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Brethren History – Anabaptist Influence

by on September 8, 2013

The Anabaptist movement was a powerful influence on the early Brethren. The Anabaptist movement had become the Mennonite Church in the area where the Brethren began. The Mennonites were more than 180 years old when the Brethren began in 1708.

The Mennonite movement was well organized by 1708. They had already penned the Schlietheim confession in 1527 and the Dordrecht confession in 1632. Their concept of Church was well developed. The Brethren adopted numerous concepts from the Mennonites.

Actually, the Brethren were also Anabaptists. Anabaptist means ‘again baptizer.’ The people who were baptized into the infant baptism of the state churches and then adopted the concept of adult baptism were called Anabaptists. The reason is because they re-baptized people who were baptized as infants or children – hence Anabaptist.

Because of similar convictions, the Brethren adopted numerous Mennonite beliefs and practices. Brethren and Mennonite Church services were very similar. They shared the belief in non-resistance and non-participation in civil politics. They shared the belief in separation from the world and in adult, believer’s baptism.

Brethren and Mennonite groups flowed together over the years. Mennonites came to North America first. Their first recorded move to the new world was in 1683. The Brethren did not arrive until 1719. When the Brethren came to North America they immediately found the Mennonites and they pressed together into eastern Pennsylvania.

Brethren and Mennonites shared concerns in the new nation and have shared those concerns ever since. Settling together provided fellowship and sharing of beliefs and practices.

The Anabaptist movement greatly influenced the Brethren. The Anabaptist thought provided the Brethren with a balance for their Pietism. Anabaptist thought was more factual and more truth oriented. Pietist thought was more emotionally oriented. The blend provided the right guidance for the Brethren.

Even in Europe, Alexander Mack spoke highly of the Mennonites. In North America, the groups cooperated through the various wars and struggles in the new nation and have worked together ever since.

In more recent years the groups have grown apart. Mennonites retain their strong Anabaptist direction. Brethren have reverted to an almost totally Pietistic approach. This does not bode well for the Brethren. The blend of both views provided the Brethren with warmth and strength. The Anabaptist influence was most salubrious. The future of the Brethren will depend on its maintenance.

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