The Reformed Christian Church in Serbia has released a statement with updates on the state of its bishop election that has been appealed and debated since early January. You can read an interview with bishop nominee Béla Halász following the announcement.
During its session on 23 February 2013, the Synod Council of the Reformed Christian Church in Serbia (RCCS) discussed the second instance appeal that was given by bishop nominee Béla Halász during the procedure of the bishop election. He attached to his appeal the copy of his naturalization documents that proves the validation of his pastoral degree in Serbia. With this act, which was accepted by the Synod Council, and according to the Church regulation, he has satisfied all conditions.
After the appeal period has expired, Pastor Béla Halász can officially be accepted as the elected bishop of the Reformed Christian Church in Serbia.
Interview with Béla Halász
What are some of the issues your church is facing?
Our church is a small church and we are living in a diaspora situation, but our small communities are living communities. Being small not only has disadvantages, but advantages as well. Currently, we are living in a triple minority situation in Serbia. Ethnic minority because of nationality – within the community it means the Hungarian Reformed people are minorities because 80-90% of Hungarian's in Serbia are Roman Catholic. In the region where we are living, in most of the villages, we are the minority. We only have around three local congregations where we can say that they are the majority communities. Another problem we face is that our region this is a large territory. It is a large distance to travel and oversee. The central church, we have five diaspora communities that belong to the region. The largest distance is 150 km.
In the last few years, the number of the pastors has been decreasing and this has financial reasons. They can't support the pastors. Twenty years before, where I am serving, two pastors were serving and thirty years before that, three pastors. Because of this, we are very dependent on the spiritual, moral and financial support of our partner churches from Hungary and outside. One of the consequences of the situation and former leaders is that we have broken down relations with these foreign partners. There are spiritual and financial implications.
What steps must you take as bishop?
One of my first tasks is to rebuild these relations with our sisters and brothers. We have active church members, so we have the most important thing, and we have the faith and energy to survive or maintain our life. This potential, which is a gift from God, must be strengthened. Communication in times of the Internet is easy and the problem with the former church leadership was that they really cut these relations and lost the trust of the partners. I trust that the new leadership with God's help can reestablish these damaged relationships through communication. We realize that in the last year the Hungarian Reformed churches were aware of what was happening. We know that they are praying for us – and not only praying but being active. I'm saying this not only as a church leader, church members are aware of these relations as well. The advantage of a small community is that we can renew our self in terms of structure very fast.
What does the Hungarian Reformed Church and community mean to your Church?
We have been in the Carpathian Basin for centuries in a spiritual community as Hungarian Reformed. We are linked by our culture, our mother tongue. It is a very important part of our life, but being in Serbia our community is open to other nations and nationalities. In my community in a diaspora and minority situation, people of other nationalities, especially the intellects are approaching us with interest. They are interested in our life. It is our basic duty to witness Jesus Christ for these people as well.
How are the relations among your pastors?
Currently, we have 12 pastors, and there is unity among these pastors, which we haven't had for many years. This nurtures our hope for the future.
And how do you move forward from here?
We have to have a new start in our relationships with people within the church – heal these relationships, not only among pastors but congregations as well. Renew our faith in the Gospel and Jesus Christ. As far as I see, a new start will come in our church. A big change is coming. Our pastors, our presbyteries, our church members have started to think in terms of community. We started to reach out within the community to reach out to the other and not only physically but we are looking after each other spiritually. This strength, faith and trust that is growing among us, we have to protect it to let it grow – pray for it.