The Mennonite Religion is a Protestant church that originated from the Anabaptists, a radical reform movement of the 16th-century Reformation. It took the name from Menno Simons, a Dutch priest who consolidated and institutionalized the work initiated by moderate Anabaptist leaders.
Mennonites are found in many countries of the world but are concentrated most heavily in the United States and Canada.
Reformist adherents questioned on biblical grounds, the nature of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, which the Anabaptists thought should include only those who publicly profess their faith in Jesus Christ.
Because this notion implied religious diversity, the authorities sought to suppress the movement. Although persecution soon scattered the Brethren across Europe, their doctrinal views appealed to many people, and for a time the movement grew.
Menno Simons was consecrated as a priest in 1524 but converted to the Mennonite Religion in 1536.
History states that the Anabaptists actually persecuted other non-Antibaptists at this time but were then massacred by a combined Catholic-Protestant army.
Simons consolidated and institutionalized the work that the moderate Anabaptist leaders of Europe had begun and confirmed the Anabaptist tradition of pacifism. He represents a second generation of leaders through whom an emerging tradition determined basic faith and doctrine.
Anabaptist-Mennonite thought has been characterized by its insistence on a separation between religion and the world. The persecutions of the 16th century forced Anabaptists to withdraw from society in order to survive, a strategy that became central in Mennonite theology.
Consequently, most Mennonites have remained tightly bound to their communities, have practiced rigorous group discipline, and wear distinctive clothing, the plain coat a jacket without lapels for men and the covering, a small hat made of lace for women.
Their isolation encouraged the sectarian virtues of frugality, hard work, piety, and mutual helpfulness but also frequently led to schism.
By the mid-20th century, however, Mennonites were deeply involved in the social, educational, and economic world around them, a situation that led to revolutionary changes in their life and thought. It also prompted a new search for identity as a distinct group in the modern world, through study of their denominational history, sociological analysis, and theological interaction with other groups.
Mennonites believe in the Trinity and the Scriptures, especially the New Testament as the final authority for faith and life. They stress the importance of believer’s baptism and the public confession of faith. They teach the symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper, and some practice foot washing.
They believe in not conforming to the world, church discipline, rejection of oaths, and pacifism. Mennonite teachings are based on New Testament ethics that reject both war and the use of coercive measures to maintain social order.
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