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'Bittet den Herrn der Ernte' : Gyula Forgács (1879-1941): Pionier der ungarischen reformierten Inneren Mission

By Á.E. Sípos


Throughout the 19th century theological rationalism and theological liberalism had a great impact on the theology and congregational life of Hungarian Protestant churches. Contrary to the above mentioned two ideologies, from the 1880's there was a growing influence of the theological tendency Hungarian church historians call home mission revival or home mission movement. As a result of the home mission movement at the beginning of the 20th century, mainly in and around the big cities spiritual life in Reformed congregations livened up. The home mission revival was initiated and supported by "para-ecclesiastical" missionary associations that were formed in big number and were taking a lot of efforts to reach spiritual renewal. They used different missionary and evangelizing magazines, books and tracts. It was the representatives of the Pesti Evangélium szerint Reformált Németajkú Leányegyház (Evangelically Reformed German Speaking Affiliated Pest Church) that started its ministry in Hungary in 1864 and those of the Pest Skót Misszió (Scottish Mission) who spiritually influenced the leaders of the home mission revival. It was mainly due to them that the influence of Pietist home mission movement led by Johann H. Wichern, Scottish Puritanism and 19th century English revival movements reached the Hungarian Reformed Church. Besides, Gustav Warneck's mission theology and indirectly Dutch Confessional Calvinism also had an effect on Hungarian missionary thinking. In Western Europe even today very little is known about home mission changes in the Hungarian Protestant churches. The main goal of the present dissertation therefore is to present home mission life of Hungarian Reformed congregations at the beginning of the 20th century through the life and ministry of a Hungarian Reformed pastor, Gyula Forgács (1879-1941). The fact that Forgács already as a student of the Budapest Reformed Theology took part at the YMCA World Conference in 1898 in Basel (Switzerland) had a great impact on his life. From 1901 to 1902 he studied in New College in Edinburgh as a scholarship student of the Free Church of Scotland. In 1902 he took part at the World Meeting of WSCF in Sorö-i, Demark, where he met John R. Mott, and in the same year at the Conference of YMCA in Oslo. After returning home Forgács very intensively helped the work of youth associations and the Jewish mission of the Budapest Scottish Mission. By 1910 he developed the intention to include the values of the "para- ecclesiastical" missionary associations in the historical church and utilize them there. He also wanted to bridge the gap between the leaders and pastors of the associations forwarding home mission revival and those of the historical church opposing these associations. That is why he accepted the position of church pastor in 1910 in Péczel, near Budapest and in 1924 in Sárospatak, in the north of Hungary. In both churches he developed a home mission program that was absolutely unique in the Hungarian Reformed Church at that time and evoked positive responses. This dissertation presents the efforts Forgács took first in the associations, later as church pastor, mission theologian and popular literary author and describes their effects made on the mission life of the Reformed Church. His opus magnum A belmisszió és a cura pastoralis kézikönyve (The Reference Book of Home Mission and Cura Pastoralis) was first published in 1925 and is regarded as a standard book. It was the first Hungarian scientific missiology that was sent to each Hungarian Reformed parochial office. Besides, he published 40 shorter and longer books. He also published more than 400 articles in different newspapers and edited 6 newspapers and magazines for some time. He was like a "door" through which the international and Hungarian missionary impacts of the end of 19th century found their way into the Reformed Church weakened by theological rationalism and theological liberalism. Forgács's mission theology moved between the coordinates of Reformed dogmatics and ethics. He had a mission in mind which is closely connected to the church, so in his apologetic mission theology he proved that mission belongs to the characteristics of the church and includes every field of church life. He became the first Hungarian representative of Missio Dei and the pan-missionary approach. His theology was characterized by the creative tension of Reformed Confessionalism and the interconfessional approach. His mission theology had two weak points: ecclesiology lacking elaborate Biblical sufficiency and activism due to the lack of balance between logos and pathos. His originality can be explained by the fact that he strove to apply the recognitions and effects of 19th century international missionary movements to the Hungarian conditions. Though his pragmatic theology developing from church context is disputable at some points, his achievements in the history of Hungarian Reformed home mission are of a pioneer nature, and have proved to be authoritative in many respects

Topics: Godgeleerdheid, Gyula Forgács, Inner Mission, Hungarian Reformed spirituality, belmisszió és a cura pastoralis kézikönyve, Forgács's mission theology, Hungar
Publisher: Boekencentrum
Year: 2007
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