A COURAGEOUS REFORMED WITNESS IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

A COURAGEOUS REFORMED WITNESS
IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
by Maurice Roberts.

Not many readers will know of a significant Reformed work which has been begun in recent years in Hungary, and which is carrying the gospel to Hungarian-speaking people in the surrounding countries of Romania and Ukraine, with a potential to reach out to Slovakia and other lands. The Károlyi Gáspár Institute of Theology and Missions (KGTMI) is situated in the city of Miskolc in Hungary and is named after the great Hungarian Reformer of the sixteenth century. Károlyi Gáspár was a Bible translator, reformer and educator.

Following the collapse of communism in E. Europe in 1989 a new situation of freedom made it possible for mission work to start in countries which had for years suffered repression. Accordingly, Dr. Robert Rapp, a veteran American missionary … came to Hungary to encourage evangelical and Reformed outreach work. The KGTMI was begun in 1992 in the capital Budapest and in 1994 moved to its present site in the city of Miskolc.

Some 16 graduates to date (16 then, 18 now – ed.) have completed the four-year theological course, which is committed to the Bible as inerrant and to Reformational theology. Originally the hope was that such men, on completion of their training, would enter the ministry of the Hungarian Reformed Church (HRC). This, however, has not happened. In 1997 the Consultative Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Churches expelled both the Seminary and all the students from their Church. The HRC is a member of the World Council of Churches, allows women ministers and has departed extensively from its own Reformed Standards (the Second Helvetic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism). The sad fact is that the German Higher Critical Movement, and later the teaching of Karl Barth, had by the 1930s greatly weakened the once-conservative doctrine of the HRC. Today the HRC has only a small number of ministers who are realistically Reformed in outlook. The Reformation in Hungary was never so thorough-going as in some other European countries, and, as in England, the office of Bishop was never removed, so that today the bishops control the HRC.

Faced with expulsion, the staff and students of the KGTMI have formed a new denomination named the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe, which also promotes sound theological literature. To date they have published in Hungarian the Westminster Confession, Arthur Pink’s The Sovereignty of God and a booklet by D. M. Lloyd-Jones. In the very near future they expect to bring out J. G. Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism (now completed – ed.). The students are working to gather congregations which, though at present small, are composed of earnest Christians.

The small number of Reformed Christians in this region can look back to one-favored times. At one point after the Reformation 80 per cent of Hungary went over to the Reformed side. But this early promise was soon blighted by the counter-Reformation, so that only some 20 per cent retained their attachment to the Reformed position in the following 200 years.

It is the prayer and the vision of the brethren in the Institute that God might again raise up his cause in Eastern Europe. They look warmly and affectionately on their Reformed brethren in the West and throughout the world and value their prayers, love and support in any way possible.

The Banner of Truth Magazine,
May 2002, pp. 6-7.

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