Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary
(Magyarországi Evangélikus Egyház)
The Lutheran Reformation began to spread to today's Hungary in 1518. The common work of the Hungarian followers of Luther and Calvin lasted until 1591. Later on the Lutheran and Calvinist (Reformed) churches developed separately. Hungarian Protestantism had to face the Counter-Reformation, which used the Society of Jesus and the principle "cuius regio euius religio", which meant that the nobility determined the religion of their subjects. The re-catholicization of influential landowners entailed the loss of huge Lutheran congregations, as well as church buildings and schools.
The Hungarian Protestants secured the achievements of the Reformation through successive wars of independence. Under the Habsburg dynasty the Protestants were considered the secret enemy of the empire. During the "Mourning Decade" (1671-1681) many hundreds of Lutheran and Calvinist pastors were put in prison and taken away as galley slaves. During the 18th century, Hungarian Protestantism was influenced by Pietism. The preaching of the Pietists and their writings brought hope and renewal in a dark period but also clashed with the Enlightenment. The Deed of Tolerance issued by the emperor in 1781 granted religious freedom and the Protestant churches were fully recognized after the restoration of the sovereignty of Hungary in 1867. The second half of the 19th century saw mass emigration of Hungarians because of dire poverty, which affected the Lutheran Church. After World War I Hungary lost many territories to the surrounding countries, which again touched the Lutheran Church in particular because about 50 percent of the Lutherans were living in these areas. Under the communist regime after World War II all the churches, including the Lutheran Church, suffered severe oppression. State-controlled registration was introduced, clerical privileges were abolished, properties were confiscated and the church lost its schools.
The political changes in 1989 ushered in a new age with new, democratic legislation, also for and in the churches. The synod of the Lutheran Church is now able to hold sessions regularly. The congregations are governed by their own sessions, headed by the pastor and under the supervision of the inspector. The Lutheran Church has 40 educational institutions, from nursery to primary and high school, and seven hostels for students. During the last 15 years the number of diaconal institutions has grown to 38, including homes for the elderly and centres for handicapped children. The Hungarian Lutheran Youth Federation assists with the organization of summer camps for hundreds of disabled young people. The church employs three university pastors, four prison chaplains working in eight prisons and four pastors in charge of spiritual care in hospitals. There are five centres for continuing education and formation. The media team produces regular TV and radio programmes and ensures the presence of the church on the internet.