Who Are Anabaptists?

woodcut: a man reaches out to rescue a man who fell through the ice
Dirk Willems's rescue, an early Anabaptist woodcut from the Martyr's Mirror
"Dirk.willems.rescue.ncs." Public Domain. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

The Anabaptists originated in the 1520s in Europe at the time of the Christian Reformation. Based on their reading of New Testament Scriptures, they believed that water baptism, a sign of membership in the Christian faith, should be reserved only for adults who could make their own decisions in matters of faith. This conviction led them to re-baptize one another as adults, even though they had been baptized previously as infants. For this practice, they were called "Anabaptists" by their opponents.

Anabaptists typically emphasize discipleship, peacemaking, and recognizing the presence of Christ in the gathered community of faith Spiritual descendants of the 16th-century Anabaptists practice adult believer's baptism, interpreting the authority of the Bible through the prioritizing focus of Jesus' teaching. Anabaptist Christians are not a homogenous, doctrinally-based group, but they often place emphasis on discipleship, peacemaking, and recognizing the presence of Christ in the gathered community of faith, usually called the church or congregation.

Some of the larger modern-day Anabaptist groups in North America

Anabaptist beliefs and practices

Anabaptist congregations and denominations are varied, but one thing they hold in common is the conviction that Christian faith is not only a "me and my God'' proposition. Believing that faith is nurtured best in community with other Christians, Anabaptists hold that true faith with integrity will pervade and affect all human relationships, and will shape how we see and value others.

Anabaptist Christians recognize the "priesthood of all believers." The life and ministry of Jesus Christ revealed the kingdom of God in which all people have value and each one's gifts are necessary to the life of the gathered community, that is, the church.

We are all human, created in the image of God, and necessary for the full expression of God's kingdom here on earth. The challenge for Anabaptists is not simply to become more accessible to those with disabilities. The greater challenge lies in embracing the reality that the contributions and gifts of all individuals are equally valuable and necessary for the health and life of God's people.

Resources from others

Third Way A site for those who seek information online about Mennonites, and a portal for those who seek to live out their Christian faith through Anabaptist values such as simple living, acts of service, and an emphasis on community, justice and peace.

Mennonite World Conference. International fellowship of churches in the Anabaptist tradition. About two-thirds of its baptized believers are African, Asian or Latin American.

Who Are Anabaptists? Ed Boschman, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches explains Anabaptist beliefs in a short article from Christianity Today.

The Naked Anabaptist is a book about Anabaptist values written by Stuart Murray, a neo-Anabaptist in the UK.