Historic Support from Switzerland

2017. január 24., kedd

Dr. István Szabó, Presiding Bishop of RCH, recently traveled to Switzerland to celebrate HEKS’ 29th annual Eastern Europe Day. Bishop Szabó gave the keynote speech, discussing social responsibility in light of the Reformation. 

HEKS/EPER first launched Eastern Europe Day in 1988, a joint venture with the church federation and the Swiss institute that has been held yearly in Berne ever since. This year, Dr. István  Szabó, Presiding Bishop of RCH, was in attendance and gave the keynote speech. The theme for the 29th meeting of Eastern Europe Day was 500 Years of Reformation: What Role Do Reformed Churches in Hungary and in Switzerland Have in Today’s Society?

HEKS/EPER asked those in attendance what affects the Reformation has had on the social and public responsibility of reformed churches in light of the Reformation and Bishop Szabó gave the main presentation in response to this topic.

Bishop Szabó began his address with warm words of greetings on behalf of the RCH and discussed the profound impact that the Swiss Reformed community has had on the people of Hungary. “This summer we are commemorating the 450th anniversary of the Debrecen Synod, when the Reformed community of Hungary adopted the Second Helvetic Confession, which originates from Zurich, Switzerland, written by the great Swiss reformer, Heinrich Bullinger. Although several confessional documents were created over the course of the 16th century, the Reformed people of Hungary decided to choose the Second Helvetic Confession because of its contents, depth and appealing theological message, and at the same time joined the ranks of the Reformed communities of Europe,” said Szabó.

The Bishop made it a point to recognize this vital connection between the two churches, one which he said “illustrates perfectly” the close ties between the Reformed communities of Switzerland and Hungary.

In speaking about the history of the RCH and HEKS, Bishop Szabó also discussed how the Hungarian church functioned during the years of Communism. He stressed how difficult it was to be an active church at that time and how it soon became a necessity to confine church life almost exclusively to worship in church buildings. After the fall of Communism this left the church in a predicament as to how best move forward.

“If we decide to stay within church walls, we are undeniably free, but this freedom does not entail any sort of responsibility. If, on the other hand, we undertake a social responsibility in public education, in the social sphere and in society in general, then we might not preserve as much of our freedom as we would wish. Our church chose the latter option by reconstructing our church school system from 1990 onward, establishing a hospital and a series of diaconal institutions, as well as participating in public life and, to a certain extent, also in politics. This responsibility has brought us to areas that we had only encountered sporadically or in a limited manner before,” reflected Szabó

Szabó highlighted how important it was for the RCH to have international support during the time of Communism and how HEKS, “has been assisting and encouraging us ever since – not only financially but also by drawing our attention to the most important areas in which a Christian church could serve the Gospel in a worthy manner.” For the RCH, it is this sense of accompaniment that HEKS has provided throughout the years that makes the relationship so special.

Following the main presentation, Bishop Szabó then participated in a podium discussion with Andreas Zeller, President of the Reformed Church in Bern-Jura-Solothurn.

Those in attendance discussed the impact of the Reformation on the social responsibility of reformed churches in society today and how it is rooted in the abolition of the theology of merit and freedom of faith which resulted in the sense of responsibility which churches of reformation rediscovered toward the neighbor and society at large. Through this, churches of reformation contributed considerably to the emergence of social states as we know them today. This led to a sustainable and long term commitment of churches to care for social issues, like poverty, and to address them in an institutionalized way and to challenge related political conditions.

Many things have changed over the years in Eastern Europe, but one thing that can always be counted on is HEKS/EPER’s unwavering support for churches in the region.

 

Article by Kearstin Bailey

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We encourage you to read our GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time in Hungary.