What is Anabaptism?

What is Anabaptism?

Anabaptism is a Christian theological tradition that developed out of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century as a way of eliciting further reforms. Additional reforms included voluntary church membership, the separation of church and state, commitment to pacifism and adult baptism. While many of these principles are taken for granted today, they often brought persecution to Anabaptists.

Voluntary church membership – In the sixteenth century, every citizen was recognized as and required to be a member of the established church of the state or geographical area in which they lived. Anabaptists believed that church membership is a voluntary decision to commit to a gathering of believers and should not be dictated by one’s government.

Separation of Church and State – While taken for granted today, sixteenth century religion and goverment were one and the same. Anabaptist believed that government officials should not have the authority to determine a citizen’s beliefs or church affiliation.

Pacifism – Anabaptist called for placing the way of Jesus above self and group interest. They interpreted Jesus’ command to love one’ enemies (Matthew 5:43-45) as a literal command and concluded that in order to truly follow Jesus’ word they need to reject the sword in responding to their enemies.

Adult Baptism – the term “Anabaptist” means “re-baptiser”. Believeing that baptising infants as inauthentic, Anabaptists contend that baptism should follow the conscious commitment to follow Jesus.

Within the religious context of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many Anabaptists suffered martyrdom. Many survived persecution and some eventually immigrated to North America. The most numerous Anabaptist immigrants were Mennonites, who took their name from an early Dutch Anabaptist leader, Menno Simons.

Source: Messiah College’s Sider Institute for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, www.messiah.edu/siderinstitute/anabaptism.html