Anabaptism

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Anabaptism (from Neo-Latin anabaptista, [1] from the Greek ἀναβαπτισμός: ἀνά- "re-" and βαπτισμός "baptism", [2] German : Täufer, earlier also Wiedertäufer [lower-alpha 1] ) is a Christian movement which traces its origins to the Radical Reformation. The movement is generally seen as an offshoot of Protestantism, although this view has been challenged by some Anabaptists. [3] [4] [5]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.

Christian denomination identifiable Christian body with common name, structure, and doctrine

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.

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Approximately 4 million Anabaptists live in the world today with adherents scattered across all inhabited continents. In addition to a number of minor Anabaptist groups, the most numerous include the Mennonites at 2.1 million, the German Baptists at 1.5 million, the Amish at 300,000 and the Hutterites at 50,000.

Mennonites Anabaptist groups originating in Northern Europe

The Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland. Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in 1632, but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer's baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches because of their commitment to pacifism.

Amish group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships

The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships with Swiss German Anabaptist origins. They are closely related to, but distinct from, Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.

Hutterites ethno-religious group since the 16th century; a communal branch of Anabaptists

Hutterites, also called Hutterian Brethren, are an ethnoreligious group that is a communal branch of Anabaptists who, like the Amish and Mennonites, trace their roots to the Radical Reformation of the early 16th century.

In the 21st century there are large cultural differences between assimilated Anabaptists, who do not differ much from evangelicals or mainline Protestants, and traditional groups like the Amish, the Old Colony Mennonites, the Old Order Mennonites, the Hutterites and the Old German Baptist Brethren.

Evangelicalism, evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or "born again" experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God's revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message. The movement has had a long presence in the Anglosphere before spreading further afield in the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries.

Mainline Protestant Older, more establishment Protestant denominations

The mainline Protestant churches are a group of Protestant denominations in the United States that contrast in history and practice with evangelical, fundamentalist, and charismatic Protestant denominations. Some make a distinction between "mainline" and "oldline", with the former referring only to denominational ties and the latter referring to church lineage, prestige and influence. However, this distinction has largely been lost to history and the terms are now nearly synonymous. These terms are also increasingly used in other countries for the same purpose of distinguishing between the so-called oldline and neo-Protestants.

Old Colony Mennonites Part of the Russian Mennonite movement

The name Old Colony Mennonites is used to describe that part of the Russian Mennonite movement that is descended from colonists who migrated from the Chortitza Colony in Russia to settlements in Canada.

The early Anabaptists formulated their beliefs in the Schleitheim Confession, in 1527. [6] [7] Anabaptists believe that baptism is valid only when the candidate confesses his or her faith in Christ and wants to be baptized. This believer's baptism is opposed to baptism of infants, who are not able to make a conscious decision to be baptized. Anabaptists are those who are in a traditional line with the early Anabaptists of the 16th century. Other Christian groups with different roots also practice believer's baptism, such as Baptists, but these groups are not seen as Anabaptist. The Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites are direct descendants of the early Anabaptist movement. Schwarzenau Brethren, Bruderhof, and the Apostolic Christian Church are considered later developments among the Anabaptists.

Schleitheim Confession

The Schleitheim Confession was the most representative statement of Anabaptist principles, by a group of Swiss Anabaptists in 1527 in Schleitheim (Switzerland).

Baptism Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water

Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.

Believers baptism Christian baptism where the person be baptized is above the age of accountability and has expressed his or her wish to be baptized

Believer's baptism is the Christian practice of baptism as this is understood by many evangelical denominations, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist and English Baptist tradition. According to their understanding, a person is baptized on the basis of his or her profession of faith in Jesus Christ and as admission into a local community of faith.

The name Anabaptist means "one who baptizes again". Their persecutors named them this, referring to the practice of baptizing persons when they converted or declared their faith in Christ, even if they had been baptized as infants. [8] Anabaptists required that baptismal candidates be able to make a confession of faith that is freely chosen and so rejected baptism of infants. The early members of this movement did not accept the name Anabaptist, claiming that infant baptism was not part of scripture and was therefore null and void. They said that baptizing self-confessed believers was their first true baptism:

I have never taught Anabaptism.... But the right baptism of Christ, which is preceded by teaching and oral confession of faith, I teach, and say that infant baptism is a robbery of the right baptism of Christ.

Hubmaier, Balthasar (1526), Short apology . [9] :204

Anabaptists were heavily and long persecuted starting in the 16th century by both Magisterial Protestants and Roman Catholics, largely because of their interpretation of scripture which put them at odds with official state church interpretations and with government. Anabaptism was never established by any state and therefore never enjoyed any associated privileges. Most Anabaptists adhered to a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount which precluded taking oaths, participating in military actions, and participating in civil government. Some groups who practiced rebaptism, now extinct, believed otherwise and complied with these requirements of civil society. [lower-alpha 2] They were thus technically Anabaptists, even though conservative Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and some historians consider them outside true Anabaptism. Conrad Grebel wrote in a letter to Thomas Müntzer in 1524:

Magisterial Reformation

The Magisterial Reformation is a phrase that "draws attention to the manner in which the Lutheran and Calvinist reformers related to secular authorities, such as princes, magistrates, or city councils", i.e. "the magistracy". While the Radical Reformation rejected any secular authority over the Church, the Magisterial Reformation argued for the interdependence of the church and secular authorities, i.e. "The magistrate had a right to authority within the church, just as the church could rely on the authority of the magistrate to enforce discipline, suppress heresy, or maintain order."

State religion religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state

A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily a theocracy, a country whose rulers have both secular and spiritual authority. State religions are official or government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, but the state does not need be under the control of the religion nor is the state-sanctioned religion necessarily under the control of the state.

Conrad Grebel co-founder of the Swiss Brethren movement

Conrad Grebel, son of a prominent Swiss merchant and councilman, was a co-founder of the Swiss Brethren movement.

True Christian believers are sheep among wolves, sheep for the slaughter... Neither do they use worldly sword or war, since all killing has ceased with them. [10]

Origins

Christianity Branches without text.svg
Major denominational families in Christianity:
Western Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Protestantism
Evangelical
Anabaptist
Anglican
Reformed
Lutheran
(Latin Church)
Catholic
(Eastern Catholic)
Eastern Orthodox
Oriental Orthodox
Church of the East
Schism (1552)
Assyrian Church of the East
Ancient Church of the East
Protestant Reformation
(16th century)
Great Schism
(11th century)
Council of Ephesus (431)
Council of Chalcedon (451)
Early Christianity
"Great Church"
(Full communion)

Medieval forerunners

Anabaptists are considered to have begun with the Radical Reformers in the 16th century, but historians classify certain people and groups as their forerunners because of a similar approach to the interpretation and application of the Bible. For instance, Petr Chelčický, a 15th-century Bohemian reformer, taught most of the beliefs considered integral to Anabaptist theology. [11] Medieval antecedents may include the Brethren of the Common Life, the Hussites, Dutch Sacramentists, [12] [13] and some forms of monasticism. The Waldensians also represent a faith similar to the Anabaptists. [14]

Medieval dissenters and Anabaptists who held to a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount share in common the following affirmations:

  • The believer must not swear oaths or refer disputes between believers to law-courts for resolution, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 6:1–11 .
  • The believer must not bear arms or offer forcible resistance to wrongdoers, nor wield the sword. No Christian has the jus gladii (the right of the sword). Matthew 5:39
  • Civil government (i.e. "Caesar") belongs to the world. The believer belongs to God's kingdom, so must not fill any office nor hold any rank under government, which is to be passively obeyed. John 18:36 Romans 13:1–7
  • Sinners or unfaithful ones are to be excommunicated, and excluded from the sacraments and from intercourse with believers unless they repent, according to 1 Corinthians 5:9–13 and Matthew 18:15 seq. , but no force is to be used towards them.

Zwickau prophets and the German Peasants' War

Twelve Articles of the Peasants pamphlet of 1525 Titelblatt 12 Artikel.jpg
Twelve Articles of the Peasants pamphlet of 1525

On December 27, 1521, three "prophets" appeared in Wittenberg from Zwickau who were influenced by (and, in turn, influencing) Thomas Müntzer—Thomas Dreschel, Nicholas Storch, and Mark Thomas Stübner. They preached an apocalyptic, radical alternative to Lutheranism. Their preaching helped to stir the feelings concerning the social crisis which erupted in the German Peasants' War in southern Germany in 1525 as a revolt against feudal oppression. Under the leadership of Müntzer, it became a war against all constituted authorities and an attempt to establish by revolution an ideal Christian commonwealth, with absolute equality among persons and the community of goods. The Zwickau prophets were not Anabaptists (that is, they did not practise "rebaptism"); nevertheless, the prevalent social inequities and the preaching of men such as these have been seen as laying the foundation for the Anabaptist movement. The social ideals of the Anabaptist movement coincided closely with those of leaders in the German Peasants' War. Studies have found a very low percentage of subsequent sectarians to have taken part in the peasant uprising. [15]

Views on origins

Research on the origins of the Anabaptists has been tainted both by the attempts of their enemies to slander them and by the attempts of their supporters to vindicate them. It was long popular to classify all Anabaptists as Munsterites and radicals associated with the Zwickau prophets, Jan Matthys, John of Leiden, and Thomas Müntzer. Those desiring to correct this error tended to over-correct and deny all connections between the larger Anabaptist movement and the most radical elements.

The modern era of Anabaptist historiography arose with Roman Catholic scholar Carl Adolf Cornelius' publication of Die Geschichte des Münsterischen Aufruhrs (The History of the Münster Uprising) in 1855. Baptist historian Albert Henry Newman (1852–1933), who Harold S. Bender said occupied "first position in the field of American Anabaptist historiography", made a major contribution with his A History of Anti-Pedobaptism (1897).

Three main theories on origins of the Anabaptists are the following:

  • The movement began in a single expression in Zürich and spread from there (Monogenesis);
  • It developed through several independent movements (polygenesis); and
  • It was a continuation of true New Testament Christianity (apostolic succession or church perpetuity).

Monogenesis

Felix Manz was executed by drowning within two years of his rebaptism Ertraenkung felix manz.jpg
Felix Manz was executed by drowning within two years of his rebaptism

A number of scholars (e.g. Harold S. Bender, William Estep, Robert Friedmann[ citation needed ]) consider the Anabaptist movement to have developed from the Swiss Brethren movement of Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, et al. They generally held that Anabaptism had its origins in Zürich, and that the Anabaptism of the Swiss Brethren was transmitted to southern Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and northern Germany, where it developed into its various branches. The monogenesis theory usually rejects the Münsterites and other radicals from the category of true Anabaptists. [16] In the monogenesis view the time of origin is January 21, 1525, when Conrad Grebel baptized George Blaurock, and Blaurock in turn baptized several others immediately. These baptisms were the first "re-baptisms" known in the movement. [17] This continues to be the most widely accepted date posited for the establishment of Anabaptism.

Polygenesis

James M. Stayer, Werner O. Packull, and Klaus Deppermann disputed the idea of a single origin of Anabaptists in a 1975 essay entitled "From Monogenesis to Polygenesis", suggesting that February 24, 1527, at Schleitheim is the proper date of the origin of Anabaptism. On this date the Swiss Brethren wrote a declaration of belief called the Schleitheim Confession. [18] [ page needed ] The authors of the essay noted the agreement among previous Anabaptist historians on polygenesis, even when disputing the date for a single starting point: "Hillerbrand and Bender (like Holl and Troeltsch) were in agreement that there was a single dispersion of Anabaptism ..., which certainly ran through Zurich. The only question was whether or not it went back further to Saxony." [18] :83 After criticizing the standard polygenetic history, the authors found six groups in early Anabaptism which could be collapsed into three originating "points of departure": "South German Anabaptism, the Swiss Brethren, and the Melchiorites". [19] According to their polygenesis theory, South German–Austrian Anabaptism "was a diluted form of Rhineland mysticism", Swiss Anabaptism "arose out of Reformed congregationalism", and Dutch Anabaptism was formed by "Social unrest and the apocalyptic visions of Melchior Hoffman". As examples of how the Anabaptist movement was influenced from sources other than the Swiss Brethren movement, mention has been made of how Pilgram Marpeck's Vermanung of 1542 was deeply influenced by the Bekenntnisse of 1533 by Münster theologian Bernhard Rothmann. Melchior Hoffman influenced the Hutterites when they used his commentary on the Apocalypse shortly after he wrote it.

Others who have written in support of polygenesis include Grete Mecenseffy and Walter Klaassen, who established links between Thomas Müntzer and Hans Hut. In another work, Gottfried Seebaß and Werner Packull showed the influence of Thomas Müntzer on the formation of South German Anabaptism. Similarly, author Steven Ozment linked Hans Denck and Hans Hut with Thomas Müntzer, Sebastian Franck, and others. Author Calvin Pater showed how Andreas Karlstadt influenced Swiss Anabaptism in various areas, including his view of Scripture, doctrine of the church, and views on baptism.

Several historians, including Thor Hall, [20] Kenneth Davis, [21] and Robert Kreider, [22] have also noted the influence of Humanism on Radical Reformers in the three originating points of departure to account for how this brand of reform could develop independently from each other. Relatively recent research, begun in a more advanced and deliberate manner by Andrew P. Klager, also explores how the influence and a particular reading of the Church Fathers contributed to the development of distinctly Anabaptist beliefs and practices in separate regions of Europe in the early 16th century, including by Menno Simons in the Netherlands, Conrad Grebel in Switzerland, Thomas Müntzer in central Germany, Pilgram Marpeck in the Tyrol, Peter Walpot in Moravia, and especially Balthasar Hubmaier in southern Germany, Switzerland, and Moravia. [23] [24]

Apostolic succession

Baptist successionists have, at times, pointed to 16th-century Anabaptists as part of an apostolic succession of churches ("church perpetuity") from the time of Christ. [25] This view is held by some Baptists, some Mennonites, and a number of "true church" movements. [lower-alpha 3]

The opponents of the Baptist successionism theory emphasize that these non-Catholic groups clearly differed from each other, that they held some heretical views, [lower-alpha 4] or that the groups had no connection with one another and had origins that were separate both in time and in place.

A different strain of successionism is the theory that the Anabaptists are of Waldensian origin. Some hold the idea that the Waldensians are part of the apostolic succession, while others simply believe they were an independent group out of whom the Anabaptists arose. Ludwig Keller, Thomas M. Lindsay, H. C. Vedder, Delbert Grätz, John T. Christian and Thieleman J. van Braght (author of Martyrs Mirror) all held, in varying degrees, the position that the Anabaptists were of Waldensian origin.

History

Spread of the early anabaptists in Central Europe
Dutch Mennonites
(spread from Emden)
South and Central German Anabaptists
(spread from Konigsberg in Franken)
Swiss Brethren
(spread from Zurich)
Moravian Anabaptists
(spread from Nikolsburg) Spread of the Anabaptists 1525-1550.png
Spread of the early anabaptists in Central Europe
  Dutch Mennonites
(spread from Emden)
  South and Central German Anabaptists
(spread from Königsberg in Franken)
   Swiss Brethren
(spread from Zürich)
  Moravian Anabaptists
(spread from Nikolsburg)

Switzerland

Anabaptism in Switzerland began as an offshoot of the church reforms instigated by Ulrich Zwingli. As early as 1522 it became evident that Zwingli was on a path of reform preaching when he began to question or criticize such Catholic practices as tithes, the mass, and even infant baptism. Zwingli had gathered a group of reform-minded men around him, with whom he studied classical literature and the scriptures. However, some of these young men began to feel that Zwingli was not moving fast enough in his reform. The division between Zwingli and his more radical disciples became apparent in an October 1523 disputation held in Zurich. When the discussion of the mass was about to be ended without making any actual change in practice, Conrad Grebel stood up and asked "what should be done about the mass?" Zwingli responded by saying the council would make that decision. At this point, Simon Stumpf, a radical priest from Hongg, answered saying, "The decision has already been made by the Spirit of God." [26]

This incident illustrated clearly that Zwingli and his more radical disciples had different expectations. To Zwingli, the reforms would only go as fast as the city Council allowed them. To the radicals, the council had no right to make that decision, but rather the Bible was the final authority of church reform. Feeling frustrated, some of them began to meet on their own for Bible study. As early as 1523, William Reublin began to preach against infant baptism in villages surrounding Zurich, encouraging parents to not baptize their children.

Seeking fellowship with other reform-minded people, the radical group wrote letters to Martin Luther, Andreas Karlstadt, and Thomas Müntzer. Felix Manz began to publish some of Karlstadt's writings in Zurich in late 1524. By this time the question of infant baptism had become agitated and the Zurich council had instructed Zwingli to meet weekly with those who rejected infant baptism "until the matter could be resolved". [27] Zwingli broke off the meetings after two sessions, and Felix Manz petitioned the Council to find a solution, since he felt Zwingli was too hard to work with. The council then called a meeting for January 17, 1525.

Dissatisfaction with the outcome of a disputation in 1525 prompted Swiss Brethren to part ways with Huldrych Zwingli. Tauferdisputation 1525.jpg
Dissatisfaction with the outcome of a disputation in 1525 prompted Swiss Brethren to part ways with Huldrych Zwingli.

The Council ruled in this meeting that all who continued to refuse to baptize their infants should be expelled from Zurich if they did not have them baptized within one week. Since Conrad Grebel had refused to baptize his daughter Rachel, born on January 5, 1525, the Council decision was extremely personal to him and others who had not baptized their children. Thus, when sixteen of the radicals met on Saturday evening, January 21, 1525, the situation seemed particularly dark. The Hutterian Chronicle records the event:

After prayer, George of the House of Jacob (George Blaurock) stood up and besought Conrad Grebel for God's sake to baptize him with the true Christian baptism upon his faith and knowledge. And when he knelt down with such a request and desire, Conrad baptized him, since at that time there was no ordained minister to perform such work. [28]

Afterwards Blaurock was baptized, he in turn baptized others at the meeting. Even though some had rejected infant baptism before this date, these baptisms marked the first re-baptisms of those who had been baptized as infants and thus, technically, Swiss Anabaptism was born on that day. [29] [30]

Tyrol

Anabaptism appears to have come to Tyrol through the labors of George Blaurock. Similar to the German Peasants' War, the Gasmair uprising set the stage by producing a hope for social justice. Michael Gasmair had tried to bring religious, political, and economical reform through a violent peasant uprising, but the movement was squashed. [31] Although little hard evidence exists of a direct connection between Gasmair's uprising and Tyrolian Anabaptism, at least a few of the peasants involved in the uprising later became Anabaptists. While a connection between a violent social revolution and non-resistant Anabaptism may be hard to imagine, the common link was the desire for a radical change in the prevailing social injustices. Disappointed with the failure of armed revolt, Anabaptist ideals of an alternative peaceful, just society probably resonated on the ears of the disappointed peasants. [32]

Before Anabaptism proper was introduced to South Tyrol, Protestant ideas had been propagated in the region by men such as Hans Vischer, a former Dominican. Some of those who participated in conventicles where Protestant ideas were presented later became Anabaptists. As well, the population in general seemed to have a favorable attitude towards reform, be it Protestant or Anabaptist. George Blaurock appears to have preached itinerantly in the Puster Valley region in 1527, which most likely was the first introduction of Anabaptist ideas in the area. Another visit through the area in 1529 reinforced these ideas, but he was captured and burned at the stake in Klausen on September 6, 1529. [33]

Jacob Hutter was one of the early converts in South Tyrol, and later became a leader among the Hutterites, who received their name from him. Hutter made several trips between Moravia and Tyrol, and most of the Anabaptists in South Tyrol ended up emigrating to Moravia because of the fierce persecution unleashed by Ferdinand I. In November 1535, Hutter was captured near Klausen and taken to Innsbruck where he was burned at the stake on February 25, 1536. By 1540 Anabaptism in South Tyrol was beginning to die out, largely because of the emigration to Moravia of the converts because of incessant persecution. [34]

Low Countries and northern Germany

Menno Simons Menno Simons.jpg
Menno Simons

Melchior Hoffman is credited with the introduction of Anabaptist ideas into the Low Countries. Hoffman had picked up Lutheran and Reformed ideas, but on April 23, 1530 he was "re-baptized" at Strasbourg and within two months had gone to Emden and baptized about 300 persons. [35] For several years Hoffman preached in the Low Countries until he was arrested and imprisoned at Strasbourg, where he died about 10 years later. Hoffman's apocalyptic ideas were indirectly related to the Münster Rebellion, even though he was "of a different spirit". [36] Obbe and Dirk Philips had been baptized by disciples of Jan Matthijs, but were opposed to the violence that occurred at Münster. [37] Obbe later became disillusioned with Anabaptism and withdrew from the movement in about 1540, but not before ordaining David Joris, his brother Dirk, and Menno Simons, the latter from whom the Mennonites received their name. [38] David Joris and Menno Simons parted ways, with Joris placing more emphasis on "spirit and prophecy", while Menno emphasized the authority of the Bible. For the Mennonite side, the emphasis on the "inner" and "spiritual" permitted compromise to "escape persecution", while to the Joris side, the Mennonites were under the "dead letter of the Scripture". [38]

Because of persecution and expansion, some of the Low Country Mennonites emigrated to Vistula delta, a region settled by Germans but under Polish rule until it became part of Prussia in 1772. There they formed the Vistula delta Mennonites integrating some other Mennonites mainly from Northern Germany. In the late 18th century, several thousand of them migrated from there to Ukraine (which at the time was part of Russia) forming the so-called Russian Mennonites. Beginning in 1874, many of them emigrated to the prairie states and provinces of the United States and Canada. In the 1920s, the conservative faction of the Canadian settlers went to Mexico and Paraguay. Beginning in the 1950s, the most conservative of them started to migrate to Bolivia. In 1958, Mexican Mennonites migrated to Belize. Since the 1980s, traditional Russian Mennonites migrated to Argentina. Smaller groups went to Brazil and Uruguay. In 2015, some Mennonites from Bolivia settled in Peru. In 2018, there are more than 200,000 of them living in colonies in Central and South America.

Moravia, Bohemia and Silesia

Although Moravian Anabaptism was a transplant from other areas of Europe, Moravia soon became a center for the growing movement, largely because of the greater religious tolerance found there. [39] [40] Hans Hut was an early evangelist in the area, with one historian crediting him with baptizing more converts in two years than all the other Anabaptist evangelists put together. [41] The coming of Balthasar Hübmaier to Nikolsburg was a definite boost for Anabaptist ideas to the area. With the great influx of religious refugees from all over Europe, many variations of Anabaptism appeared in Moravia, with Jarold Zeman documenting at least ten slightly different versions. [42] Soon, one-eyed Jacob Wiedemann appeared at Nikolsburg, and began to teach the pacifistic convictions of the Swiss Brethren, on which Hübmaier had been less authoritative. This would lead to a division between the Schwertler (sword-bearing) and the Stäbler (staff-bearing). Wiedemann and those with him also promoted the practice of community of goods. With orders from the lords of Liechtenstein to leave Nikolsburg, about 200 Stäbler withdrew to Moravia to form a community at Austerlitz. [43]

Persecution in South Tyrol brought many refugees to Moravia, many of whom formed into communities that practised community of goods. Jacob Hutter was instrumental in organizing these into what became known as the Hutterites. But others came from Silesia, Switzerland, German lands, and the Low Countries. With the passing of time and persecution, all the other versions of Anabaptism would die out in Moravia leaving only the Hutterites. Even the Hutterites would be dissipated by persecution, with a remnant fleeing to Transylvania, then to the Ukraine, and finally to North America in 1874. [44] [ page needed ] [45]

South and central Germany, Austria and Alsace

Thomas Muntzer led the German peasants against the landowners Thomas Muentzer.jpg
Thomas Müntzer led the German peasants against the landowners

South German Anabaptism had its roots in German mysticism. Andreas Karlstadt, who first worked alongside Martin Luther, is seen as a forerunner of South German Anabaptism because of his reforming theology that rejected many Catholic practices, including infant baptism. However, Karlstadt is not known to have been "rebaptized", nor to have taught it. Hans Denck and Hans Hut, both with German Mystical background (in connection with Thomas Muntzer) both accepted "rebaptism", but Denck eventually backed off from the idea under pressure. Hans Hut is said to have brought more people into early Anabaptism than all the other Anabaptist evangelists of his time put together. However, there may have been confusion about what his baptism (at least some of the times it was done by making the sign of the Tau on the forehead) may have meant to the recipient. Some seem to have taken it as a sign by which they would escape the apocalyptical revenge of the Turks that Hut predicted. Hut even went so far as to predict a 1528 coming of the kingdom of God. When the prediction failed, some of his converts became discouraged and left the Anabaptist movement. The large congregation of Anabaptists at Augsburg fell apart (partly because of persecution) and those who stayed with Anabaptist ideas were absorbed into Swiss and Moravia Anabaptist congregations. [46] :35–117 [15] Pilgram Marpeck was another notable leader in early South German Anabaptism who attempted to steer between the two extremes of Denck's inner Holiness and the legalistic standards of the other Anabaptists. [47]

Persecutions and migrations

Felix Manz was executed by drowning within two years of his rebaptism Ertraenkung felix manz.jpg
Felix Manz was executed by drowning within two years of his rebaptism
Birching of Anabaptist martyr Ursula, Maastricht, 1570; engraving by Jan Luyken from Martyrs Mirror Whipping of an incarcerated delinquent, Germany 17th century.jpg
Birching of Anabaptist martyr Ursula, Maastricht, 1570; engraving by Jan Luyken from Martyrs Mirror

Roman Catholics and Protestants alike persecuted the Anabaptists, resorting to torture and execution in attempts to curb the growth of the movement. The Protestants under Zwingli were the first to persecute the Anabaptists, with Felix Manz becoming the first martyr in 1527. On May 20 or 21, 1527, Roman Catholic authorities executed Michael Sattler. [49] King Ferdinand declared drowning (called the third baptism) "the best antidote to Anabaptism". The Tudor regime, even the Protestant monarchs (Edward VI of England and Elizabeth I of England), persecuted Anabaptists as they were deemed too radical and therefore a danger to religious stability.

The burning of a 16th-century Dutch Anabaptist, Anneken Hendriks, who was charged with heresy. Witch-scene4.JPG
The burning of a 16th-century Dutch Anabaptist, Anneken Hendriks, who was charged with heresy.

The persecution of Anabaptists was condoned by ancient laws of Theodosius I and Justinian I that were passed against the Donatists, which decreed the death penalty for any who practised rebaptism. Martyrs Mirror , by Thieleman J. van Braght, describes the persecution and execution of thousands of Anabaptists in various parts of Europe between 1525 and 1660. Continuing persecution in Europe was largely responsible for the mass emigrations to North America by Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites. Unlike Calvinists, Anabaptists failed to get recognition in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and persecution continued in Europe well after that treaty.

Types

Different types exist among the Anabaptists, although the categorizations tend to vary with the scholar's viewpoint on origins. Estep claims that in order to understand Anabaptism, one must "distinguish between the Anabaptists, inspirationists, and rationalists". He classes the likes of Blaurock, Grebel, Balthasar Hubmaier, Manz, Marpeck, and Simons as Anabaptists. He groups Müntzer, Storch, et al. as inspirationists, and anti-trinitarians such as Michael Servetus, Juan de Valdés, Sebastian Castellio, and Faustus Socinus as rationalists. Mark S. Ritchie follows this line of thought, saying, "The Anabaptists were one of several branches of 'Radical' reformers (i.e. reformers that went further than the mainstream Reformers) to arise out of the Renaissance and Reformation. Two other branches were Spirituals or Inspirationists, who believed that they had received direct revelation from the Spirit, and rationalists or anti-Trinitarians, who rebelled against traditional Christian doctrine, like Michael Servetus."

Those of the polygenesis viewpoint use Anabaptist to define the larger movement, and include the inspirationists and rationalists as true Anabaptists. James M. Stayer used the term Anabaptist for those who rebaptized persons already "baptized" in infancy. Walter Klaassen was perhaps the first Mennonite scholar to define Anabaptists that way in his 1960 Oxford dissertation. This represents a rejection of the previous standard held by Mennonite scholars such as Bender and Friedmann.

Another method of categorization acknowledges regional variations, such as Swiss Brethren (Grebel, Manz), Dutch and Frisian Anabaptism (Menno Simons, Dirk Philips), and South German Anabaptism (Hübmaier, Marpeck).

Historians and sociologists have made further distinctions between radical Anabaptists, who were prepared to use violence in their attempts to build a New Jerusalem, and their pacifist brethren, later broadly known as Mennonites. Radical Anabaptist groups included the Münsterites, who occupied and held the German city of Münster in 1534–1535, and the Batenburgers, who persisted in various guises as late as the 1570s.

Spirituality

Memorial plate at Schipfe quarter in Zurich for the Anabaptists executed in the early 16th century by the Zurich city government Zurich - Schipfe IMG 1969.JPG
Memorial plate at Schipfe quarter in Zürich for the Anabaptists executed in the early 16th century by the Zürich city government

Charismatic manifestations

Within the inspirationist wing of the Anabaptist movement, it was not unusual for charismatic manifestations to appear, such as dancing, falling under the power of the Holy Spirit, "prophetic processions" (at Zurich in 1525, at Munster in 1534 and at Amsterdam in 1535), [50] and speaking in tongues. [51] In Germany some Anabaptists, "excited by mass hypnosis, experienced healings, glossolalia, contortions and other manifestations of a camp-meeting revival". [52] The Anabaptist congregations that later developed into the Mennonite and Hutterite churches tended not to promote these manifestations, but did not totally reject the miraculous. Pilgram Marpeck, for example, wrote against the exclusion of miracles: "Nor does Scripture assert this exclusion ... God has a free hand even in these last days." Referring to some who had been raised from the dead, he wrote: "Many of them have remained constant, enduring tortures inflicted by sword, rope, fire and water and suffering terrible, tyrannical, unheard-of deaths and martyrdoms, all of which they could easily have avoided by recantation. Moreover one also marvels when he sees how the faithful God (Who, after all, overflows with goodness) raises from the dead several such brothers and sisters of Christ after they were hanged, drowned, or killed in other ways. Even today, they are found alive and we can hear their own testimony ... Cannot everyone who sees, even the blind, say with a good conscience that such things are a powerful, unusual, and miraculous act of God? Those who would deny it must be hardened men." [53] The Hutterite Chronicle and The Martyrs Mirror record several accounts of miraculous events, such as when a man named Martin prophesied while being led across a bridge to his execution in 1531: "this once yet the pious are led over this bridge, but no more hereafter". Just "a short time afterwards such a violent storm and flood came that the bridge was demolished". [54]

Holy Spirit leadership

The Anabaptists insisted upon the "free course" of the Holy Spirit in worship, yet still maintained it all must be judged according to the Scriptures. [55] The Swiss Anabaptist document titled "Answer of Some Who Are Called (Ana-)Baptists – Why They Do Not Attend the Churches". One reason given for not attending the state churches was that these institutions forbade the congregation to exercise spiritual gifts according to "the Christian order as taught in the gospel or the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 14". "When such believers come together, 'Everyone of you (note every one) hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation', and so on. When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking, and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will regard or confess the same to be a spiritual congregation, or confess according to 1 Corinthians 14 that God is dwelling and operating in them through His Holy Spirit with His gifts, impelling them one after another in the above-mentioned order of speaking and prophesying." [56]

Today

Anabaptists

Hutterites in North America Hutterer-Chor1.jpeg
Hutterites in North America
Mennonite family in Campeche, Mexico Mennonite Family - Campeche - Mexico - 02.jpg
Mennonite family in Campeche, Mexico
Amish children on their way to school Amish - On the way to school by Gadjoboy-crop.jpg
Amish children on their way to school

Several existing denominational bodies are the direct successors of the continental Anabaptists. Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites are in a direct and unbroken line back to the Anabapists of the early 16th century. Schwarzenau Brethren and River Brethren emerged in the 18th century and adopted many Anabapist elements. The same is true for the Bruderhof Communities that emerged in the early 20th century. [57] Sometimes the Apostolic Christian Church is seen as Neutäufer ("Neo-Anabaptist"). [58] Some historical connections have been demonstrated for all of these spiritual descendants, though perhaps not as clearly as the noted institutionally lineal descendants.

Although many see the more well-known Anabaptist groups (Amish, Hutterites and Mennonites) as ethnic groups, only the Amish and the Hutterites today are composed almost totally of descendants of the continental Anabaptists, while among the Mennonites there are Ethnic Mennonites and others who are not. Brethren groups have mostly lost their ethnic distinctiveness.

Total worldwide membership of the Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and related churches totals 1,616,126 (as of 2009) with about 60 percent in Africa, Asia and Latin America. [59] In 2015 there were some 300,000 Amish, more than 200,000 "Russian" Mennonites in Latin America, some 60,000 to 80,000 Old Order Mennonites and some 50,000 Hutterites, who have preserved their ethnicity, their German dialects (Pennsylvania German, Plautdietsch, Hutterisch), plain dress and other old traditions.

Similar groups

The Bruderhof Communities were founded in Germany by Eberhard Arnold in 1920, [60] establishing and organisationally joining the Hutterites in 1930. The group moved to England after the Gestapo confiscated their property in 1933, and subsequently to Paraguay to avoid military conscription, and by settlement then moved the United States after World War II. [61]

Groups deriving from the Schwarzenau Brethren, often called German Baptists, while not directly descended from the 16th-century Anabaptists, are usually considered Anabaptist because of an almost identical doctrine and practice. The modern-day Brethren movement is a combination of Anabaptism and Radical Pietism.

The relations between Baptists and Anabaptists were early strained. In 1624, the then five existing Baptist churches of London issued a condemnation of the Anabaptists. [62] Puritans of England and their Baptist branch arose independently, and although they may have been informed by Anabaptist theology, they clearly differentiate themselves from Anabaptists as seen in the London Baptist Confession of Faith A.D. 1644, "Of those Churches which are commonly (though falsely) called ANABAPTISTS". [63] Moreover, Baptist historian Chris Traffanstedt maintains that Anabaptists share "some similarities with the early General Baptists, but overall these similarities are slight and not always relational. In the end, we must come to say that this group of Christians does not reflect the historical teaching of the Baptists". [64] German Baptists are not related to the English Baptist movement and were inspired by central European Anabaptists. Upon moving to the United States, they associated with Mennonites and Quakers.

Anabaptist characters exist in popular culture, most notably Chaplain Tappman in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 , James (Jacques) in Voltaire's novella Candide , Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera Le prophète (1849), and the central character in the novel Q , by the collective known as "Luther Blissett".

Neo-Anabaptists

The term Neo-Anabaptist has been used to describe a late twentieth and early twenty-first century theological movement within American evangelical Christianity which draws inspiration from theologians located within the Anabaptist tradition while remaining ecclesiastically outside of it. Neo-Anabaptists have been noted for its "low church, counter-cultural, prophetic-stance-against-empire ethos" and for focusing on pacifism, social justice and poverty. [65] [66] The works of Mennonite theologians Ron Sider and John Howard Yoder are frequently cited as having a strong influence on the movement. [67]

Persons often associated with the Neo-Anabaptist movement include Stanley Hauerwas, Scot McKnight, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, and Shane Claiborne. [65] [ unreliable source ]

Legacy

Common Anabaptist beliefs and practices of the 16th century continue to influence modern Christianity and Western society.

The Anabaptists were early promoters of a free church and freedom of religion (sometimes associated with separation of church and state). [lower-alpha 5] When it was introduced by the Anabaptists in the 15th and 16th centuries, religious freedom independent of the state was unthinkable to both clerical and governmental leaders. Religious liberty was equated with anarchy; Kropotkin [69] traces the birth of anarchist thought in Europe to these early Anabaptist communities.

According to Estep:

Where men believe in the freedom of religion, supported by a guarantee of separation of church and state, they have entered into that heritage. Where men have caught the Anabaptist vision of discipleship, they have become worthy of that heritage. Where corporate discipleship submits itself to the New Testament pattern of the church, the heir has then entered full possession of his legacy. [70]

See also

Notes

  1. Since the middle of the 20th century, the German-speaking world no longer uses the term "Wiedertäufer" (translation: "Re-baptizers"), considering it biased. The term Täufer (translation: "Baptizers") is now used, which is considered more impartial. From the perspective of their persecutors, the "Baptizers" baptized for the second time those "who as infants had already been baptized". The denigrative term Anabaptist signifies rebaptizing and is considered a polemical term, so it has been dropped from use in modern German. However, in the English-speaking world, it is still used to distinguish the Baptizers more clearly from the Baptists, a Protestant sect that developed later in England. Cf. their self-designation as "Brethren in Christ" or "Church of God": Stayer, James M. (2001). "Täufer". Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE) (in German). 32. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 597–617. ISBN   3-11-016712-3. Brüder in Christo", "Gemeinde Gottes.
  2. For example, the followers of Thomas Müntzer and Balthasar Hubmaier.
  3. A "true church" movement is a part of the Protestant or Reformed group of Christianity that claims to represent the true faith and order of New Testament Christianity. Most only assert this in relation to their church doctrines, polity, and practice (e.g., the ordinances), while a few hold they are the only true Christians. Some examples of Anabaptistic true church movements are the Landmark Baptists and the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. The Church of God, the Stone-Campbell restoration movement, and others represent a variation in which the "true church" apostatized and was restored, in distinction to this idea of apostolic or church succession. These groups trace their "true church" status through means other than those generally accepted by Roman Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity, both of which likewise claim to represent the true faith and order of New Testament Christianity.
  4. Such as the Adoptionism of the Paulicianists; some of the other groups often cited were in fact little different from the Catholics and bore little similarity to modern Baptists.
  5. The origins of religious freedom in the United States are traced back to the Anabaptists. [68]

Related Research Articles

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Jacob Hutter Tyrolean Anabaptist leader and founder of the Hutterites

JakobHutter, was a Tyrolean Anabaptist leader and founder of the Hutterites.

Old Order River Brethren

The Old Order River Brethren are a small Old Order Christian denomination with roots in the Mennonite church and German Radical Pietism through the Schwarzenau Brethren.

The Swiss Mennonite Conference is an Anabaptist Christian body in Switzerland.

Felix Manz Swiss martyr

Felix Manz was an Anabaptist, a co-founder of the original Swiss Brethren congregation in Zürich, Switzerland, and the first martyr of the Radical Reformation.

Theology of Anabaptism Christian religion

Theology of Anabaptism is the beliefs of the Anabaptist movement. Anabaptism has a reputation of de-emphasizing theology in deference to living righteously. The various branches of the Anabaptist movement take slightly different approaches to theology.

Balthasar Hubmaier German Anabaptist leader

Balthasar Hubmaier was an influential German Anabaptist leader. He was one of the most well-known and respected Anabaptist theologians of the Reformation.

George Blaurock Swiss founder of Anabaptism

Jörg vom Haus Jacob, commonly known as George Blaurock, was an Anabaptist leader and evangelist. Along with Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz, he was a co-founder of the Swiss Brethren in Zürich, and thereby one of the founders of Anabaptism.

Zwickau prophets three reformers of religion, in Germany, in the 16th century

The Zwickau prophets were three men of the Radical Reformation from Zwickau in the Electorate of Saxony in the Holy Roman Empire, who were possibly involved in a disturbance in nearby Wittenberg and its evolving Reformation in early 1522.

Radical Reformation Anabaptist movement concurrent with the Protestant Reformation

The Radical Reformation represented a response to perceived corruption both in the Roman Catholic Church and in the expanding Magisterial Protestant movement led by Martin Luther and many others. Beginning in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, the Radical Reformation gave birth to many radical Protestant groups throughout Europe. The term covers radical reformers like Thomas Müntzer, Andreas Karlstadt (1486-1541), groups like the Zwickau prophets of 1521-1522 and Anabaptist groups like the Hutterites (founded c.  1527 and the Mennonites.

Hans Hut German Anabaptist

Hans Hut was a very active Anabaptist in southern Germany and Austria.

Swiss Brethren branch of Anabaptism

The Swiss Brethren are a branch of Anabaptism that started in Zürich, spread to nearby cities and towns, and then was exported to neighboring countries. Today's Swiss Mennonite Conference can be traced to the Swiss Brethren.

Groffdale Conference Mennonite Church

The Groffdale Conference Mennonite Church, also called Wenger Mennonite, is the largest Old Order Mennonite group to use horse-drawn carriages for transportation. Along with the automobile, they reject many modern conveniences, while allowing electricity in their homes and steel-wheeled tractors to till the fields. Initially concentrated in eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, their 10,000 members resided in eight other states as of 2008/9.

Wilhelm Reublin was a leading figure of the Swiss Brethren movement. Reublin was born in 1484 in Rottenburg am Neckar. In 1521, after studying theology in Freiburg and Tübingen, Reublin became the pastor at St. Alban in Basel and began to advocate reform. St. Alban was soon the center of the evangelical movement in Basel. In the Fall of 1522 Reublin was expelled from the city for his Reformation sermons and moved to Witikon in 1524, where he became the local pastor and preached against infant baptism. Reublin was with Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz in Zürich in January 1525 at the birth of the Anabaptist movement. Reublin took part in a disputation on 17 January 1525 after which Grebel, Mantz and Reublin were given eight days to leave the canton.

Weaverland Old Order Mennonite Conference

The Weaverland Conference, also called Horning Church or Black-bumper Mennonites is a Christian denomination of Old Order Mennonites who use cars.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Protestantism:

Brethren is a name adopted by a wide range of mainly Christian religious groups throughout history which do share historical roots. The largest movements by this name are the Schwarzenau Brethren, Anabaptists, Moravian Brethren, and Plymouth Brethren.

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Bibliography

Further reading