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WHO ARE
THE
MENNONITES?
A Brief History

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God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy, and peace, so that God's healing and hope flow through us to the world.
 
On any Sunday you will find Mennonites gathered for worship in about 61 countries around the world. Presently with over one million members, the Mennonite Church has been in existence for more than 475 years, with a wide variety of practices and peoples: from Midwest farmer to a European architect; from the African chieftain to the South American sociologist. Although they speak dozens of languages, the thousands of different congregations count themselves as one family of faith -- one of many faith families in the Christian church.
 
 
The Name of Our Family
 
Like Lutherans who were named after Martin Luther, Mennonites were nicknamed after an early Dutch leader, Menno Simons. But just as Menno was a follower of Christ, so Mennonites today are followers of Christ, not Menno. (In a similar manner, a later, related family, the Amish, are named for their leader, Jacob Ammann.)
 
The Family Formed
 
This movement began in the 16th century within the Protestant Reformation in Europe. A small group of earnest young believers disagreed with reformers Martin Luther and Huldreich Zwingli over the concept of baptism of believers. Conrad Grebel led this group in an attempt to recover New Testament Christianity when they baptized one another and verbalized their faith in Jesus Christ at Zurich, Switzerland, in January 1525.
 
Believers Met Persecution, Martyrdom, Death
 
Fired by their new faith, the believers began to evangelize. The movement spread rapidly to South Germany and the Netherlands. The official churches immediately opposed the movement and scoffed at them as "Anabaptizers", which literally means  re-baptizers. The state would not tolerate this change from infant to adult baptism because in essence it defied the government-run church, despite the Anabaptists' strong appeal to Scripture in support of their position. In a short time, many Anabaptist leaders were martyred. Thousands more died gruesome deaths over the next two generations.
 
The Family Quietly Grows and Spreads
 
Fifty years of persecution took a terrible toll. The small groups lived without the right to own property or to meet publicly for worship. They moved to many places, including Russia and North America, seeking freedom to live their faith according to their consciences. From 1575 to 1850 the movement grew mainly by winning its own children to faith. In nearly every generation over the past 450 years, the church has experienced persecution somewhere in the world.
 
Reaching Out
 
North American Mennonites began organizing home and foreigh missions in the late 1800s. They sent a first wave of missionaries abroad during the years  1899-1915, and another round of mission expansion followed World War II. Especially since the 1940s, Mennonites have developed a substantial ministry of emergency relief and development services which stand alongside church extension. Currently, close to one-half of the total family is to be found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which is also where the church is experiencing the most rapid growth.
 
The Story Unfolds
 
The story of the Anabaptist-Mennonite family continues to unfold. Since 2000 A.D. there have been more Mennonites in Africa, Asia and South America than in North America. In this changing relationship, Anabaptist-Mennonites are asking what this means in a world in which nationalism, tribalism, racism, and class divide and destroy. Mennonites continue to stress peacemaking and family relationships (both spiritual and biological) as important for wholeness. This church has not always lived up to its ideals, but God is gracious as God has always been and will be. Join us in our search to make Jesus Christ Lord of our lives; --Our family can be your family!
 
An excellent in-depth article on the origin and history of the Mennonite church can be found on the Wikipedia web site. HERE is the link. Please bookmark our site before you leave.