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About Mennonites

Men∙no∙nites?

An introduction to the Christian faith as understood by Mennonites

Mennonite Beginnings

Like many Christian churches, Mennonites trace their history back to the Protestant Reformation in Western Europe in the 1500’s.  The recent development of the printing press put translations of the Bible into the hands of laity for the first time.  Studying the scriptures, leaders and groups of Christians began calling into question some of the doctrines and practices of the state-sponsored Catholic Church – which at the time was the only church that existed.  Catholic priests, like Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, challenged certain teachings of the church which had no basis in scripture.

Those who participated in Zwingli’s Bible study groups in Zurich, Switzerland agreed that church reform was badly needed.  Some insisted, however, that if there was any hope for the church to return to the pure teachings of Christ, that it needed to break free from the state’s stifling hold.  Advocating for a completely voluntary church, made up of believers who freely chose Christ as their Savior and Lord, these Christians, on January 26, 1525 spontaneously baptized each other while meeting for prayer and Bible study in one of their homes.  This action angered the state church which, up until this time, compelled all citizens, regardless of their wishes, to be baptized into the church as infants.  Fearing that any undoing of the state church, which depended on adding citizens to the state tax rolls upon baptism, would lead to chaos, this group of Christians quickly became targets of persecution with thousands of these Christians being imprisoned, tortured and executed during the next two generations.
Christians who advocated a church separate from the state symbolized this break by rebaptizing each other.  They were called “Anabaptists,” which literally means “rebaptizers.”  Eventually they took their name from Menno Simons, a former Catholic priest in Holland, whose understanding of the scriptures was akin to what the Anabaptists emphasized.

Mennonites in North America

To escape persecution, many Mennonites fled western Europe for the more accommodating religious climate of North America and to Catherine the Great’s Russia.  When Russian Mennonites were eventually forced out of Russia, in the last half of the 1800’s and the early 1900’s, many migrated to the western United States and Canadian provinces, where today there is a large Mennonite population.

Swiss German Mennonites migrated to North America in the 1700’s and 1800’s, settling first across the Midwestern states.  Today large Mennonite populations can be found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas.

Key Mennonite Emphases

Mennonites believe in the close textual readings of the Christian Scriptures and that to truly know Jesus, one must follow his teachings.  The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) receives wide attention in the Mennonite Church, including Jesus’ command to love our enemies.  This has led to Mennonites actively witnessing to the way of peace at home and abroad.  Mennonites also emphasize that it is important for all Christians to live their faith.  Thus they encourage caring for one another, being in supportive spiritual community groups, living simply, serving those in need and promoting justice in all relationships.  Modern day Mennonites number over one million worldwide, with churches in North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Mennonites and the Amish

The Amish are part of the broader Anabaptist family and trace their history to 1693.  At that time Jakob Ammann, a Mennonite pastor, took issue with Swiss Mennonite leaders over what he saw as a lack of overall discipline in Mennonite congregations.  This lack of discipline was exemplified by the lapse of the “ban” against those who left the church in sin after being baptized into it.  Led by Ammann, these believers left the Mennonite Church to practice a stricter form of church discipline.  Called “Amish” these Anabaptists are widely known for their plain dress and rejection of modern technology and conveniences.

The Mennonite Dream

From their beginnings in 1525 through the present, Mennonites have pursued a dream:

  • A dream that it is reasonable to follow Jesus Christ daily, radically, totally in life.
  • A dream that it is practical to obey the Sermon on the Mount, and the whole New Testament, literally, honestly, sacrificially.
  • A dream that it is thinkable to practice the way of reconciling love in human conflicts and warfare, nondefensively and nonresistantly.
  • A dream that it is possible to confess Jesus as Lord above all nationalism, racism, or materialism.
  • A dream that it is feasible to build a communal church of brothers and sisters who are voluntary, disciplined, and mutually committed to each other in Christ.
  • A dream that life can be lived simply, following the Jesus-way in lifestyle, in possessions, in service.   

Helpful websites for information about Mennonites

www.MennoniteUSA.org is the official website of the Mennonite Church USA.

www.thirdway.com is a website produced by Mennonite Media.  It includes such sections as:  Who are the Mennonites?  Basic beliefs, Historical Teachings and Practices and Frequently Asked Questions.

www.mcc.org
is the website for Mennonite Central Committee, the service arm of the Mennonite Church.

No one may truly know Christ, except on who follows Him in life. – Hans Denk (1500-1527)

“True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant.
It clothes the naked.
It feeds the hungry.
It comforts the sorrowful.
It shelters the destitute.
It serves those that harm it.
It binds up that which is wounded.
It has become all things to all people.” – Menno Simons
(c. 1496-1561)

Upcoming Events

  • June 27, 2017 @ 7:00 pm
    Book Discussion Group
  • June 28, 2017 @ 6:45 pm
    Wednesday Evening Walking Club
  • July 5, 2017 @ 6:45 pm
    Wednesday Evening Walking Club
  • July 6, 2017 @ 7:00 pm
    EPS Commission meets
  • July 7, 2017 @ 6:30 pm
    Cumberland Vista Fellowship

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Slate Hill Mennonite Church