Who are Brethren and Mennonites?

Brethren and Mennonites do not subscribe to formal creeds or doctrines developed by a church hierarchy: our only written authority is the Bible. Interpretation is done by the body of believers themselves. However, through an emphasis on strict application of the Scripture our churches have developed guidelines of faith and witness which often distinguish us from other Christian denominations. These include:

Believer's Baptism.

Infant baptism is not practiced: Only those who are old enough to decide carefully and prayerfully that Jesus is their Lord are baptized. In addition, Baptism represents a commitment, but is not a "prerequisite" for salvation.

A Commitment to Peace and Reconciliation.

Jesus taught that a person should help not only their friends and neighbors, but also their enemies. We seek to help people and nations find peaceful resolution to conflict. When faced with the draft, most Brethren and Mennonite men choose alternative service instead of military service, and some in our churches refuse to register for the draft or to pay that portion of their taxes which goes to military spending. While the last two activities are illegal, a majority of our church members lend their support to the few who choose this witness.

Integrity of Speech.

We oppose the taking of oaths and use of any dishonest, intemperate or destructive patterns of speech, believing that the simple truth needs no embellishment.

The Simple Life.

We believe people should be stewards of God's earth. Our faith bids us to avoid waste and hoarding for self so that we may share with others.

Local Organization.

Our congregations function on an autonomous level; there is, however, cooperation at regional, nation, and international levels to coordinate various services and suggest new directions for the life of the church.

A Living Faith.

The church is a people, not a building; our commitment is expected to be made evident to the world through our daily lives.

Where Did Brethren And Mennonites Come From?

Both Brethren and Mennonites, along with the Amish, Holdemans, and Hutterites, trace their history to the Anabaptist movement, which started in Switzerland at the beginning of the 16th century and soon spread to other parts of Europe. It was the most radical wing the Protestant Reformation. Due to their belief in the voluntary nature of the faith (as opposed to the compulsory state church system of that time) and the refusal to bear arms, the Anabaptist posed a threat to the existing social order, and over 5,000 were martyred by both Catholics and Protestants within the first few generations of the movement.

The Mennonites are named after Menno Simons, a Roman Catholic priest in the Netherlands who joined the movement in 1536 and soon became its leader. He was important both as a theologian and organizer, traveling between underground congregations as a marked man, maintaining communication and keeping the spirit of the church alive. Persecution continued through the centuries, forcing Mennonites to resettle frequently; eventually, most emigrated to North and South America, although Mennonite churches still exist in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Russia.

The Brethren originated in Germany at the beginning of the 18th Century as a result of a convergence of Anabaptism and Pietism. Although growth was rapid, their beliefs brought persecution, and some fled to Holland. Eventually the Brethren received word of William Penn's welcome to religious refugees, and emigrated to southern Pennsylvania in large numbers. By 1732 there was no organized Brethren church in Europe.

Due to an emphasis on service and witness, Brethren and Mennonites have built schools and hospitals, provided agricultural and community assistance and evangelized throughout the world, leaving our church with a rich mixture of races and cultures. In North America alone there are about 240,000 Brethren and 313,000 Mennonites.

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Last update: Wednesday, 14-Mar-2007 21:00:10 EDT