The disgraceful fall of Bishop Béla Poznan

What a scandal!

Hungarian media has avoided reporting the firing of Rt. Rev. Béla Poznan, the long-time Bishop of the Calvin Synod of the American protestant denomination the United Church of Christ. Bishop Poznan maintained close ties with Hungary’s Orbán Government; he was a member of the openly pro-Fidesz Diaspora Council and frequently appeared in Budapest. Bishop Poznan even received a Hungarian state award from Mr. János Martonyi, Hungary’s Foreign Minister in 2013.

Bishop Béla Poznan

Bishop Béla Poznan

Hungarian Calvinists in North America are divided. Due to complex historical reasons some congregations remain independent, some are part of the Budapest-controlled Reformed Church of Hungary, and other congregations belong to the United Church of Christ.

The 63-year old Béla Poznan served for decades at the Calvin United Church of Christ in Fairfield, Connecticut. Since 2010 he was also the bishop of the Calvin Synod, comprised of congregations on the East Coast and Midwest of the US. The Synod is part of the million-member United Church of Chris which is run by an Afro-American pastor, Rev. Geoffrey A. Black. The Synod itself is quite small, with only a couple of thousand elderly parish goers, and they tend to be more conservative than their mother church. The United Church of Christ sets a liberal tone with left leaning ideas, for example they support gay marriage.

Béla Poznan speaks colloquial Hungarian with the “palóc” dialect; he was born in Veľký Blh (Nagybalog), Slovakia, a small village close to Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszombat). He served as pastor at the First Hungarian Reformed Church of New York City and also at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, before he took over the Hungarian congregation in Fairfield. Fairfield is about an hour drive from NYC.

At the end of 2014, several members of his church brought charges against him. A Congregational Meeting was called which approved the request of the Conference Council to make a change in pastor. Since Poznan was also the Bishop of the Calvin Synod, a separate Synod meeting was called and with 31 “yes” to 6 “no” votes, the delegates decided to remove him. He had a few supporters among the delegates, but the majority turned against him; they wanted Bishop Poznan to go.

The charges against Poznan are serious, but church officials are tight lipped about the details. Recently, after a transitionary period, the Synod elected a new Bishop – Rt. Rev. Koloman K. Ludwig, (Ludwig Kálmán Károly.) One of the first tasks completed was of “reorganizing the accounting in the Treasurer’s office” by Synod Treasurer Rev. Viktor Toth. It seems that serious financial issues led to the demise of Bishop Poznan; at this point it is not clear just how much damage he left behind.

Rt. Rev. Kálmán K. Ludwig and Bishop Béla Poznan before the scandal.

Rt. Rev. Kálmán K. Ludwig and Bishop Béla Poznan before the scandal.

Viktor Orbán personally urged Bishop Poznan and his Synod to separate from the United Church of Christ and join the Reformed Church of Hungary. State Secretary Mr. Zsolt Németh has also called for “unity” and wanted to merge the Synod into the Hungarian church.

The Calvin Synod currently has no plans to leave UCC, and it seems that Mr. Orbán’s drive to grab the Synod’s valuable US properties and infrastructure has failed. The Synod needs to rebuild itself after Bishop Poznan’s dramatic firing.

György Lázár

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