The Mennonites are a group of Christian denominations based on the teachings and tradition of Menno. They are one of the peace churches, which hold to a doctrine of non-violence and pacifism. They are the modern denominations which present many Anabaptist views.
Their core beliefs, deriving from Anabaptist traditions are:
- Baptism of believers understood as threefold: Baptism by the spirit (internal change of heart), Baptism by water (public demonstration of witness), and baptism by blood (martyrdom and asceticism)
- Church discipline understood as threefold : Confession of Sins, Absolution of Sin, and Re-admission of Sinner in the church.
- The Lord's Supper as Memorial, shared by baptised believers within the discipline of the church.
- Foot Washing as continuing outer sign of humility within the church.
Foot Washing was not originally an Anabaptist practice. Pilgram Marpeck before 1556 included it, and it became widespread in the late 1500s and the 1600s. Today it is practiced by some Mennonites as a memorial sacrament, in memory of Christ washing the feet of his disciples as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John.
One of the earliest expressions of their faith was the Schleitheim Confession, adopted in February 24, 1527. Its seven articles covered:
- The Ban (Excommunication)
- Breaking of Bread;
- Separation from the Abomination
- Pastors in the Church
- The Sword
- The Oath
During the sixteenth century, the Mennonites and other Anabaptists were relentlessly persecuted. By the seventeenth century, some of them joined the state church in Holland, 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 Jakob (??? -- I forget his actual name). Those who remained in communion with them retained the name Mennonite.
Other disagreements over the years have led to other splits; sometimes the reasons were theological, sometimes practical, sometimes geographical. For instance, near the beginning of the twentieth century, there were some in the Amish church that wanted to begin having Sunday Schools and evangelize. Unable to persuade the rest of the Amish, they separated and formed the Conservative Mennonite Church. Mennonites in Canada and other countries typically have independent denominations due to the practical considerations of distance and, in some cases, language.