In Memoriam Prof Ferenc Szűcs

5 January 2021

Ferenc Szűcs, reformed pastor, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, former Rector of the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, passed away at the age of 79 years. He returned to his Creator in the early morning on 23 November. 


Ferenc Szűcs was born in 1942 in Őrszentmiklós (in a village near Budapest, today called Őrbottyán). He graduated from high school in Vác and studied at the Reformed Theological Academy in Budapest between 1960 and 1965. He passed his ordination exams in 1966 with excellent results. He served as an assistant pastor in Fót, Érdliget, and Pomáz. In 1974 he became the elected pastor of the Pomáz-Csobánkai Reformed congregation, where he served over a decade. A couple of students from the Reformed Theological Academy in Budapest (today the Faculty of Theology, Károli Gáspár University of RCH) regularly visited him to study Systematic Theology during his ministry. Based on this activity, he was invited to the seminary as a chaplain in 1979. Then he started his teaching career as a lecturer in 1980. Later he was appointed as the Head of the Department of Systematic Theology in 1986. He also served as a Dean from 1986 to 1988. He was appointed as Vice-Rector in 2004, then as Rector of the University from 2008. He retired in 2012 and received the title of Professor Emeritus.

Honors and publications

He earned his Ph.D. degree in Systematic Theology in 1985 with a thesis on the “Interpretation of the ‘Imago Dei’ in the theology of Karl Barth and his successors”. Professor Szűcs studied in Edinburgh, at the Princeton Theological Seminary, and worked as a visiting fellow at the University of Bern. He was a visiting professor at several international Universities, and he taught generations of pastors Systematic Theology.

Professor Szűcs served his Chuch in various capacities. He was the theological consultant of the Danubian Reformed Church District for twelve years. He served first as General Secretary, later as President of the College of Doctors. Between 1992 and 1996, and 2003 and 2009 he was chair of the Theological Committee of the General Synod. He supported the establishment of the Reformed University Chaplaincy in the years after the political changes. He served for long years as the Head of the Doctoral School of the University. He published a series of books and articles and played an important role in the international theological field. His work was recognized with the Károli Gáspár Prize in 2001. He received the Honorary doctorate from the Protestant Theological Institute of Cluj-Napoca in 2003.

Responsibilities in IRTI

As a European theologian, he recognized the possibility for international cooperation when the borders opened after 1989. He was an organizer of summer camps for theological students in English, and he always motivated his students to learn theology in different countries with the help of international scholarships. Among others, he was a founding member of the International Reformed Theological Institute (IRTI) in 1995 (Visegrád, Hungary). From the beginning, he involved his colleagues and students in this international work and sharing. He gave several keynote lectures and reflections at IRTI biannual conferences. The fact that a Hungarian Reformed Seminary held 3 of 13 IRTI conferences confirms his legacy. While he contributed to these conferences with a characteristic and clear Eastern-European Protestant voice, we could learn from him the method and logic of doing theology in an international environment.

A teacher of the Church

Prof Szűcs was a true doctor ecclesiae in the sense of always being a pastor and a theologian together in his life. His clear and splendid sermons mirrored his theological insight. Likewise, his lectures often turned into worships when we could sense something of the mysteries of God. He inspired many of us to learn Systematic Theology as the most exciting discipline of academic studies. Once he referred to the Church as ecclesia militans, he cited St Paul: "We have been made a spectacle (theatron) to the whole universe to angels as well as to human beings." (1Cor 4:9:). Then he added: "Do not worry, even if we are struggling in the arena, the angels barrack for us from the grandstand." Now he can meet and join them.     

Tamás Kodácsy,
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