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THE MENNONITE CHURCH | History



Published: Sat, April 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mennonites draw their name from Menno Simonsz, a 16th century Dutch priest. He was an early leader of the Anabaptist movement that began in Switzerland and quickly spread to Germany and elsewhere.

The term Anabaptist was used to refer to "re-baptizers," people who rejected their infant baptism and were baptized again as adults old enough to understand their confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Other Anabaptist groups today are the Amish (formed in the 1690s when the Swiss Mennonite bishop left the Mennonites), the Brethren in Christ Church and the Apostolic Christian Church. Anabaptists came out of the early 16th century Protestant reformation.

Few Mennonites today wear the plain clothes characteristic of Amish communities.

Mennonites trace their origin to the Swiss Brethren, formed in 1525. They were widely persecuted but eventually gathered strength in the Netherlands and Poland. Other persecutions and upheavals there and elsewhere, especially in Russia, led to Mennonite migration to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. The immigrants included many German speakers.

Mergers of various Mennonite bodies have today yielded the Mennonite Church USA and the Mennonite Church Canada, though there are various divisions based on practice within the Mennonite tradition. Mennonites hold to most elements of mainline Protestant theology and have become widely known as a peace church because of a commitment to live in harmony with themselves and others.

The Mennonite Central Committee, which the quilt sales benefit, is a relief, service and peace agency of 15 North American Mennonite groups and the Brethren in Christ Church. Its mission statement says it "seeks to demonstrate God's love by working among people suffering from poverty, conflict, oppression and natural disaster." MCC, which works in nearly 60 countries, was founded in 1920, originally to respond to needs of hungry people in the Soviet Union.

Source: Knight Ridder Newspapers




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