The Schleitheim Confession
This is an accounting of The Schleitheim Confession. Margaret Ediger recounts some history and details of Anabaptist’s in the 1520s.
Video and graphics by David Ediger – davidedigerdesign.com
During the 1520’s the Anabaptist movement was spreading like wildfire throughout central Europe, mainly Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. Parallel to the Lutheran and Reformed churches break-away from the Roman Catholic Church, other protesters believed the church should not be influenced by or controlled by secular state authorities. What inspired these believers to take such a radical stance? It was the Bible itself, the story of Jesus’ teachings and of the development of the early church as depicted in the New Testament. When Johannes Gutenburg invented the mechanical movable type printing press in the 1450’s, it played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution. The Bible became the first major mass-produced book. For the first time in history people everywhere were enabled to personally search the Scriptures, and many were astounded by the stark contrast between the early church as depicted in the Bible and the churches of their day.
Small communities of radical reformers were popping up everywhere. Efforts by the state and official church to suppress the movement were to no avail. Orders to baptize their babies under threat of banishment and death did not dampen their fervour. Even the death by drowning of Felix Manz in Zurich on the fifth of January, 1527, did not deter them.
Believing it was important to unify these scattered communities, Anabaptist leaders from Switzerland and southern Germany met less than two months later on February 24 in the southern Swiss town of Schleitheim. Together they agreed on their essential beliefs in what came to be known as the Schleitheim Confession.
In summary, the document’s seven main points stated the following:
Baptism was to be administered only to those who had consciously repented, amended their lives and believed that Christ had died for their sins.
Only those who had been baptized could take part in the Lord’s Supper, which is a remembrance of Christ’s body and blood.
Those who fell into sin were to be admonished twice in private, but after their third offence they should be openly disciplined and banned from the church as a final recourse.
The community of Christians should not associate with those who remained in a spirit of rebellion against God. All evil should be resisted, including all weapons of force such as the sword and armour.
Pastors were to be men of good repute, faithfully carrying out their duties of teaching, disciplining, leading in prayer, and administering the sacraments.
Violence should be avoided in all circumstances; Christians should not serve as magistrates, who are bound by the rules of the world, and use worldly weapons. The weapons of Christians were to be spiritual.
Oaths should not be taken because Jesus prohibited it; rather Christians should simply testify to the truth.
A former monk named Michael Sattler, who already stood out as a leader of the Anabaptists in Switzerland and southern Germany, chaired that meeting in Schleitheim and was especially influential in the development of this Confession of Faith. And It cost him his life! Less than three months later, on 20th of May, 1527, he was executed by burning at the stake. I will share his story with you in the near future.