New Publication by UNIQUEST

TRANSYLVANIAN UNITARIAN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY

IMRE GELLERD

A HISTORY OF TRANSYLVANIAN UNITARIANISM THROUGH

FOUR CENTURIES OF SERMONS

TRANSLATED BY JUDIT GELLERD, M.D.

 

      "This book provides an unusually effective means of understanding the soul of a culture.  The history of Transylvania has been described in a number of books, but most of them present primarily the external, historical factors that have shaped that country. 

      "Imre Gellérd has now provided an effective “window” through which we can see into the heart of Transylvanian Unitarianism . . . . This very comprehensive history . . . is a portrayal of the content of beliefs and the structure of spiritual life that have nourished Transylvanian Unitarianism while it endured political and religious oppression during much of the four hundred years of its life. . . . Gellérd has provided not only an impressively complex account of major Unitarian preachers in the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries (and even some account of the early years of the twentieth century).  He has also linked the ideas forming the contents of sermons to the dominant philosophical and religious currents that were encountered by ministers who lived at a particular time.  His interpretive chapters include an especially useful account of the influences of the Enlightenment on Transylvanian Unitarian thought and an interesting concluding chapter on the early years of the twentieth century.

      "Beginning with the preaching of Francis Dávid, Gellérd presents sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century Unitarian religious ideas and images, distinguishing the changing trends reflected in the sermon manuscripts that he studied.

            "Scholars who focus on the history of culture, religious history, and the history of philosophy will find this a most useful book, and for those who study Transylvanian Unitarian history, this book will be an important source of themes that have been almost completely lacking in other accounts of Transylvanian history."            --Prof. John Godbey, Meadville/Lombard, Chicago

           

            “Your father’s book is an unusual resource for melding two communions that have been ever more co-responsible.  Be assured of my great joy...”  

                                                            --Prof. George Huntston Williams, Harvard

 

            “The great merit of Imre Gellérd’s work is that he has researched vast new territories of our theological literature... his scholarship fills a gap.”                     --Dr. Arpád Szabó, Unitarian Bishop

 

"Sermons of Transylvanian Unitarian ministers, a seemingly unimportant topic, are in fact extremely important.  The four centuries cover a time when European civilization slowly conceived notions as freedom of conscience, separation of religion and state, non-dogmatic religion, and a reasoned understanding of Christian scriptures, to name a few of the many religious issues in these sermons.  Other non-religious ideas leap forth from the pages of these radical thinkers such as education of women and universal education, now commonplace but then novel.  These display both a familiarity with science and often ways of thinking that prefigure scientific theories by centuries, including the theory of evolution." (Prof. George M. Williams, CSU Chico, CA).

 

            A 325-page edited book version as well as a CD ROM version, (500-page full work) are available.  Hard cover US$30.00, CD ROM US$25.00--plus $3.00 shipping.

Checks should be payable to UNIQUEST/Center for Free Religion

To order:        Dr. Judit Gellerd

                        146 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02116

                        E-mail:  zizi315@yahoo.com      Phone: 617 - 536 5576

 

                       

 

Behold "the book," Dr. Imre Gellérd's A History of Transylvanian Unitarianism through Four Centuries of Sermons has just been published by UNIQUEST/Center for Free Religion and the Unitarian Church of Transylvania, in the Church's printing house.  It is a rare privilege in one’s life to accomplish something that one considers the most important task.  Publishing this book is a result of a decade-long, exhilarating and humbling work, a fulfillment of an ultimate duty.  This work opens a missing chapter in the intellectual history of the Radical Reformation in general and Unitarianism in particular. 

My father Imre Gellérd was a Transylvanian Unitarian minister-scholar and a victim of political persecution under the Romanian Communist regime.  In his work he conceived of a new discipline within practical theology, that of the history of sermonic literature. He is believed to be the only scholar to read through and analyze all the Transylvanian Unitarian sermons spanning four centuries which have survived.  In this work Imre Gellérd analyzed and presented the evolution of Unitarian ideas and practices from its earliest beginnings in the sixteenth century  through the end of the nineteenth century, focusing always on the “steps forward and upward” as well as on important historical events that impacted homiletic content and language. 

While we have abundant sources to study the institutional history and external framework of the Unitarian Church, we have no comprehensive work on the history of Unitarian thought.  Thus, the Gellérd scholarship fills a gap.

 Before its first publication, this book has already had a half century of history.  In fact, it has two histories: one of the father and a second of the daughter.  The Prefaces by George M. Williams and Judit Gellérd recount some of these.  The manuscript has brought many persons and causes together on two continents. 

My father's master's thesis and doctoral dissertation are woven together in this work.  It did not bring him the earned Ph.D., however, rather landed him in political prison for five years in Romania's "Gulag" and eventually lead to his active martyrdom.

The following words are reflections by American scholars of history of religion:

      "Sermons of Transylvanian Unitarian ministers, a seemingly unimportant topic, are in fact extremely important.  The four centuries cover a time when European civilization slowly conceived notions as freedom of conscience, separation of religion and state, non-dogmatic religion, and a reasoned understanding of Christian scriptures, to name a few of the many religious issues in these sermons.  Other non-religious ideas leap forth from the pages of these radical thinkers such as education of women and universal education, now commonplace but then novel.  These display both a familiarity with science and often ways of thinking that prefigure scientific theories by centuries, including the theory of evolution." (Prof. George M. Williams).

John C. Godbey, Professor of Church History, Meadville/Lombard Theological School, wrote

"This book provides an unusually effective means of understanding the soul of a culture.  The history of Transylvania has been described in a number of books, but most of them present primarily the external, historical factors that have shaped that country.  Such factor include Transylvania’s deep roots in Hungarian history and the tensions that have resulted from the Treaty of Trianon (1920), when Transylvania was given to Romania.  Some recent histories have been informed by Marxist assumptions concerning the relation of religious ideas (as an ideology) to social and economical factors.  Histories of religion in Transylvania have, similarly, emphasized “external” factors such as the succession of religious leaders who served as bishops, the decisions of synods, etc.

      "Imre Gellérd has now provided an effective “window” through which we can see into the heart of Transylvanian Unitarianism . . . . This very comprehensive history . . . is a portrayal of the content of beliefs and the structure of spiritual life that have nourished Transylvanian Unitarianism while it endured political and religious oppression during much of the four hundred years of its life. . . . Gellérd has provided not only an impressively complex account of major Unitarian preachers in the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries (and even some account of the early years of the twentieth century).  He has also linked the ideas forming the contents of sermons to the dominant philosophical and religious currents that were encountered by ministers who lived at a particular time.  His interpretive chapters include an especially useful account of the influences of the Enlightenment on Transylvanian Unitarian thought and an interesting concluding chapter on the early years of the twentieth century.

      "Beginning with the preaching of Francis Dávid, Gellérd presents sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century Unitarian religious ideas and images, distinguishing the changing trends reflected in the sermon manuscripts that he studied.

"Scholars who focus on the history of culture, religious history, and the history of philosophy will find this a most useful book, and for those who study Transylvanian Unitarian history, this book will be an important source of themes that have been almost completely lacking in other accounts of Transylvanian history." 

 Prof. George Huntston Williams of Harvard encouraged the publication all throughout its process: "Be assured of my great joy in all that you are accomplishing together."  "You have together been indeed most diligent in the scholarly recovery of the Transylvanian Unitarian heritage. . . . "  "You together have accomplished the Judit-George epoch in Unitarian historiography and international relations and social justice."  ". . . the two of you have made yourselves international interpreters and defensores."  "It was a great satisfaction to sense the scope and depth of your work and your faith."

            In 1995 Imre Gellérd was posthumously awarded his Doctor of Divinity degree by the Protestant Theological Institute of Kolozsvár.  The following words are from his Laudatio by Bishop Arpád Szabó:

"Honorable Senate, . . . now, 25 years after Imre Gellérd submitting his doctoral dissertation and 15 years after his death, the Doctoral Committee of the school wishes to serve justice by accepting his dissertation and qualifying it Summa cum laude. . . .

      "The great merit of Imre Gellérd’s work is that it has researched and elaborated vast new territories of our theological literature with an impressive accuracy, and as such, his scholarship fills a gap.  Being absorbed by the in-depth study of each epoch, homiletical trend and personality, he brought to light new theological knowledge which will greatly benefit not only Transylvanian Unitarianism, but undoubtedly Protestantism of the entire country."   [October 19, 1995]

We wish to thank the UU Funding Program for recognizing the worth of Imre Gellérd's scholarship in providing the much needed perspective for the history of ideas of our common liberal religious heritage, and awarding a generous partial grant toward the publication of this work.

The Transylvanian Unitarian Church and the Center for Free Religion will soon publish the work also in Hungarian to honor Imre Gellérd on his eightieth birthday and the twentieth anniversary of his death.

 

How to Order?

            From Uniquest/Center for Free Religion.  (The UU Bookstore hopefully will also carry them.)   

            A 325-page edited book version (paperback and hard cover), as well as a CD ROM version, containing the full extent of the Gellérd scholarship (five hundred plus pages) are available.  Paperback copies are $20.00, hard cover copies $35.00, CD ROM $25.00--plus $3.00 shipping and handling.  Checks should be payable to Center for Free Religion.

            Contact Judit Gellérd or George M. Williams.

            Starting with September 1999 Judit Gellérd will be a graduate student--with full scholarship--at Boston University School of Theology.  Her new address: Fisk House, 146 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02116.  E-mail: zizi315@yahoo.com

She continues her responsibilities as General Secretary of PCC.  The Center for Free Religion will primarily function from Chico, CA  (1012 Bryant Ave., 95926)