Many people associate Mennonites with buggies, bonnets, and separate communities, much like the Amish. While that is true of Old Order Mennonites, the vast majority of this faith live in society like other Christians, drive cars, wear contemporary clothes, and are actively involved in their communities. Today, Mennonites consider themselves neither Protestant nor Catholic, but a separate faith group with roots in both traditions.
Number of Worldwide Members:
Mennonites number more than 1.5 million members in 75 countries.
Founding of the Mennonite Faith:
A group of Anabaptists broke from the Protestant and Catholic ranks in 1525 in Switzerland. In 1536, Menno Simons, a former Dutch Catholic priest, joined their ranks, rising to a leadership position. To avoid persecution, Swiss German Mennonites migrated to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. They first settled in Pennsylvania, then spread to the Midwest states. The Amish split from the Mennonites in the 1600s in Europe because they felt the Mennonites had become too liberal.
Prominent Mennonite Founders:
Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, Wilhelm Reublin (all Swiss Brethren Anabaptists), and Menno Simons.
The largest concentration of Mennonites is in the United States and Canada, but great numbers are also found throughout Africa, India, Indonesia, Central and South America, Germany, the Netherlands, and the rest of Europe.
Mennonite Governing Body:
The largest assembly is the Mennonite Church USA Assembly, which meets on odd years. As a rule, Mennonites are not governed in a hierarchical structure, but there is a give-and-take among local churches and the 22 regional conferences. Each church has a minister; some have deacons who supervise finances and the well-being of church members. An overseer guides and advises local pastors.
Sacred or Distinguishing Text:
The Bible is the Mennonites' guiding book.
Notable Mennonite Ministers and Members:
Mennonite Beliefs and Practices:
Mennonites believe the Bible is divinely inspired and that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save humanity from its sins. Mennonites believe "organized religion" is important in helping individuals understand their purpose and in influencing society. Church members are active in serving in the community, and a large number participate in missionary work.
The church has long held a belief in pacifism. Members act this out as conscientious objectors during war, but also as negotiators in resolving conflict between warring factions.
Worship services are similar to those in evangelical churches, with singing, a sermon, and testimonies. As Anabaptists, Mennonites practice adult baptism at the age of accountability. The act may be by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring water from a pitcher. In some churches, communion consists of footwashing and distribution of bread and wine. Other communities do footwashing once or twice a year. The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act, done as a memorial of Christ's sacrifice. Some practice the Lord's Supper quarterly, some twice yearly.
To learn more about what Mennonites believe, visit Mennonite Beliefs and Practices.