Constitution of the Hungarian Reformed Church
On 22 May 2009 the Reformed Churches in the Carpathian Basin expressed their unity by accepting a common constitution. Get acquainted with the constitution!
Dating back to the Reformation, the Hungarian Reformed Church has always flourished on the territory of various countries and within the frameworks of different states, embracing in Canon Law with other ethnic churches of the Carpathian Basin who joined the Reformation.
In the 16th century, after the rupture of the historical territory of Hungary into two - and later three parts - the Western region was brought under the rule of the Habsburg Empire. The Principality of Transylvania was established in the Eastern territory. The region encircled by these two witnessed the development of Ottoman dominion with its changing borders. After the expulsion of the Ottomans, Transylvania maintained its independence.
Following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, 14 years of preparatory work gave birth to the complete organisational structure of the Hungarian Reformed Church in 1881, at Debrecen.
Until the issuance of the Trianon Peace Treaty, the Reformed population in the Carpathian Basin lived on the territory of one state; however, as a result of Western and Eastern immigration, the "Overseas Diocese" took shape in the United States of America and the "Old Romanian Diocese" within the borders of the Romanian Principality.
After WWI, Hungarian Reformed people lived in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia, besides the Hungarian territories left behind.
Following the provisional re-annexation, the situation remained unchanged until 1989/90. Since the changes, the Reformed population of the Carpathian Basin have lived in Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. Hungarian Reformed people live in Western Europe, the United States of America and Canada either engaged in independent Reformed ecclesiastical organisations or in the Reformed church of those countries. Hungarian Reformed people also live or serve in other dozens of countries, either as independent congregations or in varying degrees of ecclesiastical organisations.
As a result of further historical changes in the early 21st century, the Hungarian Reformed population of the Carpathian Basin, except for Ukraine, Serbia and Croatia, now lives under the same federation, the European Union.
The organisational structure of the Hungarian Reformed church, once violently torn apart, can now gradually be re-established. Re-establishing unity is even more feasible as the Hungarian Reformed people continuously preserved their unity of faith and theology, based on God's Word, creeds of the ancient church, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Second Helvetic Confession. Worship agendas maintained their common principles, and the unity in serving the sacraments - baptism and communion - has never been discarded. Reformed Christian education, pastoral service, mission, Christian charity, Synod-Presbyterian governance based on parity and the basic principles of exercising ecclesiastical discipline never questioned unity and communion, nor unity with non-Hungarian Reformed church people.
For the purposes of restoring organisational unity, the member churches adopt their common constitution as follows.
Spiritual foundations, common confessions
§ 1. (1) The Hungarian Reformed Church belongs to the universal Christian Church of Jesus Christ, which is part of the Body of Christ. The Hungarian Reformed Church confesses her only head the Lord Jesus Christ, and adopts the Apostle's Creed, the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) as her only expressions of faith based on the fullness of the Holy Scripture.
(2) Member churches of the Hungarian Reformed Church live in synodal unity based on identical creed, teaching and traditions. They form an ecclesiastical and spiritual community in faith and love with all Hungarian-speaking Reformed churches, and cherish brotherhood with the Reformed churches from all around the world. They endeavour to establish and maintain ecumenical relations with all the Christian churches within the universal Christian church.
Scope of common constitution
§ 2. Reformed churches in the Carpathian Basin express their unity by adopting the common constitution.
§ 3. The scope of the constitution covers the ratifying churches.
§ 4. Accession may be requested only by churches recognised by the state in the territory where they operate.
§ 5. Any church district of a ratifying church may join the Hungarian Reformed Church, or for lack of such, the Hungarian Reformed churches outside the Carpathian Basin through their national churches, or for lack of an organised Reformed church, congregations also.
§ 6. Members of the Hungarian Reformed Church are those who received the sacrament of baptism, and who declare themselves members of the Hungarian Reformed church based on historical continuity, regardless of their location in the world or their mother tongue.
§ 7. Full church members are those who took the vow of Confirmation according to the Reformed church tradition, who live according to the confessions and laws of the Reformed church, who partake in bearing the material burdens of the church, and are voting members registered in one of the parishes.
§ 8. Voting rights and eligibility are regulated by the internal rules of member churches.
Language of services and administration
§ 9. The common language of services and administration of the Hungarian Reformed Church is Hungarian.
§ 10. Member churches in territories with other official languages of liturgy and administration shall keep using those according to their internal rules.
Principles of church administration
§ 11. Member churches of the Hungarian Reformed Church are administered according to the Holy Scripture and creeds, the principle of universal ministry and the principles of Synod-Presbyterian governance.
§ 12. Organisational units of the Church as defined in Chapter 6 of this constitution are autonomous as regulated by ecclesiastical law.
§ 13. Ministry in the church materialises in the congregation where its members listen to, take heed of and obey the Gospel by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Parishes are organisations of church members in a certain territory established for divine service, charity, mission and Christian life according to our faith.
§ 14. The minimum or maximum number of members, forms, rights and obligations of parishes are governed by the internal rules of the member churches.
§ 15. Dioceses are organised communities of parishes serving the purposes of common spiritual life, mission, education and deaconship. The tasks of the diocese are church governance, supervision, administration and discipline.
§ 16. Church districts are organised communities of dioceses serving common purposes of spiritual life, mission, education and deaconship on a given territory. Their tasks are training and ordaining ministers, church governance, supervision, administration and discipline.
§ 17. If organisation of church governance in certain member churches does not call for the establishment of some organisational unit, such are governed by the internal rules of the church.
The national church
§ 18. The national church is the member church of the Hungarian Reformed Church registered in the state according to its place of operation.
Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church
§ 19. (1) The Hungarian Reformed Church is a synodal community of member churches.
(2) The constitutional and legislative body of the Hungarian Reformed Church is the Concerted Synod.
(3) Its authority covers the adopting of the common constitution and its amendments. It passes laws in all common issues for which it is authorised by the highest forums of the member churches.
(4) The Concerted Synod is convened by the General Convention, as necessary.
(5) Its members are the bishops and first elders of the member churches in office. Other representatives - within the limits set forth by the annex of this constitution - are elected and delegated by the member churches, half of them being ministers and half of them elders.
The General Convention
§ 20. (1) The General Convention is the common representative body of the Reformed churches in the Carpathian Basin.
(2) Its task is to prepare the common constitution and common laws, coordinate common issues and work to achieve unity.
(3) Constituent members of the General Convention are all the deans and curators in office of the Reformed dioceses in the Carpathian Basin, as well as the bishops and first elders in office of the church districts.
(4) The General Convention meets once every year, but may be convened whenever necessary. It is convened by the Presidium, designating its location and agenda.
(5) The managing body of the General Convention is the Presidium. Its members are the bishops and first elders in office. Its task is to administer common issues. The body convenes whenever necessary, but at least three times a year. It designates the location for the meeting and the chairman from its own members on a case-by-case basis.
(6) The General Convention may create committees to resolve common tasks.
§ 21. The Hungarian Reformed Church performs its activity through the service of ministers, elders, deacons, teachers, cantors and other office-bearers.
§ 22. (1) A minister of the Hungarian Reformed Church is a church servant who obtained a degree in a mutually recognised higher education institution and who passed the standard minister training examination, was ordained, and elected, charged, designated and appointed according to local rules, and who serves with full dedication in the spirit of the Holy Scripture and our confessions as a way of life.
(2) Those not active can only be recognised as ministers if the competent diocese and church district maintain their capacity of minister.
(3) Retired ministers maintain their capacity of minister according to the rules of their churches.
(4) Those whose capacity of minister is terminated cannot be permitted to serve or act as a minister or make representations in this capacity in other member churches.
§ 23. (1) Elders are stewards of the spiritual and material property of the parish, elected from registered church members for the responsible management of parish affairs.
(2) The rules of their election are set forth by the internal regulations of member churches.
§ 24. (1) Church jurisdiction and procedures are provided by separate internal regulations within each member church.
(2) Disciplinary resolutions are executed by the competent church authority but they are accepted by all the member churches.
(3) Member churches undertake to mutually inform each other about binding resolutions.
Unity of the Hungarian Reformed Church and autonomy of its member churches
§ 25. Unity covers all the issues under the common regulation of the constitution or the authority of national churches.
§ 26. Member churches preserve their autonomy and independence when establishing their internal organisational system. Exceptions are issues under the common constitution or common regulation.
§ 27. Member churches are autonomous as regards their election system, church governance activities, the internal regulation of ministries, church discipline and management.
§ 28. Member churches collaborate in legislation, common representation, development and organisation of ecumenical and other external relations, charity, mission, media, communication, education, youth work, information technology, as well as in retirement matters.
§ 29. Common committees and institutions may be established for common tasks and collaboration.
Explanatory and enforcement provisions
§ 30. For the purposes of this constitution, member churches are recognised churches with legal personality in their own countries which ratify this common constitution. For the purposes of this constitution, the terms "church body" or "national church" are used as synonyms.
§ 31. Minister training: degree obtained at the faculties of theology and ministry in the higher education institutions mutually recognised and functioning within the church bodies in the Carpathian Basin, followed by a successful ministerial qualification examination. To serve as a minister with full rights also requires the ordination of the minister. Member churches strive to ensure a standardisation of minister training and establish a standard Minister Training Committee for this purpose.
§ 32. (1) This constitution is adopted by the Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church on 22th May 2009.
(2) Member churches undertake to incorporate the common constitution in their national church law, and therefore make the statement of ratification annexed to this constitution.
Symbol and seal
The symbol of the Hungarian Reformed Church is a pelican feeding its baby pelicans with her own blood. This symbol also features on the round seal.
Establishment of representation ratios in the Common Synod
The number of Common Synod members is 120 - based on the number of acceding member churches. Seats of the representatives of non-adhering member churches remain unoccupied.
The representative seats are distributed as follows:
Reformed Church of Hungary 60 members
- Danube (Dunamellék) Reformed Church District 14 members
- Transdanubian (Dunántúl) Reformed Church District 10 members
- Tiszáninnen Reformed Church District 10 members
- Tiszántúl Reformed Church District 18 members
Presidium 8 members
Romanian Reformed Church 32 members
- Transylvanian Reformed Church District 18 members
- Királyhágómellék Reformed Church District 10 members
Presidium 4 members
Slovakian Reformed Christian Church 10 members
Representatives 8 members
Presidium 2 members
Transcarpathian (Kárpátalja) Reformed Church 8 members
Representatives 6 members
Presidium 2 members
Serbian Reformed Christian Church 6 members
Representatives 4 members
Presidium 2 members
Croatian Reformed Church 2 members*
Slovenian Reformed Christian Church 2 members
*Until the Croatian Reformed Church joins, these seats pertain to the Dunamellék Reformed Church District.
Statement of Ratification
The Reformed Church of Hungary,
The Romanian Reformed Church,
The Slovakian Reformed Christian Church,
The Transcarpathian Reformed Church,
The Serbian Reformed Christian Church,
The Croatian Reformed Church,
The Slovenian Reformed Christian Church -
- as successors of the Hungarian Reformed Church created on the historical territory of Hungary during the Reformation and consolidated in the following centuries, in recognition of their obligations to the nation of present and future Hungarian Reformed people, aspiring to perform this task in the most efficient manner, and with the conviction that the time of joint action has come, hereby decide to integrate the constitution (basic law) of our national church with the constitution adopted by the common body - the Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church. In consideration thereof we adopt the common constitution and incorporate it in our national church law.