Who Are the Mennonites?

Some Mennonites could be labeled "cultural Mennonites." These individuals bear the name Mennonite due to an ethnic or historical heritage. In a practical sense, however, they do not subscribe to nor live by the basic tenets of historic Mennonite Anabaptism.
This next section is taken from a tract copyrighted by Christian Light Publications and used here by permission.

More than four centuries ago in Zurich, Switzerland, a new fellowship of Christian believers was formed. The Roman Catholic Church had become unspeakably corrupt. Martin Luther had separated himself from it but had continued the practice of infant baptism. Ulrich Zwingli also had separated from Romanism, but continued to grant to the political rulers the right to decide the policies and practices of the church.

The new fellowship, led by Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz, was formed to give men and women the opportunity to follow the Lord Jesus Christ according to the whole Word of God, the Bible. The group, hunted and persecuted at first, was mockingly called "Anabaptist" because of their rejection of infant baptism and the practice of believers' baptism. Later they were called "Mennonite" because of the spiritual leadership of Menno Simmons, who left the Catholic priesthood to follow Christ.

Many Mennonites, because of the fierce intensity of persecution, migrated to Russia. When their religious freedom was threatened there, they joined others in North America who had come from Germany, Switzerland and Holland. In the United States and Canada, Mennonites now number well over 300,000. Many also reside in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.

Faithful Mennonites believe that no person can be accepted by God except through confessing His Son, Jesus Christ, as master, and trusting Him as Savior from sin. This continued trust in Christ brings from Him power over sin in the present, and confident hope of heaven in the future.

Faithful Mennonites believe that the only spiritually successful life, the life acceptable to God, is that lived by the power of God in obedience to the Holy Scriptures. Such a life is possible only through a continuing fellowship in Christ.

What comes next -- except for the indented italicized comments, which are my own -- are at-times-disconnected snippets excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia (copyright 1993, 1994).

The era of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation in Europe spawned a number of radical reform groups, among them the Anabaptists. These Christians regarded the Bible as their only rule for faith and life. They denied the merit of infant baptism, however. Some Anabaptists were revolutionaries. Others, like Menno Simons (1496-1561), were more moderate. Because of their radical beliefs, the Anabaptists were persecuted by other Protestants as well as by Roman Catholics.

Notice that regarding the Bible as the "only rule for faith and life" was (is?) considered radical! Furthermore, note that denying the merit of infant baptism is presented as a contrast to regarding the Bible as our only rule for faith and life!
Simons, a Dutch priest, gathered the scattered Anabaptists of Northern Europe into congregations in 1536. These groups soon came to be called by his name. By the late 16th century the Mennonites had found political toleration in the Netherlands. Some groups had moved meanwhile to Poland and to Ukraine. Later persecutions drove many into southern Germany, eastern France, and especially to North America. Today the heaviest concentrations are in Canada and the United States. The Mennonite villages in Soviet Ukraine were dispersed after World War II. Other groups similar to the Mennonites are the Amish and the Hutterites, both of which have settlements in North America.

The early Mennonites believed they should live in complete separation from the world around them. They tended, therefore, to establish their own communities; Hutterites still do. They were nevertheless zealous in mission work and acts of charity. With the passage of time the separation from the world diminished. Through their various organizations (the Old Mennonite Church, the General Conference Mennonite Church, and the Mennonite Brethren) they continue their missions and charitable work. Since 1925 there has been a Mennonite World Conference that meets every five years. Missionaries from Europe and North America started congregations in Latin America, Africa, India, and Oceania. The denomination also supports colleges and seminaries.

Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Quakers openly repudiated wars fought for whatever reason.

In the late 1600s Quaker and Mennonite Christians in the British colonies of North America were protesting slavery on religious grounds.

Those who were most active in helping slaves to escape by way of the "railroad" were Northern abolitionists and other antislavery groups, including members of several Protestant denominations, especially Quakers, Methodists, and Mennonites.

Would you like to visit a Mennonite congregation? Good! Here on my site I provide an Anabaptist church locator to help you find out if there is one in your area.

Additional reading:   What Is an Anabaptist?   |   Anabaptist History   |   Anabaptist Doctrine   |   More Anabaptist Beliefs

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More Anabaptist-related books on Amazon
Books for your consideration:

The Anabaptist Story

Martyrs Mirror

An Introduction to Mennonite History

War, Peace, and Nonresistance