Church Prosecutor Makes Request to Defrock Rev. Hegedűs Jr.

2014. február 02., vasárnap

On 30 January, the first hearing of the presbytery court regarding the actions of Rev. Loránt Hegedűs Jr. in November 2013 was held, and the next trial date was set for 20 February. The case at hand was a result of the unveiling of a Miklós Horthy (Hungary’s governor during the 2nd World War) statue in front of the Szabadság Square Reformed Church congregation in Budapest, where Hegedűs serves as pastor. In addition, Márton Gyöngyösi, MP of the extreme-nationalist party Jobbik, gave a speech during the course of the Sunday morning worship service.

Bishop István Szabó of the Danubian Church District released a statement shortly after the event condemning Hegedűs’ actions:

Budapest, November 4. 2013.

Undersigned, as the Bishop of the Danubian District of the Reformed Church in Hungary, I have asked the Dean of the respected Presbytery to conduct an expedited examination into the events of Sunday, November 3, to establish the responsibility of those involved in order to introduce disciplinary actions if deemed necessary. I made this request with a special focus on whether the behavior of the Rev. Lóránt Hegedűs Jr. coincides with the church's regulation on ministers, especially points 1)a, h; i; j of paragraph 91.: had the before mentioned done his best for the good reputation of the church, had the before mentioned avoided scandalizing behavior, had the before mentioned avoided to act in a way which would divide the church community.

Until the end of the examination process I can but express my shock over neglecting our church's common understanding and declarations, furthermore to shame the Christian community, there was a provocative political action organized at Budapest-Szabadság square Reformed church. The political profit of this action anybody can see just now, but the shame caused to the dignity of the church and the credibility of the ministry of our pastors is unforeseeable.

Bishop István Szabó

During the presbytery hearing on 30 January, the church’s assigned legal advisor, György Horváth, presented his prosecution submission on behalf of the church district to a presiding court body as well as Hegedűs’ legal representative, Árpád Nemes. Hegedűs did not attend the hearing.

After prosecution’s submission, Hegedűs, by way of his legal representative, entered a plea of not guilty. Following this, Nemes accused the church’s legal advisor, the sitting court body and the presbytery court of partiality. However, the presidium of the presbytery (court presidium) examined and refused Nemes’ claim of partiality.

Horváth requested that Hegedűs be defrocked. He stated that, taking the photos and audio recordings from the unveiling into consideration, during the service Hegedűs memorialized Horthy instead of interpreting the word of God during the service, and furthermore his rhetoric formed into an anti-Semitic message. Additionally, Horvath claimed that he violated a church law passed in 1998, which forbids political events to be held on church property. Horváth rebuked the political atmosphere of the event and Jobbik MP Márton Gyöngyösi’s speech during the worship service. As a result of the unveiling ceremony, many people attacked the Reformed Church in Hungary. The legal advisor reminded the court that Miklós Horthy played an important role in the first Vienna Award, which was a joyful time for Hungarians, but since then the Hungarian state has recognized that the Horthy system did not protect its Hungarian Jewish citizens during the Second World War. Horváth made it clear that the aim of the hearing was not to define Horthy’s historical role, but judging by the strong reactions, it is clear that Horthy remains a divisive figure for Hungarian society.

Those who share the gospel from the pulpit should represent the general values of the Reformed Church, said Horváth, going on to say that Hegedűs had become unworthy of his title as pastor. In his submission, Horváth suggested Hegedűs be defrocked, but until the court’s ruling on this matter enters into effect, he will simply be suspended from his duties as a pastor.

“Accusations without basis”

After this, a written statement from Hegedűs was presented in which he refused the “accusations without basis.” He thinks it is the media, the “double-standard” church leadership, and the pastors collecting signatures against him, not he, that harm the reputation of the church. He asserted that they reported on the incident too hastily and did so without asking those directly involved. He accused Horváth of being biased and collecting one-sided evidence.

The pastor commended Horthy and reminded people that not only was he reformed but he contributed to the building of the Hazatérés (coming home) Church that is now located at Szabadság Square. He continued that it was Governor Horthy who suggested to Bishop László Ravasz to make a new spiritual home, Hazatérés Church, in Budapest for the reformed people fleeing to the city from outside the Hungarian borders established as a result of the Trianon Treaty. This is why the elders of the congregation at Szabadság Square made the decision to erect a statue of the governor. A Jobbik sponsored foundation, Gyarapodó Magyarországért, covered the costs of the statue. Therefore, Márton Gyöngyösi represented the foundation at the event and was not there to promote the party’s agenda.

“The worship was disturbed by demonstrators who were incited by ultra-liberals and the far-left,” Hegedűs said in his 11-page statement. He believes the police who are charged with keeping the peace had to protect the church and the congregation members on that day. Because of this, he is waiting for an apology and thinks the church should make amends to the congregation. He goes on to ask the pastors who collected signatures against him what they would have done if they had this group of people shouting in front of the church during worship.

“To be continued with witnesses”

After the submission of the legal advisor and after listening to Hegedűs’ statement, the court scheduled a date of the next trial, which will be held on 20 February when the court will hear witness statements.





Additional coverage on the Hungarian News Agency MTI: "Reformed Church starts procedure to defrock Hegedűs over Horthy statue"

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