Reformed Church in Romania
(Romániai Református Egyház)
The Reformed Church in Romania is concentrated in the region of Transylvania, the western part of the country bordering Hungary. The history of the church is closely connected to that of the Reformed Church in Hungary. The Reformation took root among the Hungarian people as early as 1540. The Synod of Nagyenyed in 1564 is considered the official foundation of the Reformed Church in Transylvania. The Hungarian princes of the region, themselves Reformed, sought to guarantee peaceful co-existence with the Roman Catholic Church of the Habsburg empire and defended freedom of worship. At the beginning of the 17th century, Transylvania was recognized as an autonomous principality and the eastern part of Hungary was annexed to it. This history explains why the Reformed Church in Romania is composed of two autonomous districts, Transylvania with Cluj as the centre and Királyhágómellék (Partium) around Oradea. During the 17th century the Reformed Church in Transylvania flourished. Important institutions were established, such as the theological academy (1622) and the Reformed college. The region was incorporated into the Habsburg empire in the 18th century and the church suffered a severe re-catholicization policy. In 1865 Transylvania became part of Hungary again. A new period began with the end of World War I when the region became part of Romania. The Hungarian-speaking, mostly Reformed population became a minority within the Romanian, Orthodox majority. Despite many difficulties, especially the confiscation of properties and the dismantling of its educational system, the Reformed Church underwent a spiritual renewal.
The communist takeover in Romania in 1948 brought a time of harsh persecution. All the institutions were nationalized and church life was limited to worship. Many pastors were imprisoned and the number of candidates for pastoral training was severely curtailed by the communist authorities, who forced the leadership of the church to collaborate and totally controlled religious life. This came to an end with the Romanian revolution of 1989, in which the Reformed congregation of Timisoara played a significant role.
Since 1989 the Reformed Church in Romania has greatly developed its pastoral ministry, evangelism and religious education. It is facing new challenges and opportunities, such as diaconal activities, women and youth work, and new ways of engaging in missionary and social work. But major obstacles remain. The great majority of the properties of the church have still not been returned or compensated for. As an ethnic and linguistic minority the Hungarian population in Romania must continuously defend its rights. The church has not been allowed to reestablish its large, well-organized educational system of over five hundred schools which it had before 1948. These problems have to do with the delay in passing a law on religious affairs which has been in discussion for more than ten years. In spite of the difficulties the church continues to work for national and religious reconciliation and consensus.
The Refomed Church in Romania confesses the Apostolic Creed and the Second Helvetic Confession and teaches the Heidelberg Catechism. The two districts have each a bishop at their head who take turns to preside over the synod for a period of one year. Pastors are trained at the Protestant Theological Institute in Cluj. There is also a Reformed pedagogical faculty at the State University in Cluj. The church has close relationships with the other historical Hungarian-speaking churches in the country, as well as with the Reformed Church in Hungary and Hungarian Reformed churches in other parts of Europe and in North America. It is ecumenically engaged with the Romanian Orthodox Church and other churches in Romania.