The early Quaker movement was heavily influenced by Mennonites via the early General Baptists in England. It’s a complicated story, but today Quakers and Mennonites still share some deep bonds, especially in the witness for peace. And yes, they’re both important in Pennsylvania. In fact, the first Mennonite congregation in America was a joint venture with Quakers in Germantown, then outside Philadelphia.
Here’s some background.
- Mennonites are oldest body of the Anabaptist movement, which rejected infant baptism, insisting instead the sacrament was only for believing adults.
- The denomination is named after Menno Simons (1492-1561), a priest who left the Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands and was persecuted as a heretic.
- Its followers have been heavily persecuted, especially in the early years in Switzerland and Germany. Many were burned at the stake.
- It identifies with an underground church going back to Waldo and the Waldensians.
- They are strong proponents of peace, refusing to participate in military service or to fight in self-defense.
- The Amish split from the Mennonites in 1693. Today some conservative Mennonites resemble the Amish, while others are urban professionals – most fall somewhere between in lifestyles.
- They are known for their four-part a cappella hymn singing, although that’s changing with the youngest generation. Lay ministry and mutual discipleship are common.
- Communion is celebrated as an annual love feast. Any lingering conflicts among the members of the congregation must be reconciled first.
- It’s no longer primarily German-speaking or German descendants, a consequence of active mission work and growth worldwide.
- Anabaptism is seen as the third stream of Protestantism – the others stemming for John Calvin and Martin Luther. Unlike them, it never accepted state sponsorship or endorsement.