Anabaptist understanding of the relationship between church and state

Anabaptism - Wikipedia

anabaptist understanding of the relationship between church and state

Reformed Free Publishing Association Zwingli also battled the Anabaptists in the church in Switzerland. This destroyed for them their concept of free will. element in the fall of the church was its alliance with the state. In any compilation of Christian views of the state, the Anabaptist position on articulating the division between church and state responsibili- ties than the .. understanding of New Testament verses on the role of the state are far more important ment regarding the proper relationship of political authority to the church and. Thus, there was a break between Zwingli and these more radical reformers. Church and State: The Anabaptist movement was actually a reaction against the .

Thus in effect if not in form there is an amalgamation of the church and state. Is this not an ideal solution to the problem? However, this solution seems to be possible only in a state which is not well developed nor prosperous and which has large open spaces in which it is possible to settle blocks of foreign population without interfering with the national life in general.

Paraguay is a poor country with a small population and with large unoccupied areas. It is very anxious to secure settlers and it is willing to pay the price of granting practical independence to such foreign groups as the Mennonites in order to secure the benefit of their service in the development of the state, at least in the Gran Chaco territory.

In the s study conferences were sponsored in several North American Mennonite groups to deal with the Christian's relation to the state, which have produced valuable series of papers. Bender Mennonites in the Netherlands Mennonites in the Netherlands in the early period after likely still held government office.

But not long after this Anabaptists are no longer found in office, in the first place because it was no longer possible in the face of the growing persecution, and also because the Mennonites themselves took the position that they must absolutely not hold office.

The other old confessions are silent on this point. The Waterlanders did not consider an office in government necessarily to be at variance with the Gospel. At the conference of preachers and elders held at Amsterdam in it was decided that a position on the city council vroedschapsambt and on the tax commission belastingambtenaar were permissible. Jan van der Beest, a Mennonite, became a notary at Schiedam on 29 September He was released from the usual oath of office by the States General, after his petition to this effect had once been refused.

Nevertheless many Waterland Mennonites in North Holland until after frequently refused to hold office and were fined in consequence.

What is the relationship between the terms "Anabaptist" and "Mennonite?" - Third Way

This happened, for example, when the Waterlander preacher of Rotterdam, Eduard Nabelswas appointed sheriff in ; he was exempted from this office by paying a "gift" of 25 guilders to the poor of the Reformed Church.

In the course of the 17th and 18th centuries the aversion to public office disappeared among the Mennonites, though the strict group "fijne" held to the principle until about Thus in Pieter Zwart, a deacon in the Frisian congregation of Oude-Niedorpwas nearly excommunicated for accepting the office of schepen alderman.

Even in places where the Mennonites were in the majority, such as North Holland, they were hardly ever in public office. As soon as this ban was lifted the Mennonites went into the offices, and by the time of the French occupation we find many Mennonites as mayors and as members of city councils.

In Hengelo it was, for instance, decided that the city council should consist of three Catholics and two Mennonites. Since many Mennonites have held important posts in the government, up to the very high positions; thus there was a relatively high number of Mennonite ministers of state; at one time four of the eleven members of the cabinet were Mennonites. That obedience to the state is an obligation of the Christian is expressly stated in all Dutch Mennonite confessions of faith where the subject is treated at all.

The very first one, the Waterlander confession of Hans de Ries about says Article We are bound to pray to the Almighty God for it, to thank the Lord for good, honest benevolence, and to give without murmuring the tax, tithe, and fees due it.

Zwingli and Calvin to "Separatist Nonresistance" the Swiss Brethrenthe view which the above article identified as the normative Anabaptist-Mennonite view. The apocalypticism of Hans Hut and of Melchior Hoffman is stressed by Stayer and other recent interpreters.

In Stayer's view, the "separatist nonresistance" position did not become the norm until around though it is the position which survived and became dominant. In addition, it seems that a number of Anabaptists, including Pilgram Marpeck and Menno Simonsbelieved firmly that Christians may not kill but -- unlike the Swiss Brethren -- were not necessarily convinced that this required a full separation from all involvement with government.

If this is true, the difference between "Mennonite" and "Quaker" attitudes toward the state are less systematic and theological, and more situational, shaped by their concrete experiences of the state Yoder. Stayer sometimes suggests that the "separatist nonresistants" saw the state as being of the devil.

On this point the above article is more accurate: A related point of updating concerns Mennonites in colonial and revolutionary Pennsylvania s. Mennonites were quite active politically, certainly including voting, generally supporting the Quaker party during the colonial period. Though they did not hold high offices, Mennonite concern in this period had not so much to do with avoiding all government as it did with avoiding direct participation in violence.

Only when, especially during the Revolution, they had to choose between political participation and nonviolencedid they chose to forfeit their political rights. They did not see political participation as unchristian so long as it did not require participation in war. Church-State Relations in Europe and North America Western Europe In general terms, the period since World War II has seen some revival of peace concern among European Mennonites, partly as a result of increased contact with Mennonites from North Americabut also because of involvement, particularly among some Dutch and German Mennonites, with the broader religious and secular peace movement.

In Germany a gradually increasing number of Mennonites have been conscientious objectors COs since conscription was reintroduced in In the North German Vereinigung der deutschen Mennonitengemeinden Association of German Mennonite Congregations approved a new peace concerns statement the first since that affirmed COs.

In Switzerland since the early s a small minority of Mennonites about 20 have refused military service, even though there was no legal provision for conscientious objection until There has also been interest in witness to government and in a broad program of peace education. One recent and visible attempt to deal with some of these concerns has been the establishment of Agape Verlag in Germany. Mennonites from the NetherlandsGermanyand Switzerland have also been active in Church and Peace, an ecumenical European peace organization.

anabaptist understanding of the relationship between church and state

The general posture of European Mennonite peace groups toward the state has been one of witness, supporting less militaristic policies and greater recognition of conscientious objection the latter particularly in France and Switzerland. Except for the Netherlands where the Doopsgezinde Vredesgroep Mennonite Peace Group has been comparatively strong, the number of Mennonites actively supporting peace groups is relatively low.

Small Mennonite churches, focused centrally around peace witness, have been started in EnglandIreland, and Spain. Soviet Union In the years immediately after the Russian Revolution ca.

A minority of young Mennonite men took up arms to defend the colonies against roving hands of marauders the Selbstschutz. This experience of anarchy and subsequent experiences with the Soviet government gave many Mennonites who left the Soviet Union a deep appreciation of stable government and a great aversion to revolution and to communism.

Since the revolution Mennonites as Christian believers have stood in a basically conflictual relationship with the officially atheistic government suffering various kinds of persecution or limitation of freedom. The status of some of them, wealthy farmers or businessmen, also put them in conflict with the new government.

During the s more than 20, emigrated. During the s and s virtually all Mennonites were sent to labor camps and mines or were otherwise relocated, a process through which many died. Another large emigration, about 12, followed World War II. Nevertheless, many others remained.

For those who stayed, relations with other German-speaking Christians became increasingly important after World War II. In the decades following the revolution, specifically Mennonite identity waned as the religious institutions which had supported church life were disrupted. Since the mids most Mennonites have joined the officially recognized All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists while others have rejected it as too compromised.

In both cases, a specifically "Mennonite" identity is fading as they find fellowship and identify with other Christians-now often leaving behind the German language also.

Since the mids restrictions on church life have generally been less severe than in earlier decades. North America Developments on church-state issues in Canada and the United States since World War II have had important elements of commonality but with some significant differences as well.

This, together with the development of a positive theology of mission and service Hershbergerand a corresponding widespread involvement in mission agencies and Mennonite Central Committeecaused Mennonites to become engaged with the world in a new way.

This shift lies in the background of a growing acceptance of the state as a proper arena for Christian witness in both countries among most, though not all, Mennonites.

Especially in the United States, the experiences of the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam helped overcome the view that Christians should have nothing to do with government. In the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition, the political structures proved to be open to some positive change. In the case of Vietnam, the war was ended partly because of widespread public discontent. In both cases Mennonite peace concerns, theologically grounded, and secular wisdom often coincided and Mennonites had many allies in the broader society, unlike their experience during the s.

These experiences suggested that Mennonite concerns were not entirely inapplicable to politics and that perhaps one did not need to compromise one's convictions to have a political role. Nevertheless, these experiences left a sense of "over againstness" among U. Mennonites in their relationship to government. While the government might be brought to change, it was often a major perpetrator of problems.

This was somewhat different on the Canadian scene, where Mennonites experienced a government which was more benign often even positiveespecially in terms of world peace. Also growing out of these experiences and the experiences of Mennonite Central Committee MCC and mission workers was a concern for justice.

This was felt on both sides of the border. To avoid war and other sins-or to give "a cup of cold water" was no longer a sufficient expression of discipleship. Attention began to focus on seeking justice, especially for those who were victims of systemic forces beyond their control, often forces based in the United States victims such as blacks in America, Vietnamese civilians, Nicaraguan peasants, etc.

Attention began to focus more on the political and economic causes of poverty and war. With that came, naturally enough, a stronger need to address those in power. Beginning in the early s, the idea of "the lordship of Christ" began to be used in Mennonite circles to mean that Christ is objectively Lord of all. He is not only Lord of the church where his lordship is recognized but also of the world though his lordship is not recognized. From this theological perspective "a Christian witness to the state" was a sensible, even mandatory, undertaking -- in a way that it was not if the state was conceived of mainly or solely as a mechanism through which God held back the forces of sin and chaos.

One should be a "witness" to Christ's lordship over the state by calling the state to approximate more fully the norms which Christ revealed as right for all humankind. Yoder was the most important figure in this development. On the basis of these experiences and this theology, offices were opened by MCC in Washington late s and Ottawa mids. They were designed to facilitate a witness to government both by providing to churches information on issues facing governments and by arranging for Mennonites to share their concerns and knowledge with officials lobbying.

The second function often involves scheduling appointments for returned mission and service workers with appropriate government officials in order to present officials with alternative perspectives on situations about which they must make policy decisions. This kind of witness is seen as being dependent upon substantial direct involvement in situations of conflict and need around the world through mission and service programs.

Such involvement provides both the knowledge to make the witness and the integrity which makes it authentic. This "semiofficial" posture of "witness" to government still assumes that Christians at least Mennonite Christians are not themselves "the government. Some work in various lobbies, but many work within government. In Canada there are more Mennonites in high positions including Parliament than in the United Statesand working within government is more common for Mennonites there, but Mennonite involvement in various government capacities is increasing rapidly in both countries.

In addition, MCC Canada has received sizable amounts of government funding since about the mids. If those who move from "witness" to "involvement" in government may, at least in some cases, step outside the mainstream of Mennonite thought on church-state relations, there are others who do so by stepping out in different directions.

Some, particularly in the United States, take part in more dramatic and controversial kinds of witness to government, such as war tax resistance, and military draft and draft registration resistance the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church [MC] have pledged support of draft resisters, but have not called on all members to act likewise.

Some have also engaged in protests and civil disobedience opposing the arms race. On the other side are those who reject the idea that the church should witness to government at all, who claim Christians have no business telling governments how to govern, and who see themselves as the true inheritors of the Mennonite heritage.

The dual emphases on the value of justice and the systemic analysis of the causes of injustice, as noted above, have also led some to question the rejection of revolution which has been a part of Mennonite thought. This kind of questioning has grown out of experiences of workers in places like VietnamCentral America, the Philippinesand South Africawhere meaningful changes seem to be blocked by ruling elites.

Along with this has come a certain questioning of pacifism. What if justice is apparently best served by violent revolution? While this question is not fully resolved in Mennonite thought, the direction being explored most seriously now is that of nonviolent direct action witness the interest in the " Christian Peacemaker Teams " idea suggested at the Mennonite World Conference.

Along with a more activist understanding of peacemaking sociopolitical activism has come a widespread rejection of "nonresistance" as an adequate understanding of the positive peacemaking task. This interest in a more activist posture, and in social change in the direction of justice, has contributed to a new understanding of the ethic of Jesus.

The emerging view rejects "nonresistance" in favor of the use of active perhaps even "coercive" nonviolent action in pursuit of justice Duane Friesen. But all of these approaches are not necessarily widely representative of Mennonites as a whole. It is true that political participation, at least as measured by voting, is increasing at the "grassroots" level. But despite the focus of "official" Mennonite structures dealing with policy questions centered on peace and justice issues, the evidence suggests that Mennonite voting patterns are heavily dependent on the social, economic, and political ethos of their communities.

Thus in the United States rural Mennonites, who are more accessible to analysis than urban Mennonites, tend to vote heavily for conservative Republican candidates.

anabaptist understanding of the relationship between church and state

Some of this may be explained by the influence of conservative radio and television preachers in parts of the Mennonite world. It is not clear what the implications of these shifts might be. Evidence does not indicate that greater acceptance of political participation has led, for example, to a decline in pacifist commitment.

anabaptist understanding of the relationship between church and state

Nevertheless, in the long term, shifts on that level may also occur, particularly unless some sense of church and world separation is maintained. Mennonite Churches Outside North America and Europe The views of the missionary founders of newer Mennonite churches around the world are a crucial factor shaping the churches' attitudes.

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  • The Anabaptist View of the Church and State

Generally, Mennonite missionaries carried with them personal convictions affirming nonresistance, separation of church and state, and other distinctively Mennonite views. Sometimes these elements have been consciously included as central to the gospel.

Especially in recent years, efforts have been made to articulate and embody an integrated "gospel of peace" Ramseyer. Nevertheless, such "distinctives" apparently were often seen as secondary and not essential to the gospel message itself.

The Anabaptist View of the Church and State | Standard Bearer

This was especially true among missionaries strongly influenced by Fundamentalism. Thus these components of the gospel frequently were not stressed or taught systematically.

anabaptist understanding of the relationship between church and state

Little has been written about the relations of indigenous Mennonites to the state in areas where the church was planted as a result of mission efforts, usually within the last years. It is clear that relations have varied greatly, depending upon the concerns of the missionaries, the culture and history of the country involved, and the attitude of the government toward the churches. Both lack of information and variety make any generalizations hazardous. In most places, it appears that working out a relationship with the state self-consciously within the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition has not been a high priority, though this appearance may reflect as much the lack of information available in the West as a lack of concern.

It seems that often the gospel has been understood largely as dealing with personal piety, ethics, and one's individual relationship to God, without much thought given to its social and political implications. To what extent this indicates a rejection of important strands of historic Mennonite perspectives on the state is not clear.

In many places the explanation may be that major problems in this area simply have not yet demanded the attention of the church. This separation from the Reformed church produced tension with the state, for the Anabaptists defined the church as the community of regenerated believers over against the idea of the "visible" and the "invisible" church.

Some of the Anabaptists became further hated for using the holy kiss, for anointing feet, for wearing veils, and for refusing luxuries through simple clothing.

According to Article One of the Schleitheim Confession, baptism was only for those "who have been instructed in repentance, who believe that their sins have been blotted out by Jesus Christ, and who want to walk in His resurrection.

Article Six deals with the Anabaptist view of the Magistrate. Their members were not allowed to fight, to hold office, or to take an oath. Although most Anabaptists paid taxes and even prayed for their authorities, their refusal to fight or hold the office of magistrate made them hated. They held to a radical dualism. Estep, on pagesquotes from the Schleitheim Confession to illustrate this dualism.

The worldlings are armed with steel andiron, but the Christians are armed with the armor of God, with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.

Calvin's concern was not for the purity of the church in itself, but rather was motivated by a respect for the greatness and the glory of God, and a concern that rather than being banned, the member who has gone astray should be brought back to the proper path.

John Knox spoke of those who "will join themselves to no congregation, except that which is perfect in all things. Knox and Calvin especially Calvin spoke of God's sovereign decree of election, and referred to many biblical cases such as Abraham's lie, David's adultery, and the like. Therefore, the Reformers maintained it was wrong of the Anabaptists to separate themselves because of sin in the members of the church.

Calvin, in his Treatise Against the Anabaptist, spoke of this when he said concerning the Anabaptists: Calvin states also on page 61 of his Treatise Against the Anabaptists: Rather he ought always continue to worship God with the others, listen to the Word, and receive the Lord's Supper as long as he lives in that place.

When the Anabaptists refused to serve as magistrates, they appealed to the example of Christ when He refused to be King and refused to judge. Regarding the Anabaptists' low view of the magistrate and their refusal to serve, Luther wrote the following: For the world cannot and dare not dispense with it" p.

Calvin was even stronger, when he stated concerning the office of the magistracy that rulers are raised up by God, and that kings of Israel and even prophets, such as Daniel, handled the sword as part of their office. Moses also accepted this task in obedience to God. In his treatise against the Anabaptists, Calvin wrote the following: We worship the same God that the fathers of old did.

We have the same law and rule that they had, showing us how to govern ourselves in order to walk rightly before God. It thus follows that a vocation that was considered holy and lawful then cannot be forbidden Christians today, for a vocation is the principal part of human life and the part that means the most to God.

From which it follows that we should not deny ourselves the vocation of civil justice, nor drive it outside the Christian church.

Anabaptist and Reformed Attitudes Toward Civil Government: A Factor in Political Involvement

For our Lord has ordained it and approved it as good for the people of Israel. As a whole, the Anabaptist movement centered around the common people who wanted the simplicity of New Testament Christianity. However, some outstanding, educated men were leaders among the Anabaptists. Grebel was a prominent member of the church in Zurich. He had been led to the evangelical faith by Zwingli, and heartily approved his work of reforma-tion.

But he soon became disappointed with Zwingli and Luther because he felt the church was not being reformed along New Testament lines. In January,a man named Blaurock asked Grebel to baptize him again, although he had been baptized in infancy. Thereupon, Blaurock rebaptized others. Thus the Anabaptist movement had its beginnings with Conrad Grebel.

Hubmaier was one of the better educated men of his day, having received his doctorate in theology.


He was a priest, and, during his pastorate in Walshut, a great change came over him as he studied the New Testament. He found many things he had been doing were not biblical, and he began to preach reform. Hubmaier's conscience began to bother him about the Bible's teachings about baptism, the purity of the church, the new birth, discipleship, and evangelism.

Hubmaier rebaptized his entire congregation ofand the church renounced all fellowship with Rome. He believed in evangelistic preaching, and went into Moravia where thousands were saved.

Hubmaier was probably one of the few Anabaptist leaders who believed in election and predestination. He died a martyr inand two years later his wife was strangled and thrown in a river. Hutter was a godly man who preached in Austria, Moravia, and Poland until his martyrdom in He founded a sect called the Hutterites, Menno Simons: Simons was a humble man who lived a hard life. A priest of the Roman Catholic Church, he left by his own choice aroundbelieving he could no longer live with his conscience as a Roman Catholic, He felt that neither the Catholics nor the Reformed Church did much for the inner life of a man, that it was all externalism and hypocrisy.

He opposed the fanaticism of his day, and could not understand why Christians persecuted one another.

anabaptist understanding of the relationship between church and state

He had many struggles over discipleship and holy living, and truly believed that dedicated Christians would receive persecution from the world. Followers of Menno Simon's teachings came to be called Mennonites, and their work later spread to Russia, the United States and Canada. The Mennonites have always been pacifists, and are earnest, industrious Christians, who have often lived in communal settlements.

On the basic issues of Christianity, most of the Anabaptists and Re-formers were in total agreement. They held to the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the atonement, the authority of the Bible and the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The Anabaptists were neither deep theologians nor interested in forming doctrinal creeds, although they did set forth their beliefs about the church in the Schleitheim Articles The Anabaptist movement was actually a reaction against the close ties between church and state in both Catholic and Protestant domains. In the Protestant churches great masses of people would come into the church when a city council or prince would join the Reformation. Because most of the citizens of the state were also members of the church, the bond between church and state was very great.

In many cases, even though the Reformers took away the external aspects of Roman Church ritual, the personal lives of the people in the external church were not touched. Also, many used the teaching of justification by faith as a license to sin. The Anabaptists demanded a strict separation of church and state, for the purity of the church and for the protection of the church from persecution by the state. This was carried to such an extreme that they were completely pacifistic, opposed to all military service, and took no oaths and held no government offices.

The Anabaptists, because of their doctrine of separation of Church and State, stood for liberty of religion and for a "free church.