Extraordinary Synod in Lithuania

2013. március 25., hétfő

On 23 March, the Evangelical Reformed Church in Lithuania (ERCL), a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), held an extraordinary Synod where, among other issues, 33 voting members reelected Thomas Šernas as General Superintendent for another three-year term and Rimas Mikalauskas, a local pastor in Birzai, as Vice Superintendent. Petras Puodziunas was elected as the new President of the Consistory (Church Board). A number of ecumenical guests and state officials, including Deputy Ministry of Justice Paulinus Griciunas among others, attended the Synod meeting in Vilnius. Balázs Ódor, Ecumenical Officer of the RCH, was present as the representative of WCRC Europe.

Partner churches from around the world sent letters of greeting and solidarity on the special occasion. The WCRC's General Secretary, Setri Nyomi, and the organization's European area president, Jan-Geerd Heetderks, were among those expressing their support and prayer for the decisive Synod meeting. WCRC Europe was represented by its vice-president, Balázs Ódor, who in his greeting words emphasized that beyond solidarity his presence was also a testimony of the Reformed family, as WCRC sees the Synod as the rightful representation of the ERCL and the historic Reformed community in Lithuania.

Beside elections of all office holders, the Consistory, its president, vice-president and members of the Revision Commission, the main concern of the meeting was to officially clarify, confirm and declare the rules of rightful representation of the church. The Synod as the highest decision-making and legislative body of the church - according to the orders and regulations of the ERCL and the Reformed tradition - confirmed that the church can be represented officially by the General Superintendent or the president of Consistory. This Synod resolution, confirming centuries old regulations, might be proved advantageous before the highest court in the legal processes of ERCL.

One issue discussed was previous illegal activity of a former church deacon. In spite of the fact that in 2002 the Synod of the ERCL assigned all real estate and tangible property for the administration of the Synod of the church (Unitas Lituaniae), Mr. Kvedaravičius, a former deacon suspended in 2002, without receiving authorization from the ERCL community and without any legal right to represent them, began speculating the property in the name of the Church.

In 2011, when the judicial body of the Synod appealed to Lithuanian legal institutions about Mr. Kvedaravičius' illicit actions, most of the Church property (an estimated value of nearly 17 million Litas) was, according to commercial treaties, handed over or sold to a third party for six times less than the market price. Mr. Kvedaravičius made use of gaps in the Lithuanian legal system as well as manipulated and falsified official documents in order to register the church under his authority.

The ERCL has been functioning in Lithuania since the 16th century and currently abides to the canons adopted by the Church since 1557 and before 1940. According to the canons, the highest institution of the Church is the Synod, while the property of the Church is managed and administrative functions are performed by the Consistory, which is made up of four pastors and four lay elders elected from the members of the Synod for three-year terms of service.

Tomas Šernas is a former Lithuanian customs officer and the only survivor of the Medininkai Massacre on 31 July 1991. He survived a point-blank shot to his head, but became disabled. After extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, Šernas graduated from theological studies at Klaipėda University and joined the Reformed Church as a parson of the Vilnius parish. In 2010, he was elected for a three-year term as the General Superintendent of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Lithuania.

 

 

Amy Lester

 

* Rev. Šernas' biography taken from his Wikipedia page

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