The foundations of Lutheranism go back to Biblical Christianity. Our denomination was formed at the time of the Reformation, which began in 1517. Since the time of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Lutherans in Hungary have said to one another in greeting, „Erős vár a mi Istenünk!” „A mighty fortress is our God!”
Despite our diversity, the community of nearly 300 congregations is bound together as „one body in Christ.” This is as true of the smallest diaspora communities, as it is of the congregations comprising more than 10,000 believers. We preach the word of God entrusted to us in Hungarian congregations and in congregations with German and Slovak roots where worship life is trilingual even today. Through five centuries of history we came to learn that different languages and cultures can be mutually enriching. Preserving and nurturing these is our precious heritage and common responsibility.
Our congregations in many places live in minority or diaspora situations. We know very well the hardships of this way of life, just like its blessings. We endeavour to be the church for the world and for the benefit of our larger communities, including our Hungarian society.
The administrative center of our church is located at Üllői út 24 in Budapest. It is a place of service which helps the work of congregations and church institutions. Here we coordinate many areas of our work including: diaconia, building and historic preservation, finances, child and youth work, real estate management, education and pedagogy, ecumenical and foreign affairs, mission office, information technology, communication and media work, women’s mission, chaplaincy to hospitals, the Lutheran Foreign Mission Society (EKME), prison chaplaincy, and the university chaplaincies. This administrative center also hosts the Synod office and church committees.
International and Ecumenical Relations
Our church is an organic part of the 70 million Lutherans worldwide and we play an active role in shaping international church affairs. Bishop Tamas Fabiny, our Presiding Bishop, recently completed a seven-year term as the Vice President for Central and Eastern Europe in the Lutheran World Federation. We are members of numerous church organizations like the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary (MEÖT), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE), the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). We also have several partner churches in Finland, Germany (Bavaria), and the United States of America. We work with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s program entitled Young Adults in Global Mission. The YAGM Country Coordinator for Central Europe is based in Budapest. Several ELCA young adult volunteers are working with Roma ministries and ELCH schools and congregations around the country for one year at a time.
Lutherans in Education
Education is one of the strengths of the ELCH. Although under the Communist-Socialist rule in the second half of the 20th century the Lutheran church was deprived of all its educational institutions, since the collapse of that era in 1990 we have re-opened or taken over several schools. In October 2017 the ELCH was operating 46 institutions altogether. These include kindergartens as well as primary and secondary schools and some of the institutions are multifunctional. There are more than 17,000 students in kindergarten through Grade 12, and more than 1500 teachers. We also teach religion to Lutheran pupils and students in the state-run schools.
In Higher Education we have three institutions: The Evangelical Lutheran Theological University (Budapest), the Roma Special College (Nyíregyháza) and the Luther Home (Budapest). There are approximately 300 students in these schools.
We put an emphasis on training for adults as well. We train our presbyteries (church councils) and lay people for leadership roles in our church. There are four conference centers and retreat houses, in Révfülöp, Piliscsaba, Balatonszárszó and Gyenesdiás. These are places of recreation and spiritual growth.
„Diaconia is the gospel of the hands” Gábor Sztehlo, Lutheran pastor
The purpose of Evangelical Lutheran Diaconia is to develop and support the charity work performed in our congregations, communities, and institutions of the church. Our diaconal mission starts at the altar and returns there. We carry out our service in society not only because of economic or sociopolitical realities, but by remembering Jesus’ life of service, sacrifice, and love. We have a mission in the world, which is to serve by the gospel among those in need. This service is manifest in our 45 institutions where approximately 2000 staff members take care of over 8000 people.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1Cor 13:13)