Just months after becoming a Bishop, the Fidesz-led governments’ former minister Zoltán Balog was made president of the Reformed Church’s new General Synod. The Reformed Church denied any political pressure.
Zoltán Balog, Bishop of the Danubian district (Dunamelléki) was elected with 64 votes while the other candidate, Bishop Károly Fekete of the Transtibiscan (Tiszántúli) church district received 33.
Balog has been serving as a pastor for a long time, while the beginning of his political involvement also dates back to around the regime change. He has held several positions within Fidesz and around Viktor Orbán, and became a member of parliament in 2006. As a result of the latter, he suspended his role in the priesthood. In his most important role between 2012 and 2018, he led the Minister of Human Capacities (EMMI), responsible, for example, for education, social issues, and healthcare. He announced a step back from political activities in September 2018 saying that the Church wanted him back and the two roles were incompatible. He, however, guarded his position as the leader of Fidesz’s party foundation (PMA), which he eventually gave up just this January.
In addition to its legislative function, the General Synod
of the Reformed Church in Hungary is the highest authority regarding the official teachings of the Church, deliberating on official holidays, determining the order and liturgy of worship, the official Bible translation, the curriculum of the training and final, and the ordination exam of pastors. Among others, it maintains and oversees the National Reformed Church Public Fund (also called solidarity fund) and the Reformed Pastoral Pension Institute and establishes public and higher educational institutions and institutions of other kinds. It takes measures in matters of governance and administration affecting the entire Reformed Church in Hungary and decides on all matters that require resolution or decisions from the highest level in the church.
Balog’s quick emergence in the church hierarchy also raised questions about the separation of church and state. His election to Bishop back in November was already historic, as never before had a minister become a Bishop in Hungarian history. In addition, before that election the Reformed Church also abolished a rule, according to which at least ten years of continuous clerical service was required for an appointment of a Bishop. The Church denied that the sudden change had anything to do with Balog not having that experience.
In the wake of speculation about political pressure in the election at the beginning of February, the leaders of the Hungarian Reformed Church also denied that Balog’s chances were increased due to his political past, connections, or influence.
featured image via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI