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Continental European Protestantism


Mennonites

Doctrines Mennonite doctrine is encapsulated in the following statements of faith: the Schleitheim Articles (1527), the Dordrecht Confession (1632), the Christian Fundamentals (1921), and the Mennonite Confession of Faith (1963). Like almost all Christian traditions, Mennonites believe in the Trinity and that Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnate. The Bible is inspired by God and is the sole source of authority for Christians. Human beings are created in God's image but this image has been tarnished through disobedience and sin. It is through Jesus Christ that salvation from sin is offered. Jesus will return to judge all people and create a new heaven and a new earth.
The Mennonites have a number of doctrines that distinguish them from some other mainstream Christian traditions. They differ principally in their perception of the church and its relationship to the state, which is regarded as a secular institution. The church consists only of those who have accepted God's offer of salvation. They believe that no one should be coerced into joining the church or persecuted on account of their beliefs, for faith can only be a matter of personal choice. Only believing Christians can be baptised; infant baptism has no basis in the Bible. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are signs of God's grace. Mennonites practice the washing of feet following the example of Jesus' act of washing his disciples feet. This serves as a reminder of the need of personal cleansing from sin. Mennonites do not swear oaths and avoid all forms of violence.

History The Mennonite church emerged in southern Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century. The movement derives its name from one of its early founders, Menno Simons (1496-1561), who had formerly been a Catholic priest. As a result of growing doubts over central features of Catholic doctrine - particularly infant baptism and the Real Presence of Christ in the Mass - Menno Simons abandoned the Catholic Church in 1536 and in 1537 was ordained into the Anabaptist ministry.
The remainder of Meno Simons' life was devoted to gathering together the diverse Anabaptist communities in Holland and Germany. During and after Meno Simons' life the movement he inspired was subject to continual and brutal persecution by both mainstream Protestants and Catholics. Between 1530 and 1597 some 2000 people were executed in the Netherlands on account of their faith. Although offered official toleration in the 17th century, many Mennonites chose to leave Holland - first of all to Poland and later to the Ukraine. Continued persecution of the movement in Switzerland and Germany led many Mennonites to emigrate to America, where settlements were established in the late 17th and 18th centuries. The size of the American Mennonite community was enlarged throughout the 19th and 20th centuries as a result of immigration from eastern Europe. As a result from the 17th century onwards many Mennonite groups emigrated to North America and in the 18th and 19th centuries to Russia.
More recently extensive missionary activities has enabled the Mennonites to spread beyond their European and North American base and they now have communities in East Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. In 1920 the Mennonite Central Committee was established to oversee the work of Mennonite missions. In addition to its work abroad, the Committee is also involved in working with the aboriginal peoples in North America and in peace-related activities.

Symbols The Mennonite Central Committee uses a white dove on a black background as its logo.

Adherents There are about 1,250,000 Mennonites in the world (Harris et al. 1994, 145).

Headquarters/
Main Centre
 The address of the headquarters of the Mennonite Central Committee is: 110 Maryland Avenue NE # 502, Washington DC 20002, USA.