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The Anabaptist Movement

Throughout medieval history, groups had left the established church seeking a simpler Christian lifestyle. With the availability of the Bible in their own languages, these movements spread throughout northern Europe. Some rejected the traditions of the church, or the priesthood, or the sacraments; while others simply gathered for prayer, for Bible study, or for Christian fellowship within or without the recognized churches.


At the same time as the Protestant Reformation, a time when people were examining the Bible in their own languages, another group of Christians came to another conclusion, one that was to find them at odds with both the Roman Catholic and the newly emerging Protestant churches.

Many of these dissenting groups rejected the practice of infant baptism, requiring that converts be rebaptized. These groups became known as Anabaptists.

The Anabaptists had come to believe that the church was made up only of those who had experienced personal faith in Christ. They also tended to desire a simpler form of worship, Thomas Munzerbased on the example of the New Testament church. For them, communion was an expression of fellowship, intended to remind them of Christ's sacrifice for the sins of man.

A variety of differing groups fell within the Anabaptist label. Followers of Thomas Munzer, for example, didn't hesitate to use force. Munzer was a priest and former follower of Martin Luther who became a leader in peasant uprisings in central Germany in 1525.

More typical were the pacifists, such as the Hutterites of Austria, who formed their own communities based on a NewMenno Simons Testament model.

Menno Simons attracted a following, which became known as the Mennonites, distinguished by passive resistance to the state when it went against the Scriptures, and by a relentless attempt to keep the church pure and free of corruption.

The Amish have their roots in the Mennonite movement. Both were part of the Anabaptist movement, believing that only adults who had confessed their faith should be baptized, and that they should remain separate from the larger society.

Many early Anabaptists were put to death as heretics by both Catholics and Protestants, and others fled into the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany. This is where the Amish traditions of agriculture, and of meeting in homes rather than churches, began.

Amish wagonIn 1693, a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman broke from the Mennonite Church; his followers were called Amish. Although the two groups have split several times, they still share similar beliefs concerning baptism, non-violence, and basic Bible doctrines. They differ in matters of dress, technology, language, form of worship, and interpretation of the Bible.


The Anabaptist movement didn't catch on well in England, but there was already a a tradition of Lollards and other groups who objected to such things as the robes worn by the priests, lavish music for worship, and the traditional liturgy.

Congregationalists began to organize churches independent of the state, comprised only of believers, with each church independent although linked in fellowship. The Baptists went further, saying that baptism was only for adults, as an expression of their faith in Christ, not for infants. On this, the Baptists and the Anabaptists agreed.

With the victory of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan forces in the English Revolution came a chance to experiment with a variety of religious expression, from the violent Fifth Monarchy Men and Fox's Quakers, to the Ranters.

King Charles I, who returned the monarchy to England, also brought about a reestablishment of the Church of England, and for a time dissent was persecuted, but it was eventually tolerated, then accepted as a British institution. Sects which were once illegal became mainstream, respectable denominations; the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, Mayflowerthe Baptists, and the Society of Friends included.

The New World

The Puritans had a large influence in the New World. From the beginning of the 17th century, groups of persecuted Christians set out for America, hoping to find religious liberty and a new life. With their strong faith and practical drive, they helped to shape a thriving, moralistic society, one that fueled the energy of the modern United States of America.

























Overview of Bible Study