Notebook > Religion

Code name Pecsi

Religion | Secret police records reveal that the former president of the Lutheran World Federation was a Communist secret agent

Issue: "Iraq and terrorism," Nov. 11, 2006

His code name as an agent for the secret police in Communist-run Hungary beginning in the late 1950s was "Pecsi." He also was a Lutheran bishop, the one who replaced revered Bishop Lajos Ordass in southern Hungary in 1958, after the Communist regime forced Ordass to resign. (Ordass, who earlier had spent time in both Nazi and Communist prisons, also had served as a vice president of the Lutheran World Federation, an alliance with church bodies in 78 countries that represent 66 million of the world's estimated 70 million Lutherans; he died in 1978.)

Who was "Pecsi"? Last month scholars revealed that the Communist agent was prominent Hungarian Lutheran bishop and ecumenist Zoltan Kaldy, who went on to become LWF president in 1984, serving until his death in 1987.

Norwegian Lutheran theology professor Tormod Engelsviken made the announcement after he and a fellow priest spent three years studying church records and the secret police archives in Budapest. The professor said Kaldy's file has 1,200 pages of reports about personnel, church matters, and trips he made abroad. He met regularly with his handler at undercover addresses in Budapest, as did his colleague in northern Hungary, Bishop Gyula Nagy, the theologian said.

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The full story is in a book to be published early next year. But Ecumenical News International, jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the LWF, and other groups, broke the story last month-in time for the 50th anniversary of the anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary.

Pastors in Hungary and elsewhere in the Soviet bloc told this reporter in visits during the Communist era it was not unusual for church leaders to file reports with authorities-as the price for keeping their churches open. But if the reports went beyond the innocuous and resulted in further repression, that would be crossing the line into enemy territory, they said.

Kaldy had crossed that line, several Hungarian pastors alleged.

Bulletin Board

PENTECOSTALS: Christianity could be on its way to "being Pentecostalized," suggested Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A Pew-sponsored 10-nation study found Pentecostal and charismatic Christians growing in number-and socio-political influence-around the world. Together designated "renewalists" by Pew researchers, they include both Catholics and Protestants. Estimated percentages of the population designated renewalist: Guatemala, 60; Kenya, 56; Brazil, 49; Philippines, 44; South Africa, 34; Chile, 30; Nigeria, 26; United States, 23; South Korea, 11.

EDUCATION: The governing board of Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth overwhelmingly voted to ban the hiring of professors and administrators who promote charismatic teachings and practices, including "private prayer language," a reference to speaking in tongues. Southwestern president Paige Patterson drafted the proposal following a chapel sermon by area pastor Dwight McKissic, one of the seminary's trustees. In his sermon, McKissic noted his personal use of tongues in prayer.

BRITAIN: In a survey of members of growing churches in Britain, 65 percent credited the success and expansion to "movements of the Holy Spirit," followed by strong leadership, evangelistic outreach, and youth work. The poll by London's Premier Radio also found that members of churches in decline blamed their falling numbers on the increasing secularism of British society, the graying of congregations, and lack of youth work.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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