Reaching the Nations

Romania

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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RomaniaGeography

Area: 238,391 square km.  Romania is located in Eastern Europe and borders Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and the Black Sea.  Mountainous terrain occupies central and northern areas which includes the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvanian Alps.  Fertile plains run along the eastern and western borders and dominate the southeast.  Most areas experience temperate climate with snowy, cold winters and warm summers with regular participation.  The Danube River forms portions of the Serbian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian borders and empties into the Black Sea in eastern Romania.  Earthquakes and landslides are natural hazards.  Environmental issues include erosion, declining soil quality, air pollution, and damage to wetland areas from water pollution.  Romania is administratively divided into 41 counties and one municipality.  

 

Population: 22,181,287 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: -0.16% (2010)    

Fertility Rate: 1.4 children born per woman (2010)    

Life Expectancy: male 69.22, female 76.43 (2010)

 

Peoples

Romanian: 89.5%

Hungarian: 6.6%

Roma: 2.5%

Ukrainian: 0.3%

German: 0.3%

Russian: 0.2%

Turkish: 0.2%

Other: 0.4%

 

Languages: Romanian (91%), Hungarian (6.7%), Roma (1.1%), other (1.2%).  Romanian is the official language.  Languages with over one million speakers include Romanian (19.7 million) and Hungarian (1.45 million). 

Literacy: 97.3% (2002)

 

History

The Dacians inhabited Romania – then known as Dacia – before the birth of Christ.  In the first century, the Romans conquered Dacia and established a province which was incorporated in their empire for several centuries.  Invasions from Goths and other native peoples drove the Romans out by the late third century.  During the Middle Ages, various ethnic groups settled or controlled the region including Avars, Bulgars, Cumans, Huns, and Slavs.  Transylvania – currently in northwestern Romania – emerged as a state in the 11th century and was under role of the Hungarian Empire.  Wallachia – southern areas of Romania – unified in the 14th century and came under Ottoman rule in the 15th century.  Moldavia became a political entity in the 14th century and received strong political influences from Russia, Poland and other neighboring powers.  Moldavia and Wallachia unified in the mid-19th century as Romania and independence was recognized by 1878.  Romania fought alongside the Allied Powers in World War I and gained additional territory following the conflict, such as Transylvania.  In World War II, Romania joined the Axis Powers and came under Soviet rule in 1944.  The Soviets established a communist government which lasted until 1989.  Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ruled for several decades and was known for his oppressive reign and police raids in the 1980s.  In 1989, Ceausescu was overthrown and executed.  During the 1990s and 2000s, relations with Central and Western Europe strengthened. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.   

 

Culture 

Poverty, social attitudes, and political influences contributed to the increase of children in Romanian orphanages to over 200,000 in the early 1990s.[1]  The Romanian Orthodox Church serves as a powerful cultural influence and symbol of national identity.  Many Romanians are excellent cooks.  Cuisine borrows from many surrounding nations and commonly includes sausage, stuffed vegetables, Malmaliga (cornmeal pudding), potatoes, and bread.  Alcohol and cigarette consumption rates rank higher than most nations.  Abortion is culturally accepted and commonplace. 

 

Economy

GDP per capita: $11,500 (2009) [24.5% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.837

Corruption Index: 3.8

Romania faced many challenges adopting a free-market capitalist system following the fall of communism due to outdated and inadequate national infrastructure to meet the population’s needs.  Widespread poverty and bureaucracy have limited economic growth and development.  Romania only recently joined the European Union and has yet to make many economic transitions such as the adoption of the Euro currency.  Services employ 47% of the workforce and produce 53% of the GDP whereas agriculture employs 30% of the workforce and produces 12% of the GDP.  Primary crops include wheat, corn, sugar beets, barley and sunflower seed.  Industry accounts for 35% of the GDP, employs 23% of the workforce, and primarily consists of machinery, equipment, textiles, mining, and food processing.  Primary trade partners include Germany, Italy, France, and Hungary. 

 

Corruption in Romania is perceived as being more widespread than in most other European Union member nations.  Many allege that the government has not done enough to fight corruption.  Investigating higher ranking government officials on corruption charges has been difficult due to laws and legal protection offered by the judicial system.  Many Romanians report regularly paying bribes.  Widespread perceived corruption has reduced foreign investment and limited economic development. 

 

Faiths

Christian: 99%

Other: 1%  

 

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Romanian Orthodox  19,253,357

Catholic  1,042,520

Seventh-Day Adventists   67,482  1,091

Jehovah’s Witnesses  39,232  532

Latter-Day Saints  2,800  17

 

Religion

Most Romanians affiliate with the Romanian Orthodox Church.  The largest Christian minority groups are Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics.  Catholics and Protestants are concentrated in Transylvania and primarily consist of ethnic Hungarians.  Although 99% of the population identify with a Christian denomination, a 2007 poll reported that only 31% attend religious meetings at least several times a month.[2]

 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom but the government restricts some aspects of religious practice.  There is no state religion, although the Romanian Orthodox Church has a strong influence on government and religious affairs.  The Romanian Orthodox Church has exacerbated intolerance towards non-Orthodox Christian churches by criticizing the proselytism by of other religious groups and influencing the legislation of new rigorous recognition requirements for minority religious groups. Controversy continues over the Romanian Orthodox Church's refusal to return many Greek Catholic churches it received in 1948 to current Greek Catholics. 

 

To register, a religious group must have over 300 adult members.  To obtain religion status – which entitles religious groups to receive tax-exempt status, broadcast religious programming, establish schools, receive government funding, and teach religious material in public schools with adherents, religious groups must be registered as religious associations, have had at least 12 years of a continuous presence in Romania, and constitute at least 0.1% of the population (about 22,000).  There are 18 recognized religious groups with religion status.  Proselytism is permitted but is sometimes disrupted by local government officials.  Religious groups which have recently arrived, engage in active proselytism, or are concentrated among ethnic minorities, experience the greatest societal discrimination.[3]  

 

Largest Cities

Urban: 54%

Bucharest, Iasi, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Craiova, Constanta, Galati, Brasov, Ploiesti, Braila, Oradea, Bacau, Arad, Pitesti, Sibiu, Târgu-Mures, Baia Mare, Buzau, Botosani, Satu Mare, Râmnicu Vâlcea, Suceava, Focsani, Piatra Neamt, Drobeta-Turnu Severin.

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregation. 

 

14 of the 25 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants have an LDS congregation or missionaries assigned.  29% of the national population resides in the 25 largest cities. 

 

LDS History

At the close of the 19th century, LDS missionary Mischa Markow preached in several Eastern and Central European nations.  Several joined the Church and a congregation was organized in Bucharest.  Mischa Markow traveled to additional cities, such as Brasov where members met for several decades following his initial proselytism efforts.  Between 1903 and 1933, Brasov had 30 convert baptisms and 48 missionaries served in the city. [4]  However, war and political instability resulted in little Church influence in the area for the following six decades.  Most of the original members emigrated to the West or had passed away by the mid-1970s.[5]

 

Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated Romania for missionary work in February 1990.[6]  Although humanitarian missionaries had already been serving in the country under the Austria Vienna East Mission,[7] the first proselytizing missionaries arrived in December 1990.  In 1991, the Hungary Budapest Mission began administering Romania, and the first convert baptisms since the fall of communism occurred.  The Church obtained missionary visas and gained legal standing through the Liahona Association which was registered with the government in 1993.  The same year the Church organized the Romania Bucharest Mission, which also administers church work in neighboring Moldova.  Seminary and church institute classes began in 1996. The first Romanian Book of Mormon translations arrived in 1998.[8]  Romania became part of the Europe East Area in 2000.  The first young woman camp was held in 2009.[9]  In early 2010, two missionaries died by natural gas asphyxiation in their apartment while sleeping.[10]  In 2010, only around six Romanian members had received their Patriarchal blessings as there are no patriarchs in the country because no stakes were organized.   

 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 2,800 (2009)

Membership growth accelerated in the 1990s.  In 1991, there were 50 convert baptisms.  At the end of 1993, there were 300 members.  Membership doubled to 600 two years later.  By year-end 1997, there were 1,100 members and in 2000, membership reached 1,770.  Covert baptisms ranged from 132 to 206 per year between 1993 and 1998.  Membership continued to increase to 2,196 in 2003, 2,623 in 2006, and 2,736 in 2008.  Annual membership growth rates fell from 12% in 2001 to 5-8% in the mid-2000s, and to 2-3% since 2007. Since 2007, about 100 new members have join the Church annually.

 

Congregational Growth

Branches: 17 Groups: 1

The Church organized its first branch in modern times in 1991 in Bucharest.  The branch split the following year. Two districts operated in Bucharest by 1995,  but were consolidated in 1998.  Ploiesti became the second city with a branch in 1993.[11]  Many cities opened for missionary work and had branches organized in the mid to late 1990s including Arad, Bacau, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, Iasi, Oradea, Pitesti, Sibiu, and Timisoara.  A district was organized in Ploiesti in 1999 which in 2001 administered four branches (Brasov, Pitesti, Ploiesti, and Leogane).

 

In 2001, six branches functioned in Bucharest, each with a native branch presidents, which together formed the district.[12]  However by 2009, only two branches remained in Bucharest – the Mihai Bravu and Panduri Branches.  During the 2000s, four cities opened to missionary work: Deva, Galati, Alexandria, and Craiova.  In 2009, the Church created the Arad Romania District, which included branches in Arad, Deva, Oradea, and Timisoara, and consolidated the Ploiesti Romania District with the district in Bucharest for a total of six branches in Alexandria, Bucharest, Brasov, Pitesti, and Ploiesti. 

 

In 2010, all cities opened to missionary work had a branch organized except for Craiova, where members met as a group.

 

Activity and Retention

In 2000, 70 youth gathered for the first youth conference since the organization of the Romania Bucharest Mission.[13]  81 were enrolled in seminary or institute during the 2008-2009 school year.  In 2000, 200 attended skits about different Book of Mormon stories from six branches in the Bucharest Romania District.[14]  A young single adult conference in Bucharest had 65 in attendance in 2001.[15]

 

In mid-2010, the Constanta Branch had around 20 attending church meetings.  Many branches have fewer than 50 active members.  The two branches in Bucharest appear to have the most active members, with the Mihai Bravu Branch having over 100 active members.  Nationwide active membership is estimated at about 800, or 30% of total membership.

 

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Bulgarian, Serbian, Turkish

All LDS scriptures are available in Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian, German, and Bulgarian.  Only the Book of Mormon is translated in Serbian and Turkish.  Most Church materials are available in German.  Romanian, Serbian, and Turkish translations of some family history, missionary, primary, young men, Priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School, unit, and temple materials are available.  A greater number of materials for these organizations are available in Russian and Ukrainian.  The Liahona has four issues a year in Romanian and Bulgarian and 12 in German, Russian and Ukrainian.  Bulgarian, Russian and Ukrainian have several audio/visual materials and CES student manuals translated. 

 

Meetinghouses

The Church has constructed only a couple meetinghouses.  Most congregations meet in rented spaces or renovated buildings.

 

Humanitarian and Development Work

In 1990, Church members in Europe quickly answered the call for aid and assistance to Romania’s disadvantaged by organizing teams of medical professionals composed of members from several nations.  Needed supplies were also donated which were funded by member donations.[16]  That same year members in California sent quilts to needy orphanages in Romania.[17]  In 1991, BYU held a book drive which donated 40,000 books to the Central University Library in Bucharest.[18]  Humanitarian missionaries provided valuable service to handicapped children and helping the Romanian public better accept disabled children.[19]  Assistance to orphanages continued in the 2000s and there was an increase in specialized development projects.  In 2000, members in Washington state sent bedding materials to an orphanage in Iasi, Romania.[20]  In 2003, the Church assisted the disabled by coordinating with members and local medical professionals fitting and allocating prosthetic devices.[21]  The Church offered humanitarian assistance following severe flooding along the Danube River in 2006.[22]  In 2010, the Church donated Braille writers to a school for blind children.

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

 

Religious Freedom

The Church has maintained positive relations with the national government and enjoys full religious freedom.  The Church does not have religion status as nominal membership is only one-tenth of the number needed to qualify.  The Church has experienced challenges renewing missionary visas and has faced societal and local government opposition to proselytism in many locations.  In 2008, customs officials delayed the shipment of religious materials by a month.  There have been many instances of society, local government, and some Romanian Orthodox Church officials harassing and discriminating against Latter-day Saints but these instances have become less frequent recently.  In 2006, a religious textbook published by the Ministry of Education depicted the LDS Church and other recently arrived religious groups as a threat to society.[23]

 

Cultural Issues

Anxiety and suspicion of recently arrived non-traditional religious groups creates a cultural barrier to LDS missionary efforts.  Most Christians do not actively participate in their faith.  The Romanian Orthodox Church has created major cultural obstacles for the LDS Church to overcome in proselytism.  Those seeking to join the Church who have participated in an abortion must be interviewed by a member of the mission presidency to be considered for baptism.  Converts have not completely ended smoking or drinking habits before baptism experience poor retention. 

 

National Outreach

The Church has made noticeable progress increasing national outreach over the past 15 years, but has seen a reduction in mission outreach capabilities in Bucharest as congregations have consolidated.  23% of the national population resides in a city with a mission outreach center.  Six percent of Romania’s population lives in cities with over 100,000 inhabitants without a mission outreach center. Thissubset of the population may be most likely to receive future mission outreach.  15 of the 41 administrative counties (37%) have a mission outreach center.  There are over 180 cities with between 10,000 and 100,000 inhabitants without mission outreach which account for 20% of the national population.  Romania’s large rural population will likely remain almost totally unreached for many more decades as limited mission resources cannot fully administer larger population centers.

 

Romania’s large population and small, needy LDS membership spread throughout the country has posed a daunting task for mission leaders to staff current mission outreach centers while simultaneously opening new ones.  Distance and a lack of members in northern Romania have prevented the opening of any cities in this region.  Northern Romania alone has 10 counties which have no mission outreach centers and is where the most populous unreached cities are concentrated.  Locating any members or past investigators which reside in this region, holding cottage meetings with these individuals, distributing Church literature, and performing humanitarian activities may help improve the prospects of establishing additional permanent mission outreach centers. 

 

The Church maintains an Internet site for Romania at http://www.mormonii.ro/.  The website provides doctrinal information, meetinghouse locations, local news, and mission contact information in Romanian.  Use of the website in street contacting and proselytism initiatives can help interested individuals learn about the Church and make contact with missionaries. 

 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

In 1998, the two districts functioning in Bucharest were consolidated partially in preparation for a future stake.  However, low member activity and convert retention rates together with lower than expected membership growth rates make the organization of a  stake in Romania unlikely for the foreseeable future.  Member activity rates may be the lowest in the Bucharest area as the six branches originally functioning in the city were consolidated into just two.  These branches are likely considerably larger than any of the original six Bucharest branches, but many members were lost to inactivity both before consolidation, and the increased distances and travel times have contributed to further attrition..  Additional factors in low convert retention and member activity rates include  quick baptisms tactics of full-time missionaries, limited social support infrastructure in smaller branches, and societal pressures marginalizing Latter-day Saints.  Reactivation efforts through specific congregation-sponsored activities focusing on the age and needs of less active or inactive members may stabilize member activity over time, although dramatic improvements are unlikely.  Full-time missionaries report that they help fellowship and teach less active members especially in Bucharest.  Coordinated mission efforts with seminary and institute may be effective means to increase social cohesion, doctrinal understanding, and strengthen member testimonies.

 

Branches in northwestern Romania appear to have made some of the greatest progress improving growth, convert retention, andmember activity as several congregations have experienced increases in active membership. 

 

Ethnic Issues and Integration

Romanians constitute the bulk of membership and most areas have little ethnic diversity.  Hungarians primarily reside in counties near the Hungarian border and other ethnic groups tend to populate border areas with their receptive ethnic homelands.  As many non-Romanians live in remote, distant areas, the Church has encountered few opportunities to conduct missionary work among them as there are few or no nearby mission outreach centers.  Hungarians are most likely to receive mission outreach in the northwest, but face challenges initially integrating into congregations of Romanians due to past ethnic conflicts.  There are some ethnic Hungarian Latter-day Saints in Oradea, Timisoara, and Brasov.  Missionaries have had some interaction with Roma in several areas, but no concentrated mission outreach efforts have occurred.  

 

Language Issues

Romania experiences few language issues as 91% of the population speaks Romanian as a first language.  The remaining nine percent of the population has received little LDS missionary outreach as missionaries serving in Romania do not teach or learn Hungarian or other commonly spoken minority languages.  Ample Church literature is available in the first language of 98% of the population, but non-Romanian materials appear to be largely unused in everyday proselytism. 

 

Missionary Service

In 2000, only seven Romanians had served full-time missions and 11 were currently serving missions.  80 missionaries served in the Romania Bucharest Mission in late 2009.  Romania relies heavily on foreign missionaries to staff its missionary force.  Few youth converts,low birth rates in the few LDS families, and low convert retention have limited the the native missionary force. 

 

Leadership

Although leadership capabilities in Bucharest appear to have made little if any progress over the past decade, local leadership in many other cities has strengthened.  Greater self-reliance and leadership development in northwestern Romania likely contributed to the Church organizing the Arad Romania District in 2009.  The Iasi Branch was included in the Chisinau Moldova District when it was organized in 2009 and likely provided needed leadership and assistance to Moldovan members.  Only a few of Romania’s 16 branches had missionaries serving as the branch president in 2010, but most likely have missionaries serving in support roles due to the small number of active Priesthood holders. 

 

Temple

Romania belongs to the Freiburg Germany temple District.  In the early 2000s, members typically traveled 36 hours by bus to the Freiburg Germany Temple twice a year.[24]  Temple trips continue to occur regularly and require long-term planning and sacrifice in time and money for members who participate.  Romania will likely become part of the Ukraine Kyiv Temple district once the temple is completed in 2010.  Prospects for a closer temple are not likely in the foreseeable future. 

 

Comparative Growth

Romania has achieved some of the steadiest growth in convert baptisms and membership among Eastern European nations since 1990.  Although annual membership growth rates slowed to 2% over the past few years, Romania consistently baptizes around 100 converts per year.  Other nations in Eastern Europe such as Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, and Russia experienced rapid membership growth in the early 1990s which declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s and nearly stagnated in the late 2000s.  Many of these nations have even experienced decline in active membership during some years.  Member activity rates in Romania compare to other nearby nations, but the percentage of members in the population remains among the lowest in Europe.  Most nearby former communist European nations have a greater national LDS outreach than Romania, but are smaller geographically and are less populated. 

 

Non-Orthodox Christians report little to no increases in membership and many of the larger denominations are in decline.  Over the past decade, Seventh-day Adventists have reported declining membership and decreasing numbers of converts yet the number of congregations remains nearly unchanged.  Evangelicals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Latter-day Saints appear among the few Christian groups which report regular increases in membership, although these groups report large unreached areas of the country.  

 

Future Prospects

Consistent efforts to increase national outreach and regular increases in membership ensure steady church growth in Romania.  However, low convert retention and member activity rates leading to stagnation in areas where the Church has been most established,especially in  Bucharest, continue to limit prospects for greater long-term growth due to low member activity and convert retention rates in addition to few convert baptisms.  Most cities remain highly dependent on full-time foreign missionaries for Church administration and missionary activity, creating challenges for future self-sustaining growth.   Limited mission resources and the small number of members living in unreached cities continue to delay the opening of new congregations.  The most populous cities in southern Romania,  such as Braila, Buzau, Târgu-Mures, Focsani, and Drobeta-Turnu Severin, appear most likely to open for missionary work.  Greater long-term growth and progress will likely depend upon achieving higher convert retention and member activity, especially among youth, and increasing involvement in both member-missionary and full-time missionary work.

 



[1]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  “The Church in Romania,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 30

[2]  “Romania,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127332.htm

[3]  “Romania,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127332.htm

[4]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  “The Church in Romania,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 30

[5]  Neuenschwander, Dennis B.  “Reflections on Establishing the Gospel in Eastern Europe,” Liahona, Oct 1998, 38

[6]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  “The Church in Romania,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 30

[7]  “Romania,” Country Profiles, retrieved 16 July 2010.  http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/contact-us/romania

[8]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  “The Church in Romania,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 30

[9]  “Around the Church,” Liahona, Jan 2010, 77–78

[10]  Holman, Marianne.  “Two missionaries die in Romania,” LDS Church News, 2 February 2010.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/58738/Two-missionaries-die-in-Romania.html

[11]  “Romania,” Deseret News 2010 Church Almanac, p. 562-563

[12]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  “The Church in Romania,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 30

[13]  “Historic Romanian youth conference strengthens testimonies, friendships,” LDS Church News, 12 August 2000.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/38282/Historic-Romanian-youth-conference-strengthens-testimonies-friendships.html

[14]  “Romanian members present night of ‘Placile Pierdute,” LDS Church News, 19 August 2000.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/38304/Romanian-members-present-night-of-Placile-Pierdute.html

[15]  “Conference is ‘ray of light’ in Bucharest,” LDS Church News, 10 February 2001.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/39310/Conference-is-ray-of-light-in-Bucharest.html

[16]  Avant, Gerry.  “LDS humanitarian relief in Romania,” LDS Church News, 18 August 1990.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/19901/LDS-humanitarian-relief-in-Romania.html

[17]  Sheffield, Sheridan R.  “Members share warmth with children,” LDS Church News, 11 August 1990.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/19667/Members-share-warmth-with-children.html

[18]  “Y. books to go to literature-starved Romania,” LDS Church News, 30 March 1991.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/20830/Y-books-to-go-to-literature-starved-Romania.html

[19]  Thygerson, Vaunene.  “Missionaries perform humanitarian service,” LDS Church News, 7 December 1991.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/20845/Missionaries-perform-humanitarian-service.html

[20]  “Youth help Romanian orphans,” LDS Church News, 27 May 2000.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/37867/Youth-help-Romanian-orphans.html

[21]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “’Big needs’ eased with artificial limbs,” LDS Church News, 29 November 2003.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/44752/Big-needs-eased-with-artifical-limbs.html

[22]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Romanian refugees aided by missionaries,” LDS Church News, 13 May 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/48943/Romanian-refugees-aided-by-missionaries.html

[23]  “Romania,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127332.htm

[24]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  “The Church in Romania,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 30