“Hesitation and renewal”–Summary of the Synod of the Reformed Church in Hungary
The RCH reports on the November meeting of its Synod
The Reformed Church in Hungary held the 9th session of its 13th Synod on 17-18 November 2011. During this session among others the Synod signed the partnership agreement with the Dutch Reformed Church of South-Africa, discussed the report on the renewal of the understanding and practice of the confirmation and Gusztáv Bölcskei, the ministerial president of the Synod gave a harsh evaluation on the thematic synod of September.
Endre Szűcs, the deputy bishop of the Reformed Church district of Tiszáninnen (Cristibiscan) and the minister of Dédestapolcsány opened the session by offering a prayer. In his sermon he recalled the extraordinary (thematic) Synod which took place in September and he emphasized the problem of lacking self-examination which would be the condition to start a dynamic work. In the course of self-examination we can reveal how the reformed church became a shrinking, lagging community in the past few decades and discern ways of renewal.
Bishop Gusztáv Bölcskei evoked in his inaugural the main thoughts of Paul from the letters to the Romans: Paul saw the world as a feral garden where the silhouette of order is still apparent. This approach doesn’t inspire us to fight others or to be stoic but to be thankful, sober and responsible. He mentioned this image because according to his opinion it fits the current situation and for the reason that yet our ancestors looked for the reform in accordance with Paul’s thoughts. Today’s crisis has spiritual roots – the lack of confidence and truthfulness – so we have to find spiritual answers to these problems. After that he reported on the events of the past months: new educational and aid service institutions came into existence; he also mentioned the role of the church in international relationships and the most significant church and public events.
The secretary general of the Dutch Reformed Church of South-Africa, Kobus Gerber in his greetings emphasized the common characteristics of the DRC and the Reformed Church in Hungary. “We have in common that we suffered oppressive regimes and we both take part in the building of the worldwide reformed family.” – said the South-African church leader. He recalled that his church rejected the politics of apartheid in 1986 and 25 years before the church adopted the Confession of Belhar as a guideline in the spiritual renewal and the unification process with other churches of the dutch reformed family. The partnership agreement signed by both parties includes full communion, and the mutual recognition of each other’s ministers and ordination. The settlement declares the possibility to invite each other’s pastors to serve in the other church. The cooperation considers the pastoral care of Hungarians living in South-Africa, service in the field of refugees and minorities and the common service in Malawi. The two churches emphasized the importance of cooperation in theological education and research, in promoting the justice issue and social reconciliation, and they are determined to share their experiences with each other in issues like Healing of memories, political responsibility and the understanding and implementation of the Accra Declaration.
The afternoon session of 17 November started with the discussion of the Act on Churches, namely the act on the freedom of conscience and religion, on the legal status of churches, congregations and communities (100th act of 2011). Dr. Pál Molnár, the legal advisor of the Transcibiscan district (Debrecen) presented the parts from the new constitution which concern churches and talked about the main characteristics. He mentioned that the act was made within a short time so the expressions aren’t clarified adequately. However, he expressed that the new act can strain of organizations which doesn’t fulfill ecclesiastical tasks and he also emphasized that the suggestions of reformed experts were heard.
After that the Synod summerized the achievements and problems posed at the extraordinary Synod of September in Balatonszárszó. According to Gusztáv Bölcskei the root of the crisis is the lack of self-knowledge. The Synod started its 6 year term with the aim to lay down the directions of cooperation by consensus but at the end it became clear that the four Districts don’t regard the national church and the endeavors of the Synod as their own. He also expressed his opinion about the problem that many members of the Synod don’t admit their doubts in front of the plenary but outside it, “in the corridors”. The Synod is the space of common work, not a parliament where we can find fractions. He suggested that the standing Committee on Theology of the Synod should make a theological guideline which could help to reform and he also mentioned the need to create a Future Committee which should be responsible for the reform and the reconfiguration process. Finally, he drew attention to the importance of thinking and acting in community.
Zsolt Kádár, the secretary general of the Doctors’ College (DC) gave a report on the evaluation of the theology and practice of confirmation in our church. The current preparations and procedure of the confirmation are not in accordance with the Scriptures and aren’t efficient – he said He also emphasized that there is no unified biblical concept and practice in relation with confirmation. The Synod should establish a working group consisting of the Committee on Theology and members delegated by the DC’s section to examine confirmation and change as necessary the present practise.
One of the most difficult questions was the future of the SDG Conference Centre in Balatonszárszó. István Elter director of the above institution suggested two ways to utilize the institution: first of all the centre must represent and promote the social mission of the church and in the second place it has to fulfill a commercial function. Gusztáv Bölcskei suggested that the Reformed Church in Hungary shouldn’t operate the centre itself and should invite public tenders for the operation.