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The Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons — of Friesland which today is a province of the Netherlands. Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus , which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states.

An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in , [2] but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer's baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches because of their commitment to pacifism.

In contemporary 21st-century society, Mennonites either are described only as a religious denomination with members of different ethnic origins [4] [5] or as both an ethnic group and a religious denomination. There is controversy among Mennonites about this issue, with some insisting that they are simply a religious group while others argue that they form a distinct ethnic group.

Conservative Mennonite groups, who speak Pennsylvania German , Plautdietsch Low German , or Bernese German fit well into the definition of an ethnic group, while more liberal groups and converts in developing countries do not. There are about 2. Mennonites can be found in communities in at least 87 countries on six continents [ citation needed ].

The early history of the Mennonites starts with the Anabaptists in the German and Dutch-speaking parts of central Europe. These forerunners of modern Mennonites were part of the Protestant Reformation , a broad reaction against the practices and theology of the Roman Catholic Church. Its most distinguishing feature is the rejection of infant baptism , an act that had both religious and political meaning since almost every infant born in western Europe was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church.

Other significant theological views of the Mennonites developed in opposition to Roman Catholic views or to the views of other Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli. Some of the followers of Zwingli's Reformed church thought that requiring church membership beginning at birth was inconsistent with the New Testament example. They believed that the church should be completely removed from government the proto— free church tradition , and that individuals should join only when willing to publicly acknowledge belief in Jesus and the desire to live in accordance with his teachings.

In the spirit of the times, other groups came to be, preaching about reducing hierarchy, relations with the state, eschatology , and sexual license, running from utter abandon to extreme chastity. These movements are together referred to as the " Radical Reformation ". They joined forces to fight the movement, using methods such as banishment, torture, burning, drowning or beheading.

Despite strong repressive efforts of the state churches, the movement spread slowly around western Europe, primarily along the Rhine. Officials killed many of the earliest Anabaptist leaders in an attempt to purge Europe of the new sect. Many believed that God did not condone killing or the use of force for any reason and were, therefore, unwilling to fight for their lives. The non-resistant branches often survived by seeking refuge in neutral cities or nations, such as Strasbourg.

Their safety was often tenuous, as a shift in alliances or an invasion could mean resumed persecution. Other groups of Anabaptists, such as the Batenburgers , were eventually destroyed by their willingness to fight. This played a large part in the evolution of Anabaptist theology. They believed that Jesus taught that any use of force to get back at anyone was wrong, and taught to forgive. In the early days of the Anabaptist movement, Menno Simons , a Catholic priest in the Low Countries , heard of the movement and started to rethink his Catholic faith.

He questioned the doctrine of transubstantiation but was reluctant to leave the Roman Catholic Church. His brother, a member of an Anabaptist group, was killed when he and his companions were attacked and refused to defend themselves. He soon became a leader within the Anabaptist movement and was wanted by authorities for the rest of his life. His name became associated with scattered groups of nonviolent Anabaptists whom he helped to organize and consolidate.

During the 16th century, the Mennonites and other Anabaptists were relentlessly persecuted. This period of persecution has had a significant impact on Mennonite identity. Martyrs Mirror , published in , documents much of the persecution of Anabaptists and their predecessors. Today, the book is still the most important book besides the Bible for many Mennonites and Amish, in particular for the Swiss-South German branch of the Mennonites. Persecution was still going on until in various parts of Switzerland.

Disagreements within the church over the years led to other splits; sometimes the reasons were theological, sometimes practical, sometimes geographical. Unable to persuade the rest of the Amish, they separated and formed a number of separate groups including the Conservative Mennonite Conference. Mennonites in Canada and other countries typically have independent denominations because of the practical considerations of distance and, in some cases, language. Many times these divisions took place along family lines, with each extended family supporting their own branch.

The first recorded account of this group is in a written order by Countess Anne , [ citation needed ] who ruled a small province in Central Europe, East Frisia. The presence of some small groups of violent Anabaptists was causing political and religious turmoil in her state, so she decreed that all Anabaptists were to be driven out.

The order made an exception for the non-violent branch known at that time as the Menists. Political rulers often admitted the Menists or Mennonites into their states because they were honest, hardworking and peaceful. When their practices upset the powerful state churches, princes would renege on exemptions for military service, or a new monarch would take power, and the Mennonites would be forced to flee again, usually leaving everything but their families behind.

Often, another monarch in another state would grant them welcome, at least for a while. While Mennonites in Colonial America were enjoying considerable religious freedom, their counterparts in Europe continued to struggle with persecution and temporary refuge under certain ruling monarchs. They were sometimes invited to settle in areas of poor soil that no one else could farm.

By contrast, in The Netherlands, the Mennonites nl: Doopsgezinden enjoyed a relatively high degree of tolerance. The Mennonites often farmed and reclaimed land in exchange for exemption from mandatory military service. Because the land still needed to be tended, the ruler would not drive out the Mennonites but would pass laws to force them to stay, while at the same time severely limiting their freedom. Mennonites had to build their churches facing onto back streets or alleys, and they were forbidden from announcing the beginning of services with the sound of a bell.

In addition, high taxes were enacted in exchange for both continuing the military service exemption, and to keep the states' best farmers from leaving. If a member or family could not afford the tax, it was often paid by others in the group. A strong emphasis on "community" was developed under these circumstances. It continues to be typical of Mennonite churches. As a result of frequently being required to give up possessions in order to retain individual freedoms, Mennonites learned to live very simply.

This was reflected both in the home and at church, where their dress and their buildings were plain. The music at church, usually simple German chorales, was performed a cappella. This style of music serves as a reminder to many Mennonites of their simple lives, as well as their history as a persecuted people. Some branches of Mennonites have retained this "plain" lifestyle into modern times.

The "Russian Mennonites" German: They are descended from Dutch Anabaptists , who came from the Netherlands and started around to settle around Danzig and in West Prussia , where they lived for about years. During that time they mixed with German Mennonites from different regions. Starting they established colonies in the south-west of the Russian Empire present-day Ukraine. Today the majority of traditional Russian Mennonites uses Standard German in church and for reading and writing.

Russian government officials invited Mennonites living in the Kingdom of Prussia to farm the Ukrainian steppes depopulated by Tatar raids in exchange for religious freedom and military exemption. Over the years the Mennonite farmers were very successful. Between and some 16, Mennonites of approximately 45, left Russia.

About nine thousand departed for the United States mainly Kansas and Nebraska and seven thousand for Canada mainly Manitoba. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Mennonites in Russia owned large agricultural estates and some had become successful as industrial entrepreneurs in the cities, employing wage labor. After the Russian Revolution of and the Russian Civil War — , all of these farms whose owners were called Kulaks and enterprises were expropriated by local peasants or the Soviet government.

Beyond expropriation , Mennonites suffered severe persecution during the course of the Civil War, at the hands of workers, the Bolsheviks and, particularly, the Anarcho-Communists of Nestor Makhno , who considered the Mennonites to be privileged foreigners of the upper class and targeted them. During expropriation, hundreds of Mennonite men, women and children were murdered in these attacks. This led to a wave of Mennonite emigration to the Americas U.

When the German army invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of during World War II, many in the Mennonite community perceived them as liberators from the communist regime under which they had suffered. When the tide of war turned, many of the Mennonites fled with the German army back to Germany where they were accepted as Volksdeutsche. The Soviet government believed that the Mennonites had "collectively collaborated" with the Germans. After the war, many of the Mennonites in the Soviet Union were forcibly relocated to Siberia and Kazakhstan and many were sent to gulags , as part of the Soviet program of mass internal deportations of various ethnic groups whose loyalty was seen as questionable.

Many German-Russian Mennonites who lived to the east not in Ukraine were deported to Siberia before the German army's invasion and were also often placed in labor camps. In the decades that followed, as the Soviet regime became less brutal, a number of Mennonites returned to Ukraine and Western Russia where they had formerly lived. In the s the governments of Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine gave these people the opportunity to emigrate, and the vast majority emigrated to Germany.

The Russian Mennonite immigrants in Germany from the s outnumber the pre community of Mennonites by three to one. The world's most conservative Mennonites in terms of culture and technology are the Mennonites affiliated with the Lower and Upper Barton Creek Colonies in Belize. Both groups do not use motors and paint. In Jakob Ammann led an effort to reform the Mennonite church in Switzerland and South Germany to include shunning , to hold communion more often, and other differences.

When the discussions fell through, Ammann and his followers split from the other Mennonite congregations. Ammann's followers became known as the Amish Mennonites or just Amish. Persecution and the search for employment forced Mennonites out of the Netherlands eastward to Germany in the 17th century. The first permanent settlement of Mennonites in the American colonies consisted of one Mennonite family and twelve Mennonite-Quaker [24] families of German extraction who arrived from Krefeld , Germany, in and settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

Among these early settlers was William Rittenhouse , a lay minister and owner of the first American paper mill. Jacob Gottschalk was the first bishop of this Germantown congregation. This early group of Mennonites and Mennonite-Quakers wrote the first formal protest against slavery in the United States. The treatise was addressed to slave-holding Quakers in an effort to persuade them to change their ways.

In the early 18th century, , Germans from the Palatinate emigrated to Pennsylvania, where they became known collectively as the Pennsylvania Dutch from the Anglicization of Deutsch or German. The Palatinate region had been repeatedly overrun by the French in religious wars, and Queen Anne had invited the Germans to go to the British colonies.

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The Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons — of Friesland which today is a province of the Netherlands. Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus , which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in , [2] but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer's baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches because of their commitment to pacifism.

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