where new Adventist churches were planted.

Over the last decade of the twentieth century, the Church in Moldova grew rapidly. Between 1990 and 2000, the church membership doubled, reaching 11,000. More than 1,000 people were baptized almost every year.14

Year Number of baptisms
1990 579
1991 622
1992 1,148
1993 1,101
1994 896
1995 1,064
1996 1,232
1997 1,082
1998 1,080
1999 1,440
2000 1,118

A new phase in the development of Adventist Church in Moldova began after 2000. Church growth became slower as compared to the previous decade. It became clear that in a rapidly changing world the old methods of evangelism were no longer effective. With that in mind, MUC leaders focused on new programs developed by the General Conference and the Euro-Asia Division that contributed to the growth of church membership. Special mention must be made of the Follow the Bible program in which a unique Bible published in sixty-six languages toured six cities in Moldova. The evangelistic programs televised via satellite, with the participation of such famous speakers as Mark Finley, Peter Kulakov, Artur Stele, Moses Ostrovskiy, and Eugene Zaitsev, also played important roles.

Outlook for the Future

The conditions under which the Moldova Union of Churches Conference lives and operates are rather complicated. Despite the improvement of relations with public authorities, the Church faces many challenges. The most serious problems are internal migration (from villages to cities, and from regional cities to the capital) and outmigration to the countries of the European Union and Russia. The simultaneous secularization of society, on the one hand, and strengthening of Orthodox culture and its traditions, on the other hand, have created additional challenges. Furthermore, the younger generation is losing interest in the Adventist teachings and the Bible.

Nevertheless, the church leaders in Moldova aim high and strongly believe that God will not abandon His Church. The Church continues to open new Adventist schools and kindergartens, develop media ministry, and serve people with special needs. Great emphasis is placed on the development and strengthening of Pathfinder clubs and youth ministries, as well as on personal evangelism and the positive influence of local churches. Church members in Moldova always remember the important words from the Holy Scripture: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 4: 6, KJV).

Executive Officers Chronology15

Presidents: G. V. Kochmar (1989-1994), V. E. Gorbul (1994-1999), I. S. Leahu (1999-2004), V. A. Lotca (2004-2009), A. M. Moldovanu (2009-2015), V. I. Grubii (2015-present).

Secretaries: I. I. Zgerea (1989-1994) I. S. Melnichuk (1994-1999), L. V. Panchuk (1999-2004), L. V. Gudumak (2004-2009), V. A. Lotca (2009-2015), R. V. Lotca (2015-present).

Treasurers: I. I. Zgerea (1989-1994), N. A. Sadovoy (1994-1999), N. Z. Gudumak (1999-2009), V. N. Garashchuk (2009-2015), I. I. Vilcu (2015-present).

Sources

Due to decades of persecution, historical sources were very often not preserved in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and as a result, Adventist history in Russia and other successor states of the USSR is dependent on collective memory and oral traditions, on which this article draws.

Andrusiak, V. I. Nepobezhdennaya Tserkov’ v Bozhyikh rukakh. Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2011.

Gumenyuk, I. A., and D. O. Yunak. Neokonchennaya povest’. Chisinau: F.E.-P. Tipografia Centrală, 2016.

Löbsack, H. J. Velikoye Adventistskoye dvizheniye i Adventisty Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii. Rostov-na-Donu: Altair, 2006.

Osadchuk, P. V. Dla Slova Bozhyego net uz. Chisinau: P. V. Osadchuk, 2005.

Osnovy sotsialnogo sluzheniya Tserkvi Khristian Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii. Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2003.

Yunak, D. O. I pomni ves’ put’. Istoriya Tserkvi ASD v Moldove. Chisinau-Moscow: D. O. Yunak, 2000.

Notes

  1. D. O. Yunak, I pomni ves’ put’. Istoriya Tserkvi ASD v Moldove (Chisinau-Moscow: 2000), 31.

  2. Ibid., 75-76.

  3. V. I. Andrusiak, Nepobezhdennaya Tserkov’ v Bozhyikh rukakh (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2011), 165.

  4. Ibid., 164.

  5. D. O. Yunak, I pomni ves’ put’. Istoriya Tserkvi ASD v Moldove (Chisinau-Moscow: 2000), 236.

  6. I. S. Leahu, interview by author, Chisinau, Moldova, April 21, 2019.

  7. V. I. Andrusiak, Nepobezhdennaya Tserkov’ v Bozhyikh rukakh (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2011), 194.

  8. D. O. Yunak, I pomni ves’ put’. Istoriya Tserkvi ASD v Moldove (Chisinau-Moscow: 2000), 249, 252.

  9. Seventh-day Adventist Online Yearbook, “Moldova Union of Churches Conference,” accessed April 16, 2019, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=10050.

  10. V. I. Andrusiak, Nepobezhdennaya Tserkov’ v Bozhyikh rukakh (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2011), 284.

  11. Osnovy sotsialnogo sluzheniya Tserkvi Khristian Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2003), 194.

  12. Ibid., 195.

  13. Andrei Girleanu, interview by author, Chisinau, Moldova, April 22, 2019.

  14. V. I. Andrusiak, Nepobezhdennaya Tserkov’ v Bozhyikh rukakh (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2011), 174-175.

  15. D. O. Yunak, I pomni ves’ put’. Istoriya Tserkvi ASD v Moldove (Chisinau-Moscow, D. O. Yunak, 2000), 77, 97, 199, 215.

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Leahu, Robert I. "Moldova Union of Churches Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 23, 2021. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3DAN.

Leahu, Robert I. "Moldova Union of Churches Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 23, 2021. Date of access May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3DAN.

Leahu, Robert I. (2021, February 23). Moldova Union of Churches Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3DAN.