Who are the Anabaptists?
The following is the transcript of the video.
I am Margaret Ediger, member of the First Mennonite Church in Kelowna, B.C.
Many people perhaps are wondering about who are the Anabaptists? What relevance do they have today? What contribution do they make toward life in the 21st Century? We hope that through this series of videos on YouTube many of you can be informed, inspired and challenged by our history and vision.
The Anabaptists trace their beginnings to the early years of the Reformation, which began in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the cathedral door in Augsburg, Germany, launching the Reformation which then swept through Europe. Shortly afterward and independently of Luther, Ulrich Zwingli pastor of the Grossmünster Church in Zurich, Switzerland, began preaching ideas on reforming the Roman Catholic Church. Among other things he attacked the custom of fasting during Lent and corruption in the church hierarchy, as well as promoting the marriage of the clergy. Out of his protest emerged the Reformed Church of Switzerland.
He was followed and supported by various young men, scholars and influential citizens of Zurich. Among them were Felix Manz, Georg Blaurock, Conrad Grebel and Wilhelm Reublin. Studying the Bible together, they began pressing Zwingli to make a more radical break with the church in Rome, restoring the church to its biblical roots. Specifically they challenged the practice of baptizing infants, wanting to follow the biblical example of administering baptism to persons upon their confession of faith in Jesus Christ. They also advocated a separation of the church from the state. As early as 1523, Wilhelm Reublin, pastor of a church in Basel, Switzerland, began preaching publicly against infant baptism in the surrounding area, encouraging parents not to baptize their children.
The City Council of Zurich arranged public debates between Zwingli and those advocating a more radical reformed church, and consistently named Zwingli the winner of the debates. On January 17, 1525, the City Council ordered the dissidents to have their children baptized within eight days. Firm in their belief that baptism should only be given to person old enough to personally commit their lives to Christ, these men refused to submit to the Council’s demands and chose rather to make a break from Zwingli’s church.
Sixteen of these “radicals reformers” met in a home in Zurich on Saturday evening, January 21, 1525. After prayer George Blaurock asked Conrad Grebel to baptize him, and he in turn baptized the remaining men, thus making themselves enemies of both the church and state. These baptisms marked the first re-baptisms, since all had been first baptized in the Catholic church as infants. Swiss Anabaptism was born on that day.
These radical reformers did not choose to call themselves Anabaptists, a designation which means “re-baptizers”. That name was coined by those opposed to their stance. Amongst themselves they simply called each other “brethren”, just as they did in the New Testament church. These Swiss Brethren or “radical reformers” were severely persecuted by the official church and by the state, resulting in the martyrdom of many. But those stories will have to wait till later.