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15 July 2019

Not by Earthly Wisdom: Billy Graham’s 1977 Visit to Hungary in the Context of Church– State Relations – Part II


 

POST-1956 TRANSITION

 

Just as the 1956 uprising demonstrated the emptiness of the Party’s pretentions to represent the working class, so too did those brief days of liberation, and the slight lessening of control that preceded them, expose the shallow depth of support within the Churches for their leaders’ collaboration. As referenced earlier, a Reformed document of protest (A Hitvalló Egyház Magyarországon: “The Confessing Church in Hungary”) was produced and disseminated in the spring, announcing that “the pastors, elders, and members of the Hungarian Reformed Church […] on the basis of the gospel and the tenets of Reformation theology derived therefrom have come into conflict with the theology and practice of the incumbent Church administration”. And it was in this spirit that the Church proceeded during the uprising, and as late as 21 December, freeing itself from Bereczky’s clique and restoring some of what had been dismantled. Events in the Lutheran Church were even more dramatic, with Ordass’ rehabilitation and restoration to office accompanied by the resignation of Dezséry. Furthermore, “Lutheran pastors in 1956 articulated an alternative vision for their Church in socialism, the vision of a martyr Church”. In contrast to the leaders’ pragmatism and deepening collaboration over the last eight years, some began articulating in its place “the ideal of a suffering Church […] a Church persecuted yet faithful”.1

However, the post-uprising restoration and re-consolidation of Party-State control over the traditional Churches was not a simple return to the pre-1956 status quo. For example, although the successor to Ordass – removed for a second time in 1958 – would not be permitted to be another independent-minded figure, openly putting Church before Party, he also could not be another transparent Party propagandist like Dezséry. The Kádár of the Lutheran Church, therefore, was Zoltán Káldy, installed in November 1958. Avoiding the excesses of the Stalinist period also did not mean blanket liberalisation. A 1957 decree actually increased the regime’s control over Church affairs, requiring prior approval of all appointments, transfers and dismissals. In Gombos’ reckoning, “the Church came under more strict control than before” the uprising. In fact, liberalisation in general is a concept that does not fit with this process – neither affirming nor negating its presence helps us understand what was happening in these years. There was greater emphasis on bureaucratic control of the Churches and a decreased emphasis on ideological control, meaning that Church institutions were integrated even more than before into the machinations of the Party-State, certainly not leaving more room for manoeuvre or contradiction of the Party, but they were no longer usually expected to be overtly ideologically active. Similar to the Soviet religious policy transition (as superbly analysed by Victoria Smolkin in A Sacred Space is Never Empty), the post-1956 Hungarian Party-State – after the clear re-assertion of administrative and police power – ceased to primarily view established Churches as political and ideological threats. Incorporating the leadership of the main Churches further within the apparatus of the regime meant drawing them into the task of affirming the Party-State’s legitimacy and its monopoly on political lines, while encouraging the Churches to identify with its domestic and international status.2 “The political interests [of the Party-State]”, ÁEH President János Horváth implored the Lutheran leadership in 1957, “now coincide with the interests of the Church. Those who do not see that they coincide cannot lead well.” The Kádár regime was less interested in submissive ideologues, and more interested in subordinate managers.

It was this new approach and emphasis that reached the free Churches in the early 1960s, and, for the first time, brought them under the control of the Party-State in a way that was commensurate with the traditional Churches. The ÁEH had actually briefly ceased operation in 1957, before being placed back in charge of religious affairs in 1959, turning its attention to SZET [Szabadegyházak Tanácsa – Council of Free Churches]. The new emphasis might not have been clear in March 1960, when the Brethren leader Dr Ferenc Kiss was asked by the ÁEH to resign the presidency of SZET (Kiss had also led SZET’s predecessor). After all, he was replaced in June by László Szabó, both the respected president of the Hungarian Baptist Church and the pastor of Budapest’s Nap Street Baptist church (Józsefváros). Géza Kovács remembers Szabó as being honest with his fellow-Baptists, refusing to dress up ÁEH expectations as his own proposals. When, a few years earlier, Kovács was running a ten-day youth event at Tahi, with 1,200 in attendance, Szabó, as Baptist president, received a letter from the authorities demanding its cancellation. “Szabó sent me this letter”, Kovács recalls, “but commented on it, ‘Do it according to your good intentions’. That is, he entrusted our faith and our decision to do what we believed. It was an encouragement to us.”3 Two months after Szabó’s appointment, however, the replacement of László Michnay as SZET Executive Secretary with Sándor Palotay, a former Adventist pastor, was more puzzling.

Then, on the penultimate day of 1960, the decisive moment came with the forced resignation of Szabó from all his positions, leaving Palotay as the effective leader of SZET (he would not officially be President until 1969). Though knowledgeable, Palotay did not have the theological pedigree of his predecessors, and it was quite clear that he was in place to do the bidding of the ÁEH. “Under his leadership the council changed from a brotherly community to a controlling organisation”, Lakatos notes, “also dealing with the internal affairs of the Churches.” How this would work soon became apparent when a temporary three-man committee of Baptist leaders deliberated about a new president for their Church, and one of them, Géza Kovács, refused to back the ÁEH’s recommendation of Mihály Baranyay (director of the Baptist Theological Seminary and a former pastor at Kiskőrös, Kispest and elsewhere) for the position. Soon, Kovács’ pastor’s license was not renewed, and in July 1961, he was summoned to Palotay’s office and told, without explanation, that he and his family must leave Budapest within a fortnight.

Other pastors suffered a similar fate at this time, but Kovács’ case was particularly pertinent because he was an influential and active pastor, leading the relatively large Baptist congregation in Újpest. This significance is further underlined by the regime’s later attempts to co-opt Kovács’ credibility for its purposes, and the response to his rebuff. From July 1961 to February 1964, Kovács ministered in the town of Ócsa, about 35 kilometres south of his former charge, but when the ÁEH opened a door for his return to Újpest, it was soon made clear what was expected in return. Until then, as is common practice within the congregational approach of Baptists, each individual church continued to support its own pastor from the tithes and offerings its members contributed, but now the ÁEH sought Kovács’ assistance in leading the centralisation of both the collection of money and the payment of pastors. Kovács refused to subvert a central principle of Baptist ecclesiology for the sake of assisting the Party-State in controlling and manipulating it, and this proved to be his last chance to remain an official Baptist leader. Just as telling about what greater control of the free Churches would mean for their ministry was the pretext for Kovács’ subsequent dismissal. The offense for which Kovács was formally dismissed from the pastorate and Church leadership was an evangelism event, including an open call for response, at Tahi.4

 

MOTIVATIONS AND INTENTIONS

 

From the early 1960s, therefore, the leadership of the free Churches operated under the close supervision of the ÁEH, and this management was mostly carried out through SZET and its entirely compliant leader, Sándor Palotay. Those within the individual denominations who challenged Party-State-enforced Church policies or who did not publicly stay within the constrained, “orderly” and private conception of what a Church should be under this regime – were excluded from leadership. There was, in short, no longer space for the free Churches to officially operate outside of the regime’s attention. And it is within this context that we must understand the contact between Hungarian free Church leaders and Billy Graham, which began in July 1972. That summer, Graham was conducting a crusade in Cleveland, a centre of Hungarian life in America, when he met with Baptist president János Laczkovszki5 (who also served as a SZET vice-president), Palotay and Haraszti.

Despite leaving Hungary in the tumultuous autumn of 1956, Sándor (referred to in America as Alexander”) Haraszti was an unusual Hungarian émigré. Both a doctor and a prominent Baptist leader in Hungary, who taught at the Baptist Theological Seminary, Haraszti had left the country for non-political reasons – to pursue his goal of medical missionary work in Africa. When his ambitions for full-time mission work were frustrated by the age-related restrictions of the Southern Baptist mission board, he developed a medical practice in Georgia – along with his wife and fellow doctor, Rozália Bán and served the Hungarian Baptist Church in America. In particular, he expanded and strengthened links between Hungarian Baptists in the two countries. And while most Hungarian-American Church leaders were hostile to the Communist regime, Haraszti refrained from open criticism of either it or the state-approved Church leaders. Having resumed friendly contact with both the ÁEH and the leaders of the Hungarian Church on a 1964 visit back home,6 Haraszti was well-placed to serve as an intermediary between Palotay – who ended the Cleveland confab by inviting Graham to preach in Hungary – and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). That night in Cleveland, Billy Graham announced from the stage that he had accepted the invitation.7

But there remained many stakeholders within Hungary to convince in order to turn this most provisional of plans into reality. We will return to Haraszti and his stateside interactions with the BGEA and American Christians shortly, but first we need to investigate why it would be in the interests of Palotay – as well as others within the Party-State who ended up advocating it – for Graham to visit. Motivations can, of course, cohere without originating in similar ambitions. But it is also usually the case in politics that one (or a few) dominating motivations condition and direct the self-interested actions and goals of others. In this case, the dominating motivation was the Hungarian Party-State’s wish, from the early 1970s on, to improve its foreign relations with Western Europe and the United States.

There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the relative easing of conditions in Kádár’s Hungary, which were vital for the post-1956 regime’s legitimacy including a relaxation of overt ideological coercion beginning in the early 1960s and a partial liberalisation of the economy from 1968 relied on the maintenance of East– West détente. A resumption of excessive inter-bloc tensions would have brought strong pressure from both the Soviets and internal hardliners to tighten the Party-State’s grip on society. Secondly, the legitimating (relative) prosperity, engineered by both liberalisation and a new focus on consumer goods, was increasingly reliant upon western financial contact, especially loans, export markets and technological imports. But even in this time of détente, such deepening relations also relied upon the good will of western governments and politicians wary that diplomatic niceties were merely a bluff concealing continued repression.

One of the topics that this made western, and particularly American, observers attentive to was the liberties of religious groups. Egregious or overt suppression of Christians and Jews could make it politically untenable for Western governments to advocate closer relations with Communist states such as Hungary. This connection even found legislative support, as in the Jackson–Vanik Amendment to the US 1974 Trade Law, which made Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status dependent on increased rights of emigration (with Soviet Jews particularly in view). Such Western concern also, of course, made religious affairs a key point of leverage for the Hungarian Party-State, ensuring that the projection and external affirmation of domestic religious freedom and vitality would become an important goal. As a result, the same western connections that had made free Churches suspicious to József Révai in 1950, now made them potentially valuable.

This put Palotay, as the powerful arm of ÁEH control over the free Church leadership, in an advantageous position. In any governing system, but particularly in a totalitarian Party-State, every part of the system is competitively jockeying to establish, advertise and maintain its essential usefulness. If Palotay, the ÁEH, and even denominational leaders could create helpful conditions for Hungary on the international stage through strengthening connections between Hungarian free Churches and their international counterparts, it promised to increase their own prestige and space for action. Furthermore, just as the Hungarian need for closer western ties coincided with the Nixon and Ford administrations’ eagerness to individualise and improve relations with European Communist states, the new value of free Churches to Hungarian foreign policy was also matched by the desire of some western Christian organisations to engage the Churches of Communist Europe, while using Hungary as a bridgehead in this endeavour.8

Both the momentum behind Hungary’s turn to the West, and the credibility of those who were assisting it through international Church connections, were further enhanced by the Helsinki (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe – CSCE) process, which brought leaders from each side of the Iron Curtain together in extended negotiations – the Final Act was signed by 35 nation-states in August 1975. The process was initially a Soviet initiative, and the Soviets trumpeted its conclusion as a grand achievement, due to the accord’s apparent legitimation of the post-war division of Europe, while they underplayed the human rights provisions that would prove far more consequential, as well as ultimately toxic, to Soviet interests. Nevertheless, in the mid-1970s, subscribing to the principles and spirit of Helsinki could facilitate Western relations while remaining acceptable in Soviet eyes. Therefore, in the wake of the agreement, Kádár reached out to 19 Western governments and embarked on an unprecedented tour of erstwhile hostile capitals, visiting Vienna in December 1976, Bonn in July 1977, and Rome, where he also met with the Pope, in June 1977. As his biographer puts it, “Kádár was very much alive to the political benefit of the meeting and of rapprochement with the Church”.9 Responding to the Hungarian leader’s Roman holiday, ÁEH head Imre Miklós claimed in Magyar Hírlap two weeks before Graham’s arrival – after a pro forma protestation that there was no change in Church–State relations since the Communist and religious worldviews were incompatible – that “to maintain regular relations between the socialist State and the Churches is both possible and important, as is political and social cooperation between Marxists and believers on problems that concern the whole society”.10

Within the free Churches, Baptists possessed the greatest possibility for creating the sort of beneficial international connections that Hungary sought to utilise. Hungarian involvement with international Baptist organisations could challenge negative perceptions about religious freedom at home, and since western ideas about the Soviet bloc were often simplistic and monolithic, it did not take much to make a positive impact. Laczkovszki had served as a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), and József Nagy, who led the Baptist Theological Seminary at the time of Graham’s visit, was on the executive committee of the same international organisation. It was a significant moment when a Baptist choir from Hungary performed at the 1975 congress of the BWA in Stockholm. And the following year, the ÁEH permitted Hungary to host a meeting of the European Baptist Council. In fact, Palotay invited Graham to attend this gathering, and BWA president, Robert Denny, seconded the invitation (which Graham was unable to accept).11 When final preparations for Graham’s 1977 visit were being discussed in July 1977 by Walter Smyth of the BGEA and Palotay, Laczkovszki, Nagy and Haraszti, they met at the General Council meeting of the BWA in Miami Beach. The integration of Hungarian Baptists within international Baptist fora created an atmosphere in which Graham’s trip was plausible and credible.

Ultimately, within Hungary, the idea that Graham’s visit would beneficially enhance Hungary’s image in the West prevailed over domestic doubts. The message that Palotay and the ÁEH wished to deliver was clear in Palotay’s welcoming remarks upon Graham’s eventual arrival. “The Churches of Hungary have been witnessing of their faith openly and freely both in words and deeds”, Palotay proclaimed, criticising those abroad who sought to turn Hungarian Christians against their government. “One of the very first decrees issued by this state was to abolish the discriminatory laws against various denominations”, he continued, “… the Constitution of our country has declared and has put into practice the separation of Church and State, and has guaranteed freedom of religion and of conscience.”12 Before Graham’s arrival, Palotay told reporters that the week-long trip was “a projection of the Helsinki spirit to the religious field”.

Back in June, while recommending Graham’s visit to the Party Central Committee’s Department of Agitation and Propaganda, Imre Miklós of the ÁEH insisted that it would be a “clear counteraction of the Western anti-Communist campaign”, thereby strengthening the Hungarian position in the build-up to the Belgrade conference in mid-September (a follow-up to the Helsinki accords). The trip, Miklós argued, would demonstrate that Hungary had no reservations about implementing all of the Helsinki provisions and discredit the Western, primarily American, manipulation of the issues of human rights and religious freedom”. For the ÁEH and Palotay, this was not just about proving their worth in assisting foreign policy, burnishing Hungary’s religious freedom credentials also held the promise of boosting the authority of cooperative denominational leaders. As Hungarian Church historian Zoltán Rajki reveals, Palotay argued that it would “weaken opposition within the Churches and the so-called Pietist circles”.13

Domestic stakeholders who unsuccessfully opposed welcoming Billy Graham tended to be either leaders whose position was not assisted by it, or others whose anxiety about possible negative consequences outweighed potential positives (or both). For example, both the Lutheran and Reformed leaders opposed the proposal, as did the Hungarian ecumenical council (Magyarországi Egyházak Ökumenikus Tanácsa – MEÖT), which was presided over by Bereczky’s successor as head of the Reformed Church, Tibor Bartha. Interestingly, Haraszti, who met with both Bartha and Káldy during the long negotiations, reports that their opposition cooled when it was clear that Graham’s visit could assist tangible progress with the United States over both MFN status and the return of the Holy Crown (there has been much written elsewhere over this aspect of the trip’s backdrop). The Adventist Church President, József Szakács – who would succeed Palotay as SZET President after the latter’s death in 197914 sensed that the endeavour would benefit his rival, Palotay, and was quoted opposing the visit in a 28 July 1977 report, which also indicated the opposition of other Adventist leaders, including István Oláh and Károly Oláh. Meanwhile, a police major who dealt with Church affairs within the Interior Ministry internally warned that the Graham events could result in political instability and, intriguingly, might “make it more difficult to restrain extreme evangelistic activity”. Meanwhile, when the Foreign Ministry sought the approval of Hungary’s Communist allies for the plan to host Graham, East Germany and Romania, although crucially not the Soviet Union, objected.15

But there could be no boost to Hungary’s foreign image from Billy Graham’s visit if his message and purposes were not congruent with the positive picture the regime wished to portray of its Church–State relations. And the initial review within the Hungarian Party-State, after Palotay’s tentative 1972 invitation, concluded that such an alignment was not possible, due to Graham’s record of anti-Communist rhetoric, such as the Los Angeles sermon we noted at the beginning. But Graham had left this sort of political commentary behind, and, by the 1970s, he was mostly in tune with the spirit of détente, as well as with the East–West dialogue within international ecumenical organisations, which stressed the preservation of peace over ideological positions. And this was the case made in Hungary by the indefatigable Haraszti, who consistently dealt with, and attempted to counteract, opposition in both the United States and Hungary. In presenting Graham in this light, Haraszti had the assistance of Miklós, as well as Palotay, who, as Haraszti describes it, was “a mediator for me in many, many cases. He did a tremendous pioneer work for me.” Palotay “had some very, very high political contacts. Palotay was trusted by the State.”16

But it was precisely this friendliness with the regime of the man most responsible for inviting Graham to Hungary which caused Haraszti the most difficulties in selling the other end of the deal – that this was an opportunity the American evangelist should embrace. Haraszti himself recalls that he “had to make a long, long crusade of straightening things out and presenting things because leaders”, such as those of the BWA and the Foreign Missions Board of the Southern Baptists, “said they [did] not want an invitation from Palotay because he was an agent”. The same scepticism was conveyed to the BGEA, and, Haraszti continues, “finally I was able to persuade Dr Smyth that, yes, Palotay did have the confidence of the State. Palotay most probably served the interest of the State in assuring – and I never deny this – that the demands of the State would be fulfilled. But at the same time, he also represented the interest of the Churches to the State.”17

To some degree, there was an important corrective in the case that Haraszti effectively made to the BGEA. Criticism of Christian leaders under Communist governments could be simplistically harsh, failing to take into account complex circumstances that many of the critics had not themselves experienced and did not understand. Life was rarely as simple as a stark dividing line between collaboration and resistance. However, due to Haraszti’s long and ultimately successful efforts in organising a celebrated trip that led to a series of further openings for Graham in Communist Europe, his particular perspective on Hungarian Church–State relations has become the one that American and British commentators on Graham’s ministry have uncritically adopted. At least in terms of the English-language record, a further modest corrective may be necessary.

 

THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH LEADERSHIP AND CHURCH

 

Let us be clear in stating, before going any further, that Haraszti was a thoroughly honourable and faithful Christian, who both humbly and tirelessly worked behind the scenes for genuinely altruistic purposes. Furthermore, he was a productively erudite and intellectually sophisticated man who, unlike many with commensurate gifts, gave far more than he ever received. But we also should not ignore the fact that he had the point of view, even from a distance, of a free Church leader, which, in this period perhaps more than any other, was meaningfully distinct from the lay and local Church perspective. “The oligarchy of the Party-State created an oligarchy of the Church”, reflected István Szabó in 1989, when he was a young Reformed minister.18 Despite the much vaunted post-war separation of Church and state, Szabó continued, “separation is not between Christianity and the secular world, not even between the Church and the State, but between the leadership of the Church and the congregation” (italics added).

Although this was the case in the Reformed Church before any other Hungarian denomination, it was certainly also the case, by the 1970s, in the free Churches. “I was sitting on the other side of the table before my [Baptist] leaders”, recalls Géza Kovács, regarding the 1964 Baptist Church hearing at which he was removed from his positions apparently in punishment for an evangelisation event at Tahi, “the special liberating feeling was that I preferred to sit on the bench of the accused one rather than on the other side of the table”.19 Szabó describes a “system of double guarantee” in which “the State guarantees the ‘elected’ Church leaders in their posts and policies while the Church leaders ‘elected’ on the basis of the preliminary assent of the State guarantee that everything would happen in their Church as the State wants it”.20 As Miklós Tomka notes in, Church, State, and Society in Eastern Europe, this era was “characterised by economic and political stabilisation and slow liberalisation, along with the anti-religious struggle being kept inside the Churches”.21 It had long been the case by the time Billy Graham accepted SZET’s invitation to Hungary that the Party-State rarely had to get directly involved in enforcing its will on the Churches. While Church leaders could be relied upon, they also tended to articulate a justification for their modus operandi that sought to discredit opposition within the Churches. This functional separation – between nationwide Church leaders and the lay people, local pastors, and congregations which formed the substance of their Churches – can be understood in three categories: a separation in the work of the Church; a theological separation; and a divergence of priorities.

A theological separation between the Church leadership and the Church, which we will consider shortly, began with the pragmatic assertion that the elements of Church life which the regime repressed were either superficial or non-essential, both leaving the actual true work of Churches unmolested and liberating them to focus upon it. This was an argument immediately seized upon by compliant Reformed and Lutheran leaders during the school nationalisation of the late 1940s, but it continued to gain prominence after 1956. In a private 1979 interview with the BGEA, Haraszti represented the idea that the Church leaders in Hungary had preserved what was most important. The free Churches “never said they would not be loyal to the government. They said, ‘It is none of our business to resist the government. Our business is to preach the gospel and if the government accepts our claim for this right, then we have no argument with the government.’ No complaints.” Specifically regarding the free Church leaders, he added, “Yes, they cooperated for the good of the Church and of the nation, but at the same time they did not give up one iota of Christian principles”. In general, the constriction of Church activity “was in the interest of the true Church because the Church’s main business, almost only business, is to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ”. It is not unusual to see Churches thrive with spiritual energy under totalitarian persecution, but is it true, as the Churches’ leadership consistently contended, that the space which was left to the Hungarian Churches by the regime was one in which they could clearly and openly focus on authentic, faithful, and pure proclamation and witness?

There is no doubt, as Lakatos reflects, that “the interest of the regime’s consolidation required a peaceful coexistence, of course within the boundaries formed by the State”. But it is also “not incidental”, as she continues, “that the work with the youth, teaching religion, organisation of religious youth camps were prohibited and restricted”. The Magyarországi Baptista Ifjúsági Szövetség (Hungarian Baptist Youth League) was abolished, and, as we have seen with Kovács, it was permissible for Baptists to gather their children at Tahi (or Balatonföldvár) if only a holiday was in view, but not if they intended to evangelise them in the faith. To do the latter was to risk one’s Church office.

Unlike some denominations, Baptists, along with most free Churches, believe that their children are not part of the kingdom of God, or therefore the Church, without being personally saved. Thus, such evangelistic efforts were and are central to Baptist life and practice. In other words, what the Church–State relationship achieved was not to retain an essential core of Church life, but to reduce official Church life to a compressed shadow of its proper self. Evangelism was what brought these free Churches into existence, and maintained their life, but this was precisely the kind of practice that was incompatible with the Party-State’s model of a permissible Church. Within the accepted sphere of activity, Miklós Tomka summarises, “the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life [only the latter would apply to Baptists] is seen as its most significant activity and as the highest good… Worship loses its connection with life.” Preserving the barest outward appearance of Church life takes precedence, while “witness and fellowship, are not even thought about”.


 

NOTES:

 

1 Gombos, 95–105; Baer, 64–66.

2 A late spasm of the previous approach can be seen in the arrest of over 400 Catholics in late 1960 and early 1961. “This was less an old-style anti-religious campaign than a late phase of ‘consolidation’ […] Neither Kádár nor Church leaders wanted a full confrontation. Kádár was however determined to restrict religious activity to controlled official channels.” Roger Gough, A Good Comrade: János Kádár, Communism and Hungary (London: IB Tauris, 2006), 133.

3 Author Interview with Géza Kovács. “That night, after we … prayed on [our] knees, we wrote this answer: ‘Since the government has declared free religious practice … we cannot bring that shame on them to send over 1,200 young people home [to] over 100 places in the name of the government.’ God blessed the conference with more than 100 new converts and we all glorified God on that day at Camp Tahi.”

4 Author Interview with Géza Kovács; “Hogyan élték túl a baptisták a Rákosi- és a Kádár-kort?” [How did Baptists survive the Rákosi and the Kádár era?] Múlt-kor történelmi portál (12 November 2014); Róbert Hargitai, “Kovács Géza (1925-) baptista lelkipásztor életének tanulságai” [The lessons of the life of Baptist pastor Géza Kovács], http://www.hivo.hu/kovacsg.htm; Benjámin Bacsó, “Személycsere a SZET és a Magyarországi Baptista Egyház élén 1960–1961-ben” [Replacement at the head of the Hungarian Baptist Church in 1960–1961], Szolgatárs (28 March 2014): http:// szolgatars.hu/szemelycsere-a-szet-es-a-magyarorszagi-baptista-egyhaz-elen-1960-1961-ben/.

5 After Mihály Baranyay’s short presidency ended in 1963, he was succeeded by József Nagy, Imre Kovács, and, in 1967, János Laczkovszki (he was a former theology student of Haraszti’s).

6 Since he left Hungary in a period of bureaucratic flux, Haraszti had not received official authorisation and, therefore, he needed the coverage of the 1963 amnesty before returning.

7Alexander Haraszti, Interviewed by Dr Lois Ferm (26 December 1979)”, BGCA (Collection 141: Box 45, Folder 2).

8 Zoltán Rajki, “Billy Graham 1977. évi magyarországi látogatásának politikai háttere” [The political background of Billy Graham’s 1977 visit to Hungary], Egyháztörténeti Szemle 14 (2013), 100–109.

9 Gough, 195–200.

10 “Situation Report: Hungary, 30 August 1977”, Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute: http://hdl.handle.net/10891/osa:0c03910a-2d21-4f80-b263-388a98a65543.

11 “Letter from Robert S. Denny, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, to BG, 9 July 1976”, BGCA (Collection 580: Box 77, Folder 12).

12Address by Palotay”, BGCA (Collection 622: Box 8, Folder 3).

13 Rajki, “Billy Graham 1977”. (The quote is Rajki’s description, not Palotay’s words.)

14 József Nagy would briefly serve as SZET President between Palotay’s death and Szakács’ succession.

15 Ibid.; Haraszti Interview (21 May 1979); Haraszti Interview (26 December 1979).

16 Haraszti Interview (21 May 1979); Haraszti Interview (26 December 1979).

17 Ibid.

18 István Szabó was selected in 2017 as leader of the Reformed Church of Hungary (president of the Synod).

19 Author Interview with Géza Kovács.

20 István Szabó, “A Long Period of Inner Bleeding: The ‘Theology of Service’ as the Reflection of the Miseries of the Reformed Church in Hungary”, Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 2, no. 1 (1989), 194–96.

21 Miklós Tomka, Church, State, and Society in Eastern Europe (Washington DC: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2005), 117–18.




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