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Mennonite Churches.

1. Mennonites (named after Menno* Simons) are spiritual descendants of 16th-c. Anabaps. (see also Baptist Churches, 2). Early Anabap. groups related to Mennonites were known by various names. Anabaps. in Switz. and S Ger. came to be called Swiss Brethren; leaders included G. Blaurock,* K. Grebel,* F. Manz,* P. Marbeck,* and M. Sattler.* Official name in the Neth.: Doopsgezind (Doopsgesinde; Doopsgesint; Doopsgezinden; Doopsghesinde). They have also been called Wederdoper (Wiedertäufer). Followers of J. Huter* are called Hutterian Brethren (Hutterites; Huterites). United Missionary Ch. is the name adopted 1947 by a US and Can. group called up to that time Mennonite Brethren in Christ Ch. Other groups have other names.

2. Mennonites entertain widely divergent doctrinal views but agree on theol. principles summarized in the 18 arts. of the 1632 Dordrecht* Confession.

Formal Principle: Acc. to Mennonite theol., the source of Christian knowledge is the Bible; but at the same time the true understanding of saving truth is said to come from a mystical experience of Christ.

Mennonites strongly emphasize the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit (enthusiasm*), who is said to “guide the saints into all truth.” The Holy Spirit is viewed as “the inner word” enabling Christians to understand the Bible. Mennonites insist that without this inner word, or inner light, the Bible is a dead letter and a dark lantern.

Material Principle: The cen. doctrine can probably most appropriately be called “mystical pietism.” The pronounced mystical spiritualism, which seems to dominate the whole doctrinal system, appears most clearly in emphasis on the outward purity of the ch. Mennonites often claim affinity to Novatians (see Novatianism), Paulicians,* Albigenses,* Waldenses,* and similar groups, because these stressed abstinence from the world and advocated a life of self-abnegation. Mennonites believe that the ch. must be a visible organization of regenerated persons and that it must be kept holy by the strict exercise of the ban.

Mystical pietism becomes the mother of a paradox: complete tolerance of conflicting and even mutually exclusive doctrinal views, and violent dissensions in matters of cultus. Mennonites offer shelter to “enthusiasts” of the Quaker type; to Socinians, who deny the doctrine of the Trin. and teach that personal piety is the essence of Christianity; to Pelagians and Arminians; to spiritualists and mystics; and to Quietists, who see in faith an intense consciousness of God without a definite knowledge about God.

3. The many schisms among Mennonites were occasioned largely by divergent views on discipline. But in recent yrs. the separate bodies or agencies have moved toward closer cooperation. Am. Mennonites may be grouped: conservatives, a cen. group, and liberals.

a. Conservatives are represented in Am. esp. by the Old Order Amish Ch., named after J. Amman* and derived from Amish who came to Am. beginning ca. 1720; they use hooks and eyes instead of buttons, hold worship services in private houses, and use the Ger. language. The Conservative Mennonite Conference (called Conservative Amish Mennonite Ch. till 1954) separated gradually from the Old Order Amish Ch.; they introd. meetinghouses and the use of Eng. in worship. The Church of God in Christ (Mennonite) was organized 1859 in Ohio to reest. order and discipline. The Old Order (Wisler) Mennonite Ch. traces its origin to an 1870 separation of Mennonites in protest against use of Eng. in services and the introd. of Sunday schools. The Reformed Mennonite Ch., organized 1812 Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, tries to hold closely to the NT and believes that there is but one ch. of believers united in love and doctrine. The Beachy Amish Mennonite Chs. separated from the Old Order Amish Ch. over a period of yrs. The small Stauffer Mennonite Ch. was organized 1845 Lancaster, Pennsylvania The Ev. Mennonite Ch., Inc. (formerly Defenseless Mennonite Ch. of N. Am.) separated from the Amish and organized ca. 1865 Adams Co., Indiana Hutterian Brethren, named after J. Huter,* have groups in South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, Alask., Sask., and Man.

Mennonites settled in Eur. Russ. as early as 1789, in Crimea (Russ. Krim) beginning 1862. The Ev. Mennonite Brethren Conf. (formerly Defenseless Mennonite Brethren of Christ in N. Am.), organized 1889 Mountain Lake, Minnesota, are derived from 1873–74 Russ. immigrants. Ev. Mennonite Ch. is the name adopted 1952 by the Kleine Gemeinde Mennonite Ch. in Man., Can., derived from 1874 Russ. immigrants; another 1874 Russ. immigrant Kleine Gemeinde group settled at Jansen, Jefferson Co., Nebraska, moved to Meade, Kansas, 1906–08, dissolved 1944; many mems, of the Kleine Gemeinde in Can. moved to Mex. in the late 1940s. Two 1874 Russ. immigrant groups to Am. merged 1960: the Gen. Conf. of Mennonite Brethren Chs. and the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Conf. (Krimmer Mennoniten Brüdergemeinde).

b. The cen. group is represented by the Mennonite Ch., founded 1683, largest Mennonite body in N. Am. Many who seceded from it reunited with it. It engages in educ., philanthropic, and miss. work. The Cen. Conf. Mennonite Ch. (till 1914 the Cen. Illinois Mennonite Conf.) joined The Gen. Conf. of the Mennonite Ch. of N. Am. (see c) 1945, lost identity 1951 in merger with the Middle Dist. Conf. of the Gen. Conf. Ch.

c. Liberals are represented by the Gen. Conf. Mennonite Ch., organized 1860 in Iowa as The Gen. Conf. of the Mennonite Ch. of N. Am. (name changed 1953). FEM EEF

See also Netherlands, 4.

See Religious Bodies (US), Bibliography of.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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