The Mennonite story is about a people on the move. From their Anabaptist beginnings in Switzerland, Holland, and Germany, Mennonites have now spread virtually all around the world. But how did this movement start? Why are there so many different groups? Well, the best place to start is at the beginning...
Mennonites trace their historical roots back to the European Reformation in the early 1500s. During this tumultuous period many groups emerged from the Roman Catholic church. The members of one group disagreed with baptizing children. They believed that entering the Christian church should be one's own decision, and so adults, not children, should receive baptism. They began to baptize adults, against the strict orders of official church leaders.
This group was originally known as the "re-baptizers" or "Anabaptists," since the adults receiving baptism had already been baptized as children. Although still a Christian group, the Anabaptists were clearly distinct from both the traditional Roman Catholic church, as well as from other Protestant reformers. As a result, they were seen with suspicion from both sides, and were sometimes even killed for their beliefs.
As time went on, the Anabaptist movement continued to grow. Later in the 1500s, Menno Simons became an influential leader of the group in Holland and Northern Germany. As a result, people in this community came to be called "Mennists." Later, after contact with English speakers, these people and related groups became known as "Mennonites."
Created 1998 by Derek Suderman