- The history of Protestantism in Romania is somewhat complicated due to the significant border changes that occurred over the centuries. Transylvania was an autonomous country under Turkish sovereignty when Protestantism emerged in the 16th century, but it later passed to first Hungary and then Romania.Lutheranism entered Transylvania as early as the 1520s, followed by the Reformed faith a few decades later. Adherents of both groups worked together until 1564, when separate Reformed and Lutheran churches were established. Both churches enjoyed their initial success among the German-speaking population, but then won support among Hungarian- and later Romanian-speaking people. By the end of the century, a new church was added to the mix, the anti-Trinitarian unitarian Church.The three churches survived through the changes that saw Transylvania transferred to the Habsburg Empire in the 18th century and then incorporated directly into Hungary in 1867. When Transylvania was transferred to Romania after World War I, the Protestant community became a distinct minority in a country dominated by the Romanian Orthodox Church. It was further weakened by the split between Lutherans of German heritage (now the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession) and those of Hungarian and Slovakian heritage (now the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Presbyterial Church). In the meantime, various Free Churches began to establish work in the country. The first Baptist church was set up in 1856. They were joined by the Christian Brethren (1903), the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1911), and Jehovah's Witnesses (1911). The first Pentecostal center opened in 1922, and three years later the Apostolic Church of God of Romania was organized.All of the Protestant and Free Church groups showed some growth through the 1930s, but World War II and the subsequent establishment of an antireligious government brought severe suffering to the churches and to individual members and leaders. Many were arrested, and a significant portion of church property was confiscated for secular use. The last leader of the Communist regime was Nicolae Ceausescu (1918-89). His regime was brought down by a popular uprising sparked when in December of 1989 he ordered security forces to open fire on antigovernment demonstrators surrounding a Reformed Church in the city of Timisoara.In the years following Ceausescu's execution, the older churches began to make their comeback, though church buildings were only slowly returned. The Reformed and Pentecostal churches vied for the greatest number of adherents within the Protestant community, with some 800,000 each. They were followed by the Baptists, theAdventists, and the Christian Brethren, the only other groups to have more than 100,000 members.During the 1990s, an array of Protestant and Free Church groups descended upon Romania, and Western-based Evangelical publishing houses printed millions of copies of the Bible in Romanian. Well over 100 groups have begun work in Romania, though most remain relatively small. The Jehovah's Witnesses have made a remarkable comeback. Prior to 1989, anyone could receive a 10-year prison sentence for attempting to spread Witness literature.In spite of this activity, the country remains overwhelmingly Orthodox, with more than 80 percent of the population identifying themselves with the Romanian Orthodox Church.The Reformed Church in Romania and the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Presbyterial Church are members of the World Council of Churches, and the latter church, along with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession, are members of the World Lutheran Federation. However, there is no national council of churches. More conservative churches have organized the Romanian Evangelical Alliance, which belongs to the World Evangelical Alliance.Further reading:■ Nicolae I. Branzea and Stefan Lonita, Religious Life in Romania (Bucharest: Editura Paideia, 1999)■ Constantin Cuciuc, Atlasul Religiilor Si al Monumentelor Istorice Religioase din Romania (Bucharest: Editura Gnosis, 1996)■ Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 21st Century Edition (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.