Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia
(Evanjelická cirkev augsburského vyznania na Slovensku, ECAV)
The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia (ECAV) is one of the churches that emerged from the 16th century Reformation. An independent evangelical religious organization was established in 1610 in Zilina and by 1670 most of the inhabitants of the Hungarian part of the empire were Protestants. The Counter-Reformation struck heavily and caused many losses. Due to serious problems between Catholics and Protestants, the emperor convened an assembly in 1681on the re-establishment of religious freedom, which opened limited possibilities for the Protestants to organize congregations. The Deed of Tolerance in 1781 ensured freedom of faith for non-Catholic believers and contributed to the development of the church, but equality between confessions had to wait until 1848. The Slovak Lutherans welcomed the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. Until that time they had been part of the Evangelical Church in the kingdom of Hungary. The ECAV was founded and its constitution adopted in 1921-1922. In the period 1918 to 1938 the church developed and was actively involved in the society. During World War II it opposed the ruling regime, and protested against Nazism and the persecution of Jews. After the communist coup d'état in 1948 the church lost its schools and diaconal services. Church periodicals ceased to be published. Many clergy were persecuted. The strict control of the totalitarian regime lasted until 1989. With the return of freedom of faith, the ECAV has gradually resumed its previous activities. A new constitution was adopted in 1993.
The ECAV is the second largest church in Slovakia. It considers the gospel as contained in the Bible to be the source of faith in the triune God and the rule for life. Jesus Christ is the head of the church which functions on the basis of the equality of God's children. The Augsburg Confession is recognized as a correct explanation of central issues of faith. Since 1989 the church has undertaken many important changes in congregational life. The Evangelical Hymnal was published in 1992 and a new order of worship was adopted in 1995. In 1979 an authorized translation of the Bible was published by Tranoscius publishing house, Liptovsky Mikulás and the Slovak Bible Society. Since 2000 the youth organization, SEM, has become part of the ministry of the church. Of the 328 active clergy, 142 are women. The church is organized in congregations, seniorats and districts (two). The highest legislative body is the synod assembly which meets annually. The highest administrative authority between synod assemblies is the general presbyterium.
Spiritual revival in the life of the church is reflected in the work of Evangelical Diakonia, which includes homes for the elderly, a children's home and a board¬ing school for deaf and blind children. Several congregations have their own diaconal activities. In the area of education the ECAV runs 15 evangelical schools (three kindergarten, five primary and seven high schools). Theological formation is provided at the evangelical theological school of the Comenius University in Bratislava, and the Bible school in Martin offers education for non-ordained church co-workers. The missionary activities of the church are fostered by the ECAV Centre for Evangelism Media and the Evangelical Media Programme. The media work of the church (press, radio and TV) is particularly important. Many groups and communities (e.g. youth, women, families, teachers, prayer community, etc.) are working within the church, organizing seminars, conferences, and opportunities for training. The ECAV takes an active part in projects designed for the spiritual and moral renewal of the country.
Cooperation with the state has deepened. In 2002 the ECAV, together with ten other registered churches, signed a basic agreement with the state, on the basis of which two partial agreements concerning religious education and ministry in the armed forces were recently signed.