Bishop Balog Resigns As President of RCH

Bishop Zoltán Balog resigns over his role in a Clemency case and leaves the office of the ministerial president of the Synod. Bishop Dániel Pásztor acts as the new president of the Synod.

Bishop Zoltán Balog resigned as Ministerial President of the Reformed Church in Hungary at an informal meeting of the Synod on 16 February. According to the laws of the Reformed Church in Hungary, the resignation will become effective with the decision of the next Synod. No formal vote was taken at this meeting. Until the next Synod meeting, Dániel Pásztor, Bishop of the Cistibiscan Reformed Church District, Ministerial Vice-President of the Synod, will assume the role of acting President.

Bishop Zoltán Balog delivered a prayer and speech at the meeting. Read the speech, as follows.

I would like to begin with the daily verse from the New Testament passage. "My sheep," says Jesus, "listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I will give them eternal life, and they will never perish, for no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." [John 10:27-30]

I would like to continue with a prayer.

Our faithful God, my God of creation, of redemption, of salvation, our Lord, Jesus Christ! You have the power to give your life for us. You have done it and given Your life to us again and again. I have neither the power nor the strength to do so. I ask for the power to surrender the mandate which our elected officials, on behalf of the people of Your Church, the Reformed Church in Hungary, have entrusted to me. I ask for the strength and wisdom to do so without fleeing. I ask for the strength and wisdom not to do it in response to a political instruction, or hypocritical external pressure. I ask for the strength and wisdom not to do so under the coercion of people who seek power in our church. I ask for the strength and wisdom not to do it by calculation. So that it is not a betrayal of those who love us with zeal. I ask for the strength and wisdom to do it in pursuit of your will. Strengthen me. Strengthen those who will not yield to outside pressure. Strengthen those who know that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Strengthen those who want to stand up for the truth and not live and decide according to the world and the logic of the world! Strengthen those who value the unity of our Church above the deception of the unbelievers! Give me the strength to face my errors personally, my mistakes, my sins! To face how often I have trusted in the power of politics rather than in your power. To confront how our Church has been so vulnerable for decades, perhaps a century, to outside forces and powers, and so often succumbing to them. Strengthen me to face it: not often enough have I been able to surrender myself wholeheartedly to your will, but have trusted more in my own aptitude, in the power of worldly means! Forgive me! I do not apologize for having asked pardon for a man I thought innocent. So many times as a pastor I have asked for mercy from secular authorities, from people, for people. And I have asked for mercy first of all for myself, from you, merciful God. Thank you that I have experienced and can experience the grace of forgiveness. Grant it also to those who are now being cruel! Forgive me for not having been vigilant and prudent enough to see in this case of clemency the dangers that lurk to our country, our nation, our Church, and the President of Hungary. Forgive me if the victims of child abuse felt that they were left on their own, not only now, but so many times in their lives. Protect them even when we fail to do so!

I commit the life of our church into your hands. It has always been there, it is there now, for this is the best place for it. I resign the office I recieved from our Synod. I do it for our Church. So that the innocent may no longer be harmed. So that they may not turn us against eachother who, in this Hungarian Reformed Church, are united in your love. I resign my office so that fasting may be observed. Fast and pray until we reach Good Friday and the feast of the Resurrection. Give me the strength to do this. And give strength to all those who want to listen to your voice. Who trust that no one can snatch us from your hand. Who believe that you are greater than all. Amen.

As a blessing, I read the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has sent for you to sift you like wheat. But I," says Jesus, "have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail: and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Amen

The preceding words may not be understood by people who do not belong to us. Let me be clear in secular language: I have resigned from my office as Ministerial President of the Synod. According to our laws, my resignation will take effect with the decision of the next Synod. Until then, from now until the next Synod, Dániel Pásztor, Bishop of the Cistibiscan Reformed Church District, the Synod's Ministerial Vice-President, will act as the Synod's executive.

I have called you together with my co-president János Molnár, the Lay President of the Synod, to look you in the eye. And into your souls. And you into mine. You elected me just three years ago. We have made decisions together since then. Good ones, bad ones. We've made mistakes. We've made mistakes together. Now I alone have made a mistake, but I refuse to forget what was good. What was the strengthening, the developing of our church. And I will not, I do not want to forget that just over two weeks ago we were together with over a thousand pastors, listening to testimonies. And we experienced what a blessing it is to be united in God's love.

When I was elected, almost three years ago to the day [tomorrow], I began by assuring you that you know who you had elected. There are few or perhaps none among you whose lives have been as open book as mine over the last 10-20 years. There were those who ensured this out of goodwill and those who did so out of malice. You knew who I was, and I trust that you chose me - and I believe and have known since - not only because I come from public service, I came back from public service and I would be of use. This indeed has been to the benefit of our church. Benefit, risk and burden. I do not measure the benefit in money, but in the fact that perhaps our Church has been able to present itself with more character, in a wider space, than before. That our opportunities for ministry have increased. Now this benefit has become a burden and we also see that we have to face the fact that the benefit, the increase in the weight of our Church, is crumbling. Its prestige is crumbling. It is a burden. I have become part, and you have become part, of a witch-hunt that has had its victims: the President of Hungary, whom we love very much, who is a faithful member of our Church and who has so often demonstrated her faith both here and abroad. But have no illusions! The witch-hunt, the hysteria, will not stop even if I am not there. But whether I won't be, that's for you to decide. That is not for the political opposition to decide, that is not for the media to decide, that is not for the government to decide, that is not for Facebook to decide. It is for you to decide, the legislative body of the Reformed Church in Hungary. Don't forget that!

You are not in a position to decide now, nor am I asking you to decide. I have resigned, I have resigned from the Ministerial President of the Synod. I must thank you all. To those who spoke against me and to those who spoke for me. The thing that moved me, and I did not expect it at all, was the deliberation a few days ago, when 86% of the deans and lay presidents of the presbyteries present said: "Stay! That we trust you.” And I'm also very grateful that I have the support of the Presidential Council by a 6-1 vote. I made a serious political mistake, but a mistake in a case of pardon. I asked for clemency. I wanted a pardon for someone. And if I have to leave now because of that, don't think that this is the conclusion. It will continue. It's a fight. There will be a fight. Just like it's always been a fight. The only important thing is - and I was more wrong about this than I was in asking for clemency without thinking of all the circumstances - that this battle must be fought with spiritual weapons and not with public and not political and not media weapons. This battle has been going on for how long? Five hundred years? Two thousand years? Since Adam and Eve? We are in this struggle. In this struggle, where my predecessors, starting with Loránt Hegedűs, through Gusztáv Bölcskei to István Szabó, as pastoral presidents, all fought with their own means. Some in one way, some in another. They were not spared. I understand and accept this, and I am stepping back because I do not want this fight to harm our Church even more through me. Because the unity of the church is more important to me than allowing it to be torn apart. But fear not! Have no illusions! I will continue to fight. That is my job. That's what I swore an oath to do. I will fight. I will contend first with myself, my own sins, and secondly for you and for our Church. And what I'm learning, what I've learned from this last period of time, is that this fight must be fought with the armor that God has given us, not the world. And when we are in this trial together - because we cannot help it, we are together - I ask that you do the same: fight with the armor of the Spirit so that we can stand in this trial.

Thank you very much for your attention.