Mennonite History begins during the early 1500's in Switzerland with a movement that became known as the Anabaptists.  After careful study of the New Testament, three priests, Conrad Grabel, Felix Manz, and George Blaurock, came to the conclusion that baptism was not meant for babies but for believers who made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.  On January 21, 1525, these three men baptized one another, breaking from the state-church tradition of the time and began a small fellowship of Swiss Brethren.

When the movement reached the Netherlands, another priest became prominent in history.  This priest’s name was Menno Simons, from which the names Mennoists and then Mennonites were derived.
Mennonites believed in part that:
    The church should not be ruled by the state
    That baptism is for those making a personal confession of faith
    That believers are to mimic the life of Christ and forsake worldly practices
    That one should not resist but passively submit to aggression.
These beliefs brought a great amount of persecution on Mennonites from governments, the established church, and even reformers of that day.  As a result, the Mennonites were forced from place to place, seeking peace from aggressors which eventually led to settlements being established in the United States.  Mennonites still hold to these New Testament values today. 

Over the next few centuries, Mennonites became known for hard work, helpfulness, and separation from the world which was visible by their plain dress.  Today, some Mennonites retain traditional customs and styles such as the white prayer veiling, but many dress as everyone else does.  The traits of hard work and helpfulness are still at the core of the Mennonite culture.

Mennonite Disaster Service is a name well known to the Red Cross for their energetic involvement with clean-up efforts after floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Likewise, Mennonite Central Committee is an organization that aids the poor and the disadvantaged around the world.  Young people from many countries become part of their “trainee” program each year. 

People often confuse Mennonites with the Amish whose culture has been “frozen” for the last few centuries.  The Amish branched off from the Mennonites in the late 1600’s when a leader named Jakob Ammann, separated from the mainstream on the issue of church discipline.  The most obvious difference with the Amish today is their belief in cultural separation as is evident by Amish dress and practice. Mennonites believe that ministering to the culture is best accomplished by being involved in rather than separating from the culture. 

One writer of a prominent encyclopedia wrote that the Mennonites take the Sermon on the Mount very seriously.  That is quite a commendation.

Written by: Jean S Pfeiffer