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Anabaptist-Mennonite thought has been characterized by its insistence on a separation between religion and the world.
The persecutions of the 16th century forced Anabaptists to withdraw from society in order to survive, a strategy that became central in Mennonite theology.
They became well known as artists, writers, and patrons of social programs.
Despite their prosperity in the 18th century, by 1837 their membership had declined to about 15,000.
Menno Simons, a Dutch priest who consolidated and institutionalized the work initiated by moderate Anabaptist leaders.
Mennonites are found in many countries of the world but are concentrated most heavily in the United States and Canada.
The Mennonites’ refusal to serve in the military led to hardships during World War I, but many were legally able to avoid service under generous conditions for conscientious objector status during World War II.
They founded the Mennonite Brethren Church, some of whose members left Russia with other Mennonites in the 1870s after they lost their exemption from military service.In matters of faith, they followed the Enlightenment, a 17th- and 18th-century intellectual movement that hoped for human betterment through the right use of reason.Because many of the professions were closed to them, the Mennonites turned to business, in the process becoming wealthy and urbanized.The Anabaptist movement attracted a number of leaders, including Menno Simons, who joined it after a long period of self-reflection and Bible study.Simons was consecrated a priest in 1524 and during the next decade sought to reconcile membership in the Roman Catholic church with support for the reform movements occurring around him.
Because this notion implied religious diversity, the authorities, both ecclesiastical and political, sought to suppress the movement.