Memorandum signed with the Church of Scotland

2015. március 18., szerda

Rt. Rev. John Chalmers, Moderator of General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the new Presidium of RCH expressed their commitment to a revitalized partnership by signing an agreement on the occasion of the 150 Years Jubilee of the Scottish-Hungarian Bursary Scheme.

The year 2015 marks 150 years since scholars first came in 1865 from Hungary to Scotland. In light of this occasion, between 17th -19th of March a Church of Scotland delegation came to Hungary for the celebration. The delegation included Right Reverend John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, his wife Mrs Elizabeth Chalmers, and Reverend Ian Alexander, World Mission Council Secretary of the Church of Scotland.  

The delegation arrived in Budapest in the afternoon of 17th March, and had informal meetings and discussions about issues concerning the partnership of the churches, with ministers and church officials, among whom were, Prof. Dr. Péter Balla, Rector of the Károli Gáspár Reformed University, himself a former bursar in Edinburgh, Rev. Aaron Stevens, Minister of the Scottish Mission in Budapest (St. Columba’s Church) and Rev. Zoltán Tarr, General Secretary of the Reformed Church in Hungary. 

Wednesday 18th of March marked their first formal event when the Moderator of the General Assembly on behalf of the Church of Scotland and the new Presidency of RCH, Bishop Dr. István Szabó and Dr. Pál Huszár signed a memorandum of commitment in the Synod Office of RCH. 

At the festive occasion which took place in the framework of the session of the Presidency Council, bishops and lay presidents of all the four church districts were present. The program for the session was moderated by Rev. Aaron Stevens. 

“I am delighted to sign this Memorandum of Commitment and look forward to a continuing exchange of people and ideas. We have so many common agendas – in care for the poor, concern for the refugees, in promoting social justice and caring for the planet; the list of our shared responsibilities, under God, is extensive and, with all of you, I pray that we go on from here to learn much from each other.” – concluded Rt. Rev. Chalmers, in referring to the re-energized cooperation of both churches in the past years. 

Bishop Szabó in his address pointed out that relations between the Hungarians and the Scots have existed from as early as the Árpad dynasty (Hungarian ruling family in the 9th-10th century), when one of its Princesses was married to Scottish Royalty. He added that, “in a sense, Jane Haining was for us the Árpad Princess who was there for the Hungarians, when we needed her.” The bishop concluded by saying that - for a long time due to surrounding events of the time, the Hungarians received more from the Scots. The bishop added that in the future, the RCH looks towards contributing more and that this memorandum is a reminder and motivation for the commitment. It is namely, to express the will and desire to continue the longstanding friendship between the two churches, to strengthen the links on various levels of church life. 

The Bishop presented the guests with the new Hungarian translation of the Institutes of Calvin, of which editorial work he has completed while he was on a leave in Scotland. The Bishop mentioned that he is among many who have fond memories of Scotland and the Scottish Connections.

Rev. Ian Alexander and Mrs Elizabeth Chalmers

The Moderator presented the church with a picture of dove that is made in Bethlehem, by a Palestinian Christian group. John Chalmers said that “they make these beautiful doves from the ashes of destruction. In the church our work is often about looking for beauty in people's lives and helping to recover that beauty form the brokenness in their lives.” 

On Thursday 19th of March continued in Debrecen. At an event hosted by Bishop Dr. Károly Fekete, Rector Dr. Gusztáv Bölcskei, and Prof. Dr. Richárd Hörcsik, the Moderator commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the Bursary programme. This took place in the Reformed College in Debrecen by unveiling a Memorial Plaque and laying of a wreath. 

Longstanding partnership 

The past 150 years of the Scottish – Hungarian Bursary Scheme, clearly show that the relationship between the two churches dates as early as the reformation. We see how the two churches have lived out their Calvinist Tradition throughout the years. With the arrival of the first Scottish missionaries among the Jews in Hungary in 1841 the relationship between the Reformed Church in Hungary and the Church of Scotland was not only strengthened, but the Scottish Mission in Budapest was established, which will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2016. 

Though the bursary scheme was established in 1863, it only welcomed its first scholar in 1865, Ferenc Balogh, who later became a professor at the Theological Academy in the Debrecen Reformed College. During the 150 years, students have benefited greatly from the bursary scheme and many of them later became influential in the RCH and in Hungarian diaspora. 

It is clear that, longstanding and revitalized links between the two churches has not been limited to the Bursary Scheme, but extends to different areas of the church life. “Cooperation among experts of different areas of Church life has been developed in recent decades, and common ministry addressing our contemporary situations continues to be important.” as stated in the Memorandum.  This includes church review and reform, social reconciliation, commitment for minorities, cooperation between Youth Assemblies, resourcing missionary congregations, work among refugees, Roma ministry, priority areas and eco-congregations. Both churches are also committed to a renewed cooperation in international ecumenical organisations. 

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Church of Scotland Bursary programme, the Church of Scotland and the Reformed Church of Hungary take the opportunity to remember and reinforce our longstanding and revitalised links. Both churches give thanks to God for this relationship and look forward to the future, in Christian solidarity, as we seek to walk together in the footsteps of Christ and continue to pray for each other. 

Read the full text of the Memorandum

The Moderator's speech in Debrecen 



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We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.