The 13th Synod Cycle’s 15th Synod Meeting of the Reformed Church in Hungary took place last week on 12th – 13th of November 2014. It was the last Synod of a 6-year-Cycle and the last before elections of new officials.
On Wednesday 13th November, the Synod Meeting, began with a greetings and a sermon given by Right. Reverend John Chalmers the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Not only did he bring Christian Greetings from the Church of Scotland, but also mentioned that this year marks 70 years anniversary of Jane Haining a Scottish martyr who died in Auschwitz in 1944. Ms. Haining, was missionary who worked at the Budapest Scottish Mission with Jewish Children. In his reflection Rt. Rev. J. Chalmers shared his message from Philippians 1:3-5
" I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Sharing how the church in Philippi was one that Paul thought of as positively, because to their partnership to the gospel. Rt. Rev. J. Chalmers said the church that works together, not as an individual. Emphasising on the priesthood of all believers so as to work “as partners in the work of the gospel.” He urged the church to see Philippi as best practice. This is because after Paul left the church grew because they worked together by reaching out, by sharing the work among members and not just individuals, and by depending on the Holy Spirit not leaders. Rt. Rev. J. Chalmers urged the church in to depend on its lay church members more and more for partnership in the gospel because of the influence and experiences they have. Rt. Rev. J. Chalmers concluded saying, that “one of the most urgent tasks of ministry is to equip the whole people of God to be able to exercise their ‘partnership in the gospel’ as part of the Priesthood of all believers.”
In the opening of the session, the presence of Ecumenical Partners was acknowledged, and an opening speech was presented by Bishop Gusztáv Bölcskei. Bishop Bölcskei mentioned that “in this period, it is not just Reformation Months that we remember, but also that yesterday November 11th was the World War I last day memorial. We all in the Carpathian Basin are a determined nation. There were those Reformed communities, where until 2005 had to wait so that the first village’s World War memorial can be erected” – in his speech Bishop Bölcskei stated that it was important for the church to be a church of healing, so that old and new wounds can be healed. The Bishop who is also head of the Synod, also illustrated in graphics the church Financial structure among which many have personally given 1% tax returns to the Reformed Church in Hungary, while at the same time those doing so has reduced. Bishop Bölcskei highlighted the Reformed Church Aid and its work and leadership, and also that of the Reformed Pedagogical Institute including changes, religious education, and text books published.
Among many sessions, speeches and presentations in the Synod Meeting, awards were presented and celebrated. The first to be celebrated was 10 Year Anniversary of the Cooperation in the Carpathian Basin. General Secrertary Zoltán Tarr highlighted in his presentation, the important events of the Reformed Community: formation of the “General Convent” in 2004 which lead to the unification of the Hungarian Reformed Church in 2009, when the Constituting Synod took place in Debrecen.
In this mode of celebration, Bishop Fábián Sándor Zán of the Reformed Church in Sub-Carpathia spoke of the cooperation of the church and especially the work of the Reformed Church Aid, thanking the church for the prayers as well as physical support during these hard times in the Ukraine.
The awards presented included: Book of the Year Award of the Reformed Church for Educational books. The Golden-Ring Theology Doctor Award. A Dobos Károly Pastors Service Award for at those who have at least 20 years of service. Zsófia Juhász Award for those who have served in diaconal service in Church Institutions. Also those celebrated was the Reformed Church Hospital Chaplaincy Service, for its 20 Year Anniversary of service. In the jubilation and celebration the new translation of John Calvin’s Institutes was introduced to the Synod.
The head of the Youth Office of RCH, Rev Szabolcs Szontágh presented a report on the preparation of the Starpoint Reformed Youth Festival in 2015 and suggestion of organizing the National Family Festival. The 7th Starpoint Youth Festival will take place in Tata, in summer of 21th-25th July 2015. The theme will be Trust. The number of participants has been rising and especially that of those that are not in the targeted age group of 14 – 35 years. Due to this the youth department have noticed the need for another festival that will be Family Oriented. The Synod approved the Report.
Márton Csanády, Director of Research and Development at Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary presented the first results of the Church Sociological Research. As the research shows, beyond the spiritual service there is a strong need for the community activities of the church and responding to problems in society. The older generations accept Christianity more and the youngsters are less religious. At the same time we can see changes in the tendencies: Christianity becomes more part of life of people, who are trained and are at a higher level of the society. The Synod approved the report of the Committee and asked for continuity of its work.
Church Revision Committee (CRC) presented their final report and recommendations to the Synod Meeting, which was debated and discussed. The CRC urged the Synod to commit itself to support congregational life and mission of the church. The CRC also recommend a structural reform for the church which would strongly support the missional service of the congregations including the strengthening the unity and the role of the presbyteries.
The recommendations in a document titled “Dialogue with the Future”were accepted as part of further discussion, and the Synod appointed an Ad hoc Committee, which consists of delegates from each Church District. This committee will consider the proposal’s recommendations related to church organisation and management. The Synod thanked the CRC for its work and stated that the committee has fulfilled its assignment and thereby terminates its operation.
International Delegates of the Synod Meeting also brought greetings and messages from their churches. Among these were Young Taik Jeong Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Korea. Not only did he bring Christian Greetings, but he also presented a certificate of recognition to the out-going Bishop Bölcskei.
Thomas Hennenfeld, Superintendent of Evangelical Church of Helvetic Confession in Austria brought greetings to the church and spoke fondly of the neighbourly relations that they have shared and how they have not only got to know each to other as working partners, but have encouraged one another.
South African Rev. Dr. David Kuyler the General Secretary (Scribe) of the Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa, gave a personal testimony and story of how God worked through him and the church in Post-Apartheid Peace and Reconciliation. “We are not born to be racist. The community, we grow up in, make us reject others. Many say we have to forget about the past, but we do have to face the hard questions and our wounds or we cannot be healed. –said Rev. Kuyler.
At the end of the session Gottfried Locher President of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, brought greetings to the synod. He spoke of how the RCH has become a strong and recognized community in Europe. Rev Locher appreciated the unity of the Hungarian Reformed Churches in the Carpathian Basin and Bishop Bölcskei’s role in the process, which could be an example for the Swiss Protestant Churches as well for the future generations.
The first day ended with a receiption of the exiting Presidium of the Synod of RCH, addressed by Chrisitne Busch, Church Consultant as well the Assistant Director of the Ecumenical Relations Office of the Evangelical Church in Rheinland.
Thursday 14th November at the Synod Meeting was full of reports, debates, discussions and decisions on the way forward. Zsigmond Vad, Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Ecumenical Committee addressed the Synod Meeting in regards to the work done towards international and ecumenical cooperation. Rev. Vad highlighted programmes such as Kirchentag (German Protestant Church Day) (link) that the RCH has taken part in. He also mentioned two agreements signed between two sister churches, during this Synod Cycle. These are: Evangelical Church in Rheinland and the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. Rev. Vad emphasised the need for international communication and especially the need for the English Website of the Reformed Church in Hungary so as to ensure that news and other updates of the on-goings of the church are accessible to partner churches.
After this, the Synod Meeting was closed in Worship Service where Holy Communion was celebrated by Bishop Gusztáv Bölcskei and Rev. János Jákob, Bishop of the Protestant Military Chaplaincy.
Njeri Wagana Hughes, Diána Erdélyi