Within Christian Orthodoxy, the majority faith, revival trends started emerging after WWI
At the end of WWI, the Kingdom of Romania united with provinces inhabited by Romanians from Czarist Russia and Austria-Hungary, forming Greater Romania. The new political entity created a strong wish in citizens to contribute to democracy and prosperity. Religious revival was part of this, with evangelical spiritual movements active all over society. Within Christian Orthodoxy, the majority faith, revival trends started emerging. One of them was The Army of the Lord, initiated in 1923, upon the initiative of Father Iosif Trifa.
He was born in 1888 in the county of Turda, in the north west of today's Romania. He studied Orthodox theology in Sibiu, and became a priest he was active in the press, and in defending the social interests of the Moti, the inhabitants of the Apuseni Mountains. After WWI, influenced by the multi-confessional climate in Transylvania, and the movements for spiritual revival, Trifa imagined a spiritual revival movement within his own Orthodox Church, which he dubbed The Army of the Lord. It was supposed to overcome the bigotry and formalism that dominated Orthodoxy, and open up to the modern influences of the time.
Father Zosim Oncea came to know the movement as a student, in the 1930s. He spoke to Radio Romania's Center for Oral History in 2001, and said that there was no doctrine difference between the proselytes of the Army of the Lord and those who were indifferent to it:
“The Army of the Lord was a religious movement within the church. Some priests were not attracted to it, there was no pressure. There were parishes where there was a group of them, and some priests did not agree with them, did not assist them, so no one forced either the priests or the people. People were making their own schedules, with songs about Christian life. I have my books here, which are like any sermon would be, there's no difference.”
After more than 10 years of suspicion, the founder of the Army of the Lord was excommunicated in 1936 after an ecclesiastic trial. Two years later, Iosif Trifa died of heart arrest. His followers often came into conflict with church authorities and other Orthodox believers, but his movement quickly lost significance. However, the movement continued on. After the war, many of the followers went to Western countries, and moved closer to Neo-Protestant churches. Madeleine Hodoroaba was the wife of Evangelical pastor Ieremia Hodoroaba, who left to France in 1940, when the Soviets took over Northern Bukovina. In the year 2000, she was recalling the tension within her husband's family:
“Ieremia, the tenth child in the family, had a hard youth, because the official state church, the Orthodox Church, was persecuting Romanian Evangelical Christians that were spreading here. He saw his father beaten and hurt many times. This bitter memory never left him, so that later on it was awkward for him to meet Orthodox faithful. But God intervened, so that Ieremia, who was profoundly faithful, when later on he met more Orthodox faithful, even a lot of priests, was very pleased and was happy about it.
While in France, the Hodoroabas proselytized both on behalf of the Romanian Evangelical church they belonged to, and of the Christian Guiding Voice radio station in Monte Carlo.
“We set up the first German Language Baptist Church in Strasbourg, which we shepherded until 1959. As early as 1959, there was a small Romanian Baptist church without a pastor that called us over. Pastor Ieremia Hodoroaba was the only Romanian Baptist preacher in Western Europe. In 1961, we were discovered by the France World director from Monte Carlo, who told us that radio was much more important than a small time church. So we started this feature in 1961, but we still couldn't let go of the church.”
Therefore, the pulpit and the microphone were a crutch for the persecuted, and Madeleine and Ieremia Hodoroaba did all they could to alleviate their suffering:
“Many of those who had been persecuted harshly found a place in Baptist churches, mostly. They had a home in them. Speaking of them, my husband created a hymnal, a book of songs that was in high demand among listeners who said they didn't have books with music notation to sing from. This is what he made, a book with musical notes, with songs by a man from the Army of the Lord, very well known around the country, by the name Nicolae Moldoveanu. He was a singer from Sibiu who composed many, and beautiful, songs of strong Romanian character.”
In spite of all the hardship, the present found a way to right the wrongs of the past. On September 28, 1990, the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church decided to lift the order of excommunication against Father Iosif Trifa, founder of the Army of the Lord. Today, the movement is still within the church, and continues its traditions.