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Mennonite Genealogy in Switzerland, Pennsylvania & Ontario
Mennonite Historical Overview
Menno Simons (ca 1496-1561) was a Dutch religious reformer. In 1536 he left the
Roman Catholic priesthood because of his disagreement of
infant baptism and other Catholic teachings. He
organized and led the less aggressive division of
Anabaptists in Germany and Holland. The name
Mennonites is derived from his name, although he
did not actually found the sect.
Anabaptists was the name given to certain Christian
sects who believed that infant baptism is not authorized in
Scripture, and that baptism should be administered only
to believers. Prominent in Europe during the 16th century
they were persecuted everywhere. Their chief leaders
were Thomas Münzer and John of Leiden. Mennonites and Hutterites are descended from them.
The Mennonites were a Protestant sect which arose from Swiss ANABAPTISTS. They were also called Swiss Brethren. The
group seceded in 1523 from the state church in Zürich Switzerland
after rejecting its authority and infant baptism. They
believed in nonresistance, refused to take oaths, and
held the Bible as their sole rule of faith. Their distinctive
beliefs were embodied in the Dordrecht Confession of
Faith (1632). Mennonites have two sacraments, baptism
(for adults only) and the Lord's Supper. The sect spread
to Russia, France, and Holland. In America Mennonites
first settled in 1683 at Germantown, PA. One of the most
conservative divisions of the Mennonite Church is the
Amish Church, which, under Jacob Ammann broke away
in the late 17th century from the main body in Europe. The
principal U.S. Amish groups are the Old Order Amish,
who hold services in German and adhere to traditional
customs (wearing plain clothing and shunning
modern education and technology), and the
Conservative Amish, who hold services in English as
well as German and have adopted some innovations.
During the sixteenth century, the Mennonites and other Anabaptists were relentlessly persecuted. By the seventeenth century, some of them joined the state church in Switzerland and persuaded the authorities to relent in their attacks. The Mennonites outside the state church were divided on whether to remain in communion with their brothers within the state church, and this led to a split. Those against remaining in communion with them became known as the Amish, after their founder Jacob Amman. Those who remained in communion with them retained the name Mennonite
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