Mihai Corcea is a Romanian international student who is studying for his MDIV degree. He hopes to return to Romania to plant a Reformed church. This is his story: how he became Reformed, how he came to WSC, and how his education will prepare him for the future.
Mihai was born in Romania to a nominal Eastern Orthodox family. As he was growing up, his grandparents took him to the Eastern Orthodox liturgies and to prayer meetings organized by a pietistic movement which sought religious renewal within the Eastern Orthodox Church. While attending those meetings, Mihai was introduced to the teaching of the Scriptures for the first time.
Later in life when his parents became Evangelicals, Mihai went along with them to their new church. In high school, he started reading every Christian book that he could get his hands on at the local Christian bookstore. At first, his reading list was quite diverse (from Thomas à Kempis to John Calvin and Charles Finney), but over time he came to the conviction that the Reformation recovered the biblical teaching that was obscured by medievals like à Kempis and distorted by Evangelicals like Finney.
After meeting believers of some Dutch Reformed churches in the Netherlands and Hungarian Reformed Churches in Transylvania, Mihai was gradually convinced of the biblical truthfulness of the Reformed Confessions. At the same time, Mihai was disappointed that there was no Romanian Reformed church in his hometown, nor a Romanian Reformed denomination in his country. After Mihai graduated college with a degree in business management, he married his wife Lidia and they moved to Bucharest (the capital of Romania) where they attended a mainline Lutheran church.
In Bucharest, they met with a small group of believers who were interested in the teaching of the Reformation. They started a mid-week Bible study, but without having a Romanian Reformed denomination to turn to, they contacted the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA) missionary serving in Milan, Italy. This missionary, Rev. Andrea Ferrari, offered to catechize them, and in July of 2012 the core group of Bucharest became members of Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia in Milan.
To American ears, having to commute to church may not seem like a very big deal. However, for Mihai, Lidia, and the core group in Bucharest, Milan is the closest confessional Reformed church to them. To put this into perspective, a family living in Escondido, CA, would have to drive all the way to Seattle, WA, each week just to hear the gospel preached to them. That’s an average of nearly 20 hours in the car, one-way! Or for the members of Chisea Riformata Filadelfia living in Bucharest, Romania, this tangibly means frequent—and over time, expensive—flights back and forth from Bucharest to Milan in order to receive the means of grace each Lord’s Day and enjoy fellowship with other believers who confess the Reformed faith.
The consistory advised that Mihai attend Westminster Seminary California (WSC) so that he might return to Bucharest well equipped to serve as an ordained church planter. Mihai hopes to return to Bucharest, which is the sixth largest city in the European Union. Of the 2 million people that live there, the majority are Eastern Orthodox. Of this population, 1% is Atheist, 1% identify with other religions, about 1% are Evangelicals, and roughly 97% are Eastern Orthodox.
Mihai believes that the theology and piety of the Reformation is the best corrective to the distorted doctrine and practice that is so pervasive today in much of Romanian Christianity. While many Romanians celebrate the history of Christianity in their country and perceive Evangelicalism as an import of innovative American religion, Mihai hopes to bring to his home country a modern recovery of the doctrine and practice of the Reformation. In order to fulfill this task, Mihai uses his time at WSC to study the Reformed faith so that he might be able to plant a confessional Reformed church in Bucharest and communicate to his fellow Romanians the saving truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It’s in this context that the small Reformed group of Bucharest is waiting for Mihai’s return in 2016, eager to have a Reformed church in their own city. They visit the URCNA church plant in Milan a few times each year, and hope that more Romanians in Bucharest will be able to rejoice in the comfort and nurture of the Reformed ministry of Word and Sacrament--hearing the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ from week to week.