What is the relationship between the terms “Anabaptist” and “Mennonite?”

“Anabaptist” is an umbrella name referring to those denominations that trace their roots to the Anabaptist movement which began in the early 1500’s. (see also FAQ “How did the Mennonite Church Begin?“) Thus Mennonites have their roots in the Anabaptist renewal movement.

The Anabaptists were a group of Christian dissenters at the time of the 16th century Reformation who sought a return to New Testament Christianity. The term “Anabaptist” refers to the practice of rebaptizing persons who had already been baptized in infancy. Anabaptists believed that they represented a third option, an option that was neither Protestant nor Catholic. They believed that the church should be a group of voluntary adults, baptized upon confession of faith, and like the first Christians, separated from the world and state.

Mennonites continue to hold to a number of the key beliefs of the early Anabaptists:

  • The church as a body of those who have been converted and have turned from sin to Christ and in whom God’s Spirit dwells.
  • The church as community where each member is of equal importance before God.
  • The importance of loving and caring for each other (mutual aid).
  • A forgiving love in all of life – with one’s family, church members, neighbors and all people in the world.
  • The separation of church and state.

Anabaptist groups include the Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, Old Order Amish, Mennonite Brethren, Brethren in Christ, Church of the Brethren, Old Order Mennonite, Evangelical Mennonite, and many more. See What about Old Orders, Hutterites, Conservatives, River Brethren and Others? Additionally, there are a number of groups of Christians around the world who identify with Anabaptist thought, but are not connected with a specific Mennonite group. For instance, there is an active “Anabaptist Network” of Christians in England.