Chapter 10: European Free-Church Family

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Chapter 10
European Free-Church Family

Consult the "Contents" pages to locate the entries in Part III, the Directory Listings Sections, that comprise this family.

Over the past generation, histories of the Reformation, the sixteenth-century protest movement that began in the Roman Catholic Church and eventually split that organization into a number of national fragments, have begun to reflect the recognition that a vital part of the Protestant Reformation story was written by the radical reformers. The radicals were independent groups and people who protested Luther's and Calvin's continued tie to the state. Considered by such Lutherans and Calvinists as revolutionaries, mystics, anarchists, and heretics, they were the object of scorn for all. However, as George H. Williams noted in his groundbreaking study of the radicals, "They have the same significance for the interpretation of the whole of modern church history as the discoveries in the Dead Sea caves and in upper Egypt are having for New Testament studies and early church history" (The Radical Reformation [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962], xix).

Who were the radical reformers? They were men who, like Luther and Calvin, were interested in the reform of the church but who, because of a variety of backgrounds, outlooks, and theologies, placed their emphases on much different points as the crux of needed reform. For most, faith, sacrament, and liturgy were not as significant as the doctrine of the church in its relation to the state. The radicals frowned upon involvement in secular activity and were typically persecuted by the state. Most radicals came from the lower class, so they built upon the traditional adversary relationship between the lower class and the ruling class. The radicals took the ideas of the Reformation (ideas such as the priesthood of believers and the freedom of the Christian man) to such an extreme that Luther and Calvin were horrified.

Most of the radicals came to a bloody end in war or persecution, and many saw their movements entirely destroyed. Because of this destruction, men such as Thomas Müntzer (1490–1525), Hans Denck (c. 1495–1527), and Michael Sattler did not leave even a surviving remnant to carry on their work. Others, such as Caspar Schwenckfeld (1489–1561), Jacob Hutter (d. 1536), and Melchior Hoffmann (c. 1500–1543), were able to leave movements that survived and exist today. Among the churches that trace their roots to the radical reformers are the Mennonites, the Amish, the Brethren, the Quakers, and the Free Church Brethren. All of these churches belong to the free church family, meaning that they are not only not state churches but ideologically opposed to state churches. They exist as free associations of adult believers, people old enough to make a free decision to join their fellowship. The free churches emphasize free will, contrasting sharply with strict Calvinists who believe in predestination–that the number and identity of the elect was ordained before the beginning of the world.

The radical Reformation can be dated from Christmas Day 1521, more than four years after Luther's Ninety-five Theses were nailed to the church door in Wittenburg. On this day, Andreas Bodenstein of Carlstadt (c. 1480–1541)–a man simply referred to as Carlstadt by historians–celebrated the first "Protestant" communion. (Protestant services today follow the trend set by that service.) He preached, and without having donned liturgical vestments, read the "Mass." He omitted all references to sacrifice, did not elevate the host, and gave both bread and wine. Each act was a significant repudiation of a belief or practice of the Roman Catholic Church. Behind this communion service was the strong contention of the supremacy of spirit over letter, the supremacy of grace over works, and the common priesthood of all believers. From these events were to flow others initiated by men who were already thinking as Carlstadt.

The career of Thomas Müntzer (1490?–1525) was one of the results of the activity of Carlstadt. In 1520, Müntzer appeared at Zwickau, a town in Saxony, where, as minister to one of the churches, his radicalism began to emerge. He urged people to respond spontaneously and immediately to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. He defined the church as spirit-filled saints gathered together in a community. His definition avoided any mention of bishops or sacraments and thus was at odds with a traditional understanding of the church. He aroused the laity in support of him against his more conservative colleagues. After being removed from his pastorate, Müntzer spent several years as a wandering preacher, becoming more and more radical and embittered. In a famous sermon in 1524 before the German princes, he called upon them to take up the sword to defeat the forces of anti-Christ (the pope) and bring in the kingdom.

A number of events, including an astrological conjunction, converged in 1524 and occasioned an uprising of the peasants of Germany. Not the least of these events was the preaching of Müntzer and his radical colleagues. As the Peasants' War began, Müntzer, having given up on the immovable princes, joined the peasants' forces at Mühlhausen. He was ready to wield his sword for the kingdom. He saw the Peasants' War as his instrument. When the revolt was put down, Müntzer was captured. His career ended on the executioner's block and his flock was scattered.

Contemporaneous with Müntzer's short career in the north, other radical reformists appeared in southern Germany and Austria. Their first spokesman was Hans Denck. While at Nuremberg as rector of a parish school, Denck had come under the influence of Carlstadt and Müntzer. Denck was expelled from Nuremberg by Lutherans who feared him as a competitor. In the fall of 1525, Denck became the spiritual leader of a group at Augsburg. In the spring of 1526 (under the influence of Swiss refugee Balthasar Hubmaier), he led in the reconstitution of his group as a truly reformed church by the adoption of the apostolic practice of believer's baptism. By that practice, only adult believers in Christ were baptized, the procedure believed to have been used by the Apostles. Thus anabaptism, or rebaptism of those who were baptized as infants, emerged as a central factor in the radical reformation. Denck saw the church as an adult, self-disciplined fellowship. His criteria for understanding the church naturally excluded infants, thus antipedobaptism (literally against the baptism of infants) became a central teaching of the movement. From this belief and this practice was to come the fully developed Anabaptist understanding of the church as an association of adults (not children) acting freely.

Denck was forced out of several cities as his reputation caught up with him. In 1527, he arrived in Augsburg to participate in a synod of Anabaptist leaders. After the meeting, many were arrested and died martyrs' deaths, so the meeting is called the Martyrs' Synod.

The main item of concern for the synod was the eschatalogical program of John Hut, an Austrian Anabaptist leader who had been rebaptized by Denck. Hut repudiated the peasants for taking up arms and interpreted current events as symbols of the nearness of the end of time. God would do his work. The saints, while suffering at present, would live to see the new kingdom appear. Hut proceeded to build an underground movement throughout Bavaria and Austria.

When the synod met, three issues concerning the coming kingdom were under discussion: the manner and time of its approach, the role of Anabaptists to prepare for it, and the role of the magistery in the present time. No clear-cut decisions were reached on these points. After the synod, Hut was arrested and died in a fire in his cell. The inability of the synod to bring the radicals into one mind, the attacks of the Lutherans on some radical excesses in doctrine, and disillusionment with his role in God's reformation led Denck to recant. He died of the plague a few years later.

Contemporaneous with the rise of South German and Austrian Anabaptists was the rise of Swiss Anabaptists, popularly known as the Swiss Brethren, under the leadership of Michael Sattler. Within the Swiss Brethren a mature, articulate Anabaptist stance would be formed, and from them would come the most important statement of the Anabaptist position.

Swiss Anabaptism arose in the 1520s to protest a state church. The church in question was that of Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1530), the leader of the Reformation in Switzerland. Zwingli took religious control of the canton of Zurich, with the power structures of Zurich establishing the Zwinglian Church for all in the area. The Swiss Brethren insisted that only the righteous should belong to the church, not every person who happened to reside in the territory controlled by the state. After the vote to establish the Zwinglian Church, the Swiss Brethren withdrew from Zurich.

They determined to continue their efforts to restore the true Church. Two leaders of the Swiss Anabaptists, Conrad Grebel (c. 1498–1526) and George Blaurock (1492–1529), became the center of controversy. On January 21, 1525, layman Grebel rebaptized Blaurock, a priest, and that action led to months of disputation. The brethren grew, even though they were persecuted. Doctrinally, they had a double problem. First, they had to counter Zwingli's ideas, which were popular. Second, they had to clarify for people their differences with Müntzer and Hut. M&uum;tzer and Hut had poor reputations, and people mistakenly associated the Swiss Brethren with them. It was in the attempt to refute Müntzer and Hut that Michael Sattler came forward as a leader of refugees in Strassburg. Upon his return to Switzerland, Sattler found himself leader of the Schleitheim Synod. There the mature Anabaptist position was hammered out in a document originally called "The Brotherly Union of a Number of Children of God Concerning Seven Articles," now called the Schleitheim Confession.

Schleitheim Confession. The Schleitheim Confession set the distinctives of the Anabaptist position. Rejecting the state church in which citizenship and church membership were almost the same, the Anabaptists were looking for a church of true believers. Hence they acknowledged baptism for converted adult believers only and limited the taking of communion to those who had been rightfully baptized. Having given up the disciplinary machinery of the state, they were left with the ban, a form of excommunication of fallen and as yet unrepentant members, as their only tool of discipline. They admonished Anabaptists to withdraw from the world and its wickedness. In that light, church members were to make no use of the sword, for either secular or sacred purposes. That position extended to an avoidance of serving as a magistrate. Finally, the Anabaptists refused to take oaths. All of these positions were based upon their study of the Bible. (A complete copy of the Schleitheim Confession is to be found in the accompanying volume, The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds.)

From the Schleitheim Confession emerges the distinctive doctrinal and ethical position of the Anabaptist churches. This stance would be accepted, with minor modifications, by the various bodies that survived the era of persecution. The church is composed of those united to Christ by believer's baptism and who have separated themselves from the evil world. The church is a minority group of pilgrims in a hostile world trying to isolate themselves from its influence and forces. Specifically, certain items–war, the use of violent force against one's neighbor, civic affairs, courts, oaths, worldly amusements, and serving as a magistrate–are to be studiously avoided as things of the world.

Pacifism, in particular, has arisen as the essential point in the avoidance ethic and these churches have been characterized as the historical peace churches. Christians obey the laws of the land, as is possible for pacifists (and any attempting to live withdrawn), but their essential authority is to be found in the church.

The church is the disciplined fellowship. It appoints its own leadership and accepts its authority as the leadership administers it. Its prime force is the ban, a practice based on Matthew 18:15–17, which is similar to excommunication. Menno Simons is credited with emphasizing a modified form of banning termed shunning, in which the church stops all dealing with an erring brother, including eating with him, with the intent of winning him back to the straight and narrow. This practice is based on I Corinthians 5:11.

The church was opposed to both popish and anti-popish works and church services. From this position comes a lay-oriented, nonliturgical, non-creedal, Bible-oriented church. Their opposition to the state church, a position that was articulated as well as manifested by their very existence, led to the appellation, "free church." Non-liturgical worship in its extreme form can be seen in the classic Quaker service.

The Bible is the prime document from which the Anabaptists derive their belief and practice. Their method of Biblical interpretation, which will not utilize tradition and philosophy, becomes literalistic. Sacraments become ordinances, symbolic acts: baptism is an initiatory ceremony and the Lord's Supper a memorial act. Foot washing, for which there is not a more unequivocal command than either baptism or the Lord's Supper, is also practiced, especially in those churches of Swiss origin.

Though all the European free churches believe in adult baptism, they have a wide variety of modes. The Mennonites pour water on the person being baptized, while the Church of the Brethren has triune immersion, the practice of entering the water once for each person of the Trinity.

LATER HISTORY. After the Schleitheim Confession, three events were to remold the Anabaptists–the fall of the town of Münster; the death of the martyrs; and the rise of Menno Simons.

The Radical Reformation had continually been punctuated by apocalyptic thinking, including a few instances of militancy. These tendencies came to a climax in the town of Münster. Radicalization there began with the pastor, Bernard Rothmann. His popular sermons led to the Protestantization of the community in 1531. Rothmann's Lutheran views became more and more radical, and he began to defend believer's baptism. Other Anabaptists heard of Rothmann and began to flock to Münster as the new Jerusalem. Among the immigrants were Jan Mathijs (d. 1534) and his major supporter, Jan of Leiden. The immigrants adopted the apocalyptic theory that the end of time was imminent and would be caused by God's direct intervention in human affairs.

By the beginning of 1534, the radicalization of the city was complete and Mathijs was quickly rising to power. All Catholics and Lutherans were expelled, and the city armed itself for the siege that would follow that expulsion. Mathijs imposed his religious beliefs. The town adopted a communist lifestyle while it made military preparations for the siege. In the midst of these reforms Mathijs was killed. Jan of Leiden took over and began to set up a theocracy with himself as God's vicar. The strict discipline worked effectively during the siege. After a particularly heavy battle, Jan introduced polygamy.

The beleaguered city finally was betrayed and captured. Jan had imposed ruthless authority on the people. After his capture, he was tortured to death. With only a few minor exceptions, the Münster episode ended any apocalypticism in the Anabaptism movement.

That episode, however, did not bring to a close the killings of Anabaptists. The Martyrs Mirror, a book that functions for Anabaptists much as John Foxe's Book of Martyrs functions for English Protestants, records the trail of blood of Anabaptists killed for their faith. The book was first published in 1554. Persecution left a stamp upon the members of the free churches, who came to see themselves literally as wandering pilgrims in a hostile world.

Anabaptists flocked to Menno Simons in the Netherlands. Emerging in 1537 as a leader, Menno began a series of books that set down a moderate free church position and rallied the disintegrating Anabaptist forces. It is to Menno's credit that the forces were held together and survived until 1577 when toleration was granted in Holland. The followers of Menno became, with few exceptions, the surviving Anabaptist community.

In addition to the apocalyptic Anabaptism of Münster and the moderate Anabaptism of the Swiss Brethren was a third form of Anabaptism. It turned inward in what has been termed a spiritualist or mystical movement. Among the first to espouse the spiritualist perspective was Hans Denck. An early leader in the Anabaptist movement, Denck recanted in his despair at its divisions and began to turn inward. He had long been a student of the mystic John Tauler, and to Tauler he turned. He began to preach of the God who meets us as a light, a word, and a presence. He was followed by others such as Sebastian Franck, Johann Bünderlin, and Christian Entfelder.

As a whole, the spiritual Anabaptists collected no following and left no following. One exception was Caspar Schwenckfeld, a Silesian courtier turned prophet. In successive steps, he became a disciple of Luther, a critic of the Reformation as outward and shallow, an Anabaptist theologian with some peculiar views on the sacraments and Christ, and a mystic leader with a large following that still exists. But Schwenckfeld was the exception.

What the spiritual reformers did primarily was to create a literature with Anabaptist devotional and mystic leanings that became the basis of a mystical movement within the free churches much like the one in medieval Catholicism and the inspiration for later mystical, devotional movements, primarily Quakerism and to a certain extent Pietism. Each of these strains was to find a home in colonial Pennsylvania.

SWISS AND DUTCH MENNONITES. The central surviving Anabaptist tradition owes its name to one of its major leaders, Menno Simons (1496?–1561). Simons, a Dutchman, was born in Witmarsum in the Netherlands. While a Roman Catholic priest, Simons was led to believe that the bread and wine were not the real body and blood of Christ. A 1531 execution of an Anabaptist led him to investigate infant baptism. Continued investigation of Anabaptist views convinced him they were right. Finally, in 1536, a year after his own brother's death as an Anabaptist, Menno Simons left his Catholic heritage. Because of his abilities, he immediately became a leader in the Anabaptist community. His main tasks became keeping the community protected from authorities and free from militarism (which had led Anabaptists to take complete control of Münster and wage a long battle to defend it) and from heresies such as apocalyptic beliefs that the world would soon end through God's direct intervention. Some of Menno's followers found toleration in East Friesland in the Netherlands under the Countess Anne. It was she, in recognizing the peaceful followers of Menno in contradistinction to the militarists and apocalyptics, who first dubbed them "Menists." The main part of Simon's active life was spent writing in defense of his new-found faith and hiding from the authorities, who had put a price on his head.

Menno's views were similar to those outlined by the Swiss Brethren at Schleitheim. It can be argued, and has been, that the Mennonites are the legitimate inheritors of the Swiss-German Anabaptist tradition, as most of the other Anabaptists have disappeared from the contemporary world. In essentials, the Mennonites certainly share the Swiss and German Anabaptists' views on rebaptism, pacifism, religious toleration, separation of church and state, opposition to capital punishment, opposition to holding office, and opposition to taking oaths. On two points only did Menno Simons differ–his use of the ban and his doctrine of incarnation.

Menno joined in the argument with the Brethren on the strict versus the liberal use of the ban. Menno advocated the strict use as the only means to keep the church free of corrupt sects. He also advocated "avoidance" or shunning all who were banned. Shunning was centered upon the idea of not eating with the person under the ban; this practice created a significant ingroup problem when one member of a family was under the ban. The practice of avoidance was liberalized over the years by the main body of Mennonites, but originally it was their distinguishing feature.

Menno has also been accused of compromising the humanity of Christ by minimizing the human properties said to have been received from Mary. This slight difference in Christology, which led many to accuse him of antitrinitarianism, has not been a major factor in recent Mennonite history.

The unique doctrinal position of the Mennonites was systematized in 1632 in the Dordrecht Confession, named for the town in the Netherlands at which it was written. It is consistent with the Schleitheim Confession, but deals more systematically with basic Christian affirmations. It affirms God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (the Trinity); the restoration of all humanity though Christ, who was foreordained to his saving work before the foundation of the world; and the incarnation of Christ as the Son of God. Those who are obedient through faith and follow the precepts of the New Testament are considered Christ's children. Baptism is for repentant adult believers. The visible church consists of those who have been baptized and incorporated into the communion of saints on earth. Within that church, the Lord's Supper is observed as an ordinance, as is the washing of the feet.

The state is seen as the gift of God and Mennonites are admonished to pray for it and support it in all manners not directly opposed to the commandments of God. Two ways in which God's will and the state are seen to conflict are in the state's demand for oaths and in its drafting of young men for military service. The Mennonites generally refuse to take oaths (for example, in a court of law) or to bear arms.

In one respect the Dordrecht Confession goes beyond the Schleitheim Confession. Not only does it advocate the use of the ban (excommunication) but also of shunning (avoidance of eating, drinking or socializing with a fallen and unrepentant church member). This practice, still used in some of the more conservative Mennonite bodies, has been a source of considerable controversy especially when it has become an issue between a church member and a spouse who is being shunned. On such cases the church is not allowed to eat dinner with the spouse.

The Mennonite movement spread slowly, and the late 1500s was a period in which many names were added to the roll of martyrs. The movement spread into Germany and Switzerland, building on small groups of Anabaptists already there. Mennonites settled and migrated as rulers first allowed toleration and then rescinded the privilege. In 1763, Catherine the Great of Russia offered religious toleration to German settlers who would populate the southern Steppes. Moravians, Mennonites, and Hutterites flocked to Russia; the Mennonites, mostly Prussians, settled in Crimea and Taurie. The Mennonites developed a unique history in southern Russia because of the special status granted them by the Russian government. A self-governing Mennonite community arose, the government approaching that of a theocracy. The end of Russian paradise came in the 1870s when the Czar introduced universal military service as a policy among the German colonists. This policy was part of a general Russification program in face of the growing military power of Prussia. The Mennonites, pacifists, refused to join the military. So in 1874, a six-year mass immigration to the United States and Canada began. Those that remained in Russia prospered until 1917 when they became victims of the Bolsheviks. They still survive, however, in small scattered communities.

MENNONITES IN AMERICA. Reference to Mennonites in America occurs as early as 1643 in the records of New Netherlands. In 1633, a communal experiment led by Cornelius Pieter Plockhoy appeared on Delaware Bay, then a part of New Netherlands. The first permanent Mennonite colony was established in 1683 at Germantown, Pennsylvania; this date is usually accepted by Mennonites as their date of origin in America. Several factors encouraged Mennonites to come to the U.S. First, religious persecution in Europe caused many to immigrate. Second, William Penn and George Fox were seeking German converts and appealed to members of Mennonite communities to come to America. Finally, the German Quakers (former Anabaptists) already in America wrote their friends and relatives asking them to move to Pennsylvania.

This growing Mennonite element is credited with American history's first public protest against slavery and was very influential in the later Quaker antislavery position. The Mennonites were an agricultural people and began to spread north and west of Germantown. The group's size was bolstered by immigration from the Palatine in the early eighteenth century.

The Revolutionary War became the first major crisis in the American Mennonite community, leading to their first schism. The issue was support of the Continental Congress. The majority argued that they could not support the Congress because such support would involve them in the war.

One leader, Christian Funk, argued in favor of support, including the special war tax, drawing support from Jesus' words on taxation (Matt. 22:21). Funk was excommunicated and with his followers formed the Mennonite Church (Funkite), which existed until the mid-nineteenth century. It died as all the participants in the original dispute died.

Continued immigration and the natural expansion of the Mennonites, who are prone to have large families, forced them west looking for new land. The early nineteenth century found Mennonites making settlements in Ontario and the Old Northwest Territory, and after the Civil War, the prairie states. This growing migration and wide separation geographically set the stage for formation of schismatic churches that would reach major proportions in the 1880s.

While no distinct and sharp lines can be drawn, there are rough ethnological distinctions within the Mennonite community. Some of the American splintering of churches can be traced to the Swiss, Dutch, or German background of the colonies. The largest distinction among the Mennonites as a whole is between the Western European and Russian settlers. Most of the Western European Mennonites came in the initial wave of settlers into Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century and pushed west into Canada and Indiana. The Russian immigrants are those Mennonites who migrated in the nineteenth century and settled in the western United States, primarily Kansas, and Canada.

Mennonites have been proud of a heritage of biblical theology and avoidance of hairsplitting, unproductive attempts at philosophical sophistries. Nevertheless, they have a definite theological heritage in Swiss and Dutch Anabaptist ideas. Except for the distinctive themes illustrated in the Schleitheim Confession, Mennonites would have little problem with the major affirmations of mainline Christian churches. These have never been a point of conflict.

Crucial for Mennonites are ecclesiology and separation from the world. Mennonites share a doctrine of the church based on the concept of ecclesia, the called-out fellowship of believers in mission. The tendency is to emphasize the local congregation and to build wider fellowships based on a commonality of belief. Ministers (bishops) arise out of the fellowship as do deacons; the exact methods for choosing them varies. Casting lots was a favorite method. The Dordrecht Confession of 1632 was adopted by the American church and is still a doctrinal standard for most Mennonites. According to the Dordrecht confession, the Bible is the source of belief, and emphasis is placed upon the believer's direct encounter with the living Christ and the work of the Spirit within. The pietism, emphasis on the practical life in the Spirit, is worked out in the mutual, shared existence of the church. The church, not the state, is the basic society for the true Christian, according to the Dordrecht Confession.

THE AMISH. Among the more liberal Swiss Mennonites of the late seventeenth century there arose a party led by Jacob Amman(c. 1644–c. 1711), a minister in the Emmenthal congregation. Because his family records have not been found, little can be said of him except for the practices he promoted among both the Swiss Mennonites and the Swiss Brethren. Amman insisted upon a strict interpretation of discipline. For his practices he appealed to Menno Simons's writings and to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith of 1632, which has become the recognized statement of doctrine for both Amish and Old Mennonites in America.

In his preaching, Amman stressed the practice of avoidance. A member whose spouse was under the ban was neither to eat nor sleep with him or her until the ban was lifted. Amman also reintroduced foot washing. Non-religious customs of the period–hooks and eyes instead of buttons, shoestrings instead of shoe buttons, bonnets and aprons, broad brimmed hats, and beards and long hair–became identifying characteristics of church members.

All of the Mennonites during Amman's time were in a loose federation and strove to remain of one mind. Amman's strict interpretation of the "avoidance" clause in the ban led to a division among the Mennonites, with some following Amman and separating themselves from the others. Amman placed under the ban all who disagreed with him. After a few years of separation, Amman and his associates tried to reconcile with the other Mennonites, but the reconciliation efforts failed. Since then, the Amish have been independent of the Mennonites.

In the early 1700s, the Amish began to appear in America, the earliest congregation on record being the one along North Kill Creek in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Colonies were later planted in eastern Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Until recently, their strength had been in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The Amish represent a reactionary faction in the Mennonite movement. They have gone far beyond a practice common to Western Christianity of seeking to actualize an apostolic church. The Amish have attempted to freeze a culture, that of the late seventeenth century. As time has passed and the surrounding culture has discarded more and more elements of Jacob Amman's time, greater and greater pressure has been placed on the Amish to conform with the modern world. Each generation has brought new issues to Amish leaders. Decisions must constantly be made on accommodating to the prevailing culture on different points. Public school laws, consolidated farming (and the shortage of available farm lands), automobile-oriented road systems, and tourists are just a few of the issues that have joined perennial Amish problems such as in-breeding. A lack of consensus on these issues has produced the several schisms they have experienced.

In order to deal with the various "liberal" trends and local schisms, a general conference was held in Wayne County, Ohio, in 1862, followed by others annually for several years. The conferences only accentuated the various trends. Before the conferences were discontinued, the more conservative "Old Order" Amish withdrew and organized separately. Others formed more liberal bodies that have moved toward the Mennonites in practice.

THE RUSSIAN MENNONITES. Some Anabaptist brethren, instead of coming to America, chose instead to go to Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great in the 1760s. Catherine wanted colonists to develop newly acquired territory and promised religious freedom and local autonomy. Colonies were settled mainly in southern Russia and the Crimean area. Yet there arose in Russia a "pharaoh who knew not Joseph," Czar Alexander II.

In 1870, a program of Russification was begun by the Czar. Its thrust was directed at German colonists, including the Mennonites, whose presence seemed threatening to the rising Russian military power. Local autonomy was ended, the Russian language was to replace German, schools were to come under Russian tutelage, and exemption from universal military service was dropped. Emigration seemed the only recourse for the Mennonites. Among those who came to America, many belonged to the Mennonite Church, the first church described in this chapter. Other Russian immigrants belonged to churches that in Russia had broken off from the Mennonite church there. The settlers brought these previously formed schismatic churches to America: the Evangelical Mennonite Church (Kleine Gemeinde), the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Conference, the Mennonite Brethren Church, and the Crimean Brethren, whose members in this country joined the Mennonite Brethren Church in 1960. These churches are described below, as is the General Conference Mennonite Church, which was formed in this country instead of in Russia.

The first immigrants to North America included Bernard Warkentin, Cornelius Jansen, and David Goerz, who were prominent in the resettlement program. New communities were established in open lands from Oklahoma to Manitoba, with the largest settlements in Kansas.

THE BRETHREN. Among those awakened by the Pietist movement of the late seventeenth century, a movement that stressed personal piety over rigid doctrinal conformity, was a group of citizens of the Palatinate, an area now in westerm Germany. Influenced by the Mennonites in the vicinity, they decided to separate themselves from the state church. Their leader, Alexander Mack (1679–1735), recorded the event: "In the year 1708 eight persons agreed to establish a covenant of a good conscience with God, to accept all ordinances of Jesus Christ as an easy yoke, and thus to follow after their Lord Jesus–their good and loyal shepherd–as true sheep in joy or sorrow until the blessed end… . These eight persons united with one another as brethren and sisters in the covenant of the cross of Jesus Christ as a church of Christian believers" (Donald F. Durnbaugh, European Origins of the Brethren. [Elgin, IL: The Brethren Press, 1958], 121). As a part of the act of forming the new church, they rebaptized themselves, thus placing themselves in the Anabaptist tradition, a tradition reinforced by their German language upon their arrival in America.

While the Palatinate had changed state churches after the religious wars, neither Catholics, Lutherans, nor Reformed were happy with separatists, i.e., those who wanted to separate from the state church. People like the Brethren were subject to persecution, and rather than give up their faith, the Brethren migrated, first to Wittgenstein and then the Netherlands. Toleration diminished even more as they began to receive members from the state church.

During this time, the Brethren became influenced by Gottfried Arnold (1666–1714), a historian. Arnold had written several books on the early life of the church that he believed normative for all Christians. He introduced through his writings the idea of triune immersion as the proper mode of baptism. The believer, on his knees in the water, is immersed three times in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Brethren also continued a close contact with the Mennonites.

By 1719, little more than a decade after their formation, the Brethren began to think about the New World as a home. Having become familiar with William Penn's experiment in Pennsylvania from his continental visits and those of his Quaker followers, they began to migrate to Germantown. The migration was completed by 1735 and the few remaining Brethren in Europe became Mennonites.

The first Brethren Church in America was established in 1723 after the Brethren had corresponded with their European counterparts. They chose Peter Becker (1687–1758) as their pastor. He proceeded to baptize the first American converts and preside over the first love feast, a service that included footwashing, a group meal, and the Lord's Supper. This church is the mother congregation of the present-day Church of the Brethren.

THE FRIENDS (QUAKERS). The middle 1600s in England was a time in which the early stages of the Reformation were beginning to be felt in a practical way. Dissidents whose perspective reflected the religious ferment of the continent began to appear. One of the men whose perspective was in line with that of the continental radical reformers was George Fox (1624–1691)–mystic, psychic, social activist, and founder of the Quakers.

Fox had begun to preach in 1647 after experiencing an inner illumination and hearing a voice that said, "There is One, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition." The experiences of the inner light came as a psychic-spiritual awakening, and Fox developed a reputation as "a young man with a discerning spirit." Fox was a powerful preacher and a charismatic personality. A wide variety of the gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:4–11) appeared regularly throughout his ministry.

Fox was an intense activist on the social scene. He was an early prohibitionist and a preacher against holidays, entertainments and sports, saying that such activities directed man's thoughts to vanity and looseness. During the wars waged when Oliver Cromwell ruled England, Fox emerged as a peace advocate, a position held by many radical reformers. Thrown into prison for his activities, he converted the jailer and became a pioneer prison reformer.

A group of followers soon gathered around Fox and, in 1667, they were organized into a system of monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings. Their one doctrinal peculiarity was their belief in the inner light. The Quakers believed that God's revelation was not limited to the Bible but continued in a living daily contact between the believer and the divine Spirit. The light would lead to the road to perfection. Fox's followers, always on the edge of mere subjectivism, escaped it by constantly testing their light by the teachings and example of Jesus.

The Bible is the source book of the Quaker faith and from it Fox drew many ideas that became part of the peculiar ethos of Quaker life and an offense to non-Quakers. For example, Fox believed that much of the activity of the world was vanity. He exhorted Quakers to lead simple lives that were not wasted in frivolity. Dress was to be simple. No wigs were to be worn, nor were gold or vain decorations on clothing. A Quaker costume developed from these injunctions. The biblical use of the familiar tense (thy and thou) became standard for Quakers, although most have now deserted this practice.

The Quaker organization was built around "meetings" for friends in a certain area. These meetings–monthly, quarterly, and yearly–handled business on an increasingly geographical basis. For many years, the monthly and quarterly meetings handled organization and discipline. They developed as needs manifested themselves. As early as 1668, a "General Meeting of Ministers" was held. This meeting, repeated in 1672, evolved into the yearly meeting as a general organizational body. Thus the word "meeting" can mean "church."

Quaker worship also took on a particular form, in negative reaction to Anglican formality and liturgy and in positive reaction to the inner light doctrine. Without clergy, the Quakers would sit in silence and wait for the Spirit to move. Often, no word would be spoken, but as Francis Howgill noted: "The Lord of heaven and earth we found to be near at hand, and we waited on him in pure silence, our minds out of all things, His heavenly presence appeared in our assemblies, when there was no language, tongue or speech from any creature."

Through the years under the influence of other Protestants, particularly the holiness churches that take John Wesley as their founder, free church worship patterns began to replace the Quaker meeting. For example, the Quakers adopted such practices of the holiness churches as a more programmed worship service, with a minister who would preach. Contemporary Quakers can be divided into the unprogrammed, who follow the old Quaker meeting format, and the programmed, who have an ordered worship that includes hymns, vocal prayer, Bible reading, and a sermon.

QUAKERS IN THE UNITED STATES. Quakers found their way to America within a decade of the beginning of George Fox's public ministry in England; individuals arrived as early as 1655. They found at first no more favorable home in the colonies than they had left in England. However, soon Rhode Island became their sanctuary and the first meeting was established there in 1661. George Fox's visit in 1671–73 spurred the growth of the infant group.

In the 1660s, the man destined to become the most important figure in the early life of the Quakers in the colonies– William Penn (1644–1718)–joined the British Friends. Penn was the son of a British admiral, and becoming a Quaker after meeting George Fox, he became deeply impressed by the problem of persecution that they faced. Heir to a small fortune from the king, Penn accepted a tract of land (the state of Pennsylvania) instead of the money. Here he established a Quaker colony and began the great experiment of trying to mold a colony on a biblical model. To the everlasting credit of Penn, religious freedom was the order of the day, even for Jews and Turks.

In the next century, American Quakers would begin to make social history. Believing as they did in social justice, especially as it expressed itself in the equality of man, Quakers would begin a campaign against slavery. One of their number, John Woolman (1720–1772), would be a widely traveled leader in early Christian anti-slavery efforts. A mission was begun among the Indians, in line with the same belief in the equality of man. Friends controlled the Pennsylvania government until 1756, when they gave up their seats rather than vote for war measures during the French and Indian War.

The first General Meeting of Friends was held in 1681 at Burlington, New Jersey, and for several years one was held each year at both Burlington and Philadelphia. In 1685, these two meetings assumed the name The General Yearly Meeting for Friends of Pennsylvania, East Jersey, and of the Adjacent Provinces. This became the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the oldest Quaker group still in existence in the United States.

Quakers, induced by the promise of freedom of conscience, migrated into tracts of land in the southern United States and established large settlements. Slavery soon became an issue and in the decades before and after 1800, most Quakers left the South as a protest and moved to Indiana and Ohio. To this day, Quaker strength lies across the Midwest and is virtually nonexistent south of the Ohio River.

As Quakerism expanded westward, regionally based yearly meetings were formed as autonomous units but in harmony with eastern counterparts. As time passed and issues came and went, these yearly meetings became the basis for denominational units and late nineteenth century ecumenical endeavors.

The general unity of American Friends remained until the 1820s, when schism began to rend the Friends and produced the various denominational bodies that exist today. Philadelphia remains as a home of broadly based, if more conservative, Quakerism.

Quakers, while fitting clearly within the free church tradition and following the European spiritual Anabaptist faith, deviate from other groups at several points. The baptism issue, a matter of intense Anabaptist interest, was solved by dropping water baptism entirely. As a natural outgrowth of Schwenckfelder belief in the primacy of the spiritual, Quakers hold that the one baptism of Ephesians 4:4–5 is the inward baptism of the Holy Spirit. (See the article on the Schwenckfelder Church in America.) Women also have had an unusual status, their right to full participation having been accepted at an early date. They were accepted into the ministry earlier than in most other churches.

Doctrinally, Quakers have followed a Protestant lead and profess a belief in the fatherhood of God, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit, salvation by faith, and the priesthood of believers. Quakers do, however, take a free church anti-creedal stance, and while most Quaker bodies have a statement of belief, they usually preface it with a disclaimer against a static orthodoxy, and a wide range of beliefs are present. Evangelical practices became a dominant element in the nineteenth century and, as the century closed, Wesleyan holiness became a force. In the early twentieth century, a liberal-conservative split began to emerge, leading to several schisms. The conservative elements tended to identify with holiness ideals and withdrew from the larger Friends' Meetings to form most of the smaller bodies. The Evangelical Friends International, which continues the Association of Evangelical Friends (formed in 1947), serves as an ecumenical body for the conservatives.

While divided into several denominations, Quakers have been able to keep an intense social activism witness in some intrafamily structures. The American Friends Service Committee, founded during World War I, emerged as an expression of national loyalty seeking to serve in war-alternative activities. It has gained wide respect for its refugee work. The Friends Committee for National Legislation is a non-partisan lobby group.

OTHER EUROPEAN FREE CHURCHES. Besides the churches in the four main free church traditions that have been discussed above, Europe has been the birthing place of numerous free church groups over the centuries. Some of these are the product of the particular ministry of one person, the church forming around his/her teachings. Some have followed the emergence of a revival movement in a given limited area. Still others represent a renewal of piety among a particular ethnic group within a larger society or the protest of what is felt to be a repressive action by a state church. In each case, however, they represent a new religious impulse separate from a country's dominant religious establishment. The great majority of the European free churches have never been transplanted to North America.

Among the groups that have come, one set arrived from Russia. Beginning with what was termed the Great Schism in the seventeenth century, the Russian Orthodox Church watched a series of dissenting sects emerge to disturb the unity of the religious landscape. In the 1650s, the somewhat natural division between the better educated urban hierarchy of the Russian church and the poorer and less educated clergy and laity in the scattered rural communities was accentuated by a controversy over ritual. The controversy centered around Nikon (1605–1681), a young monk who, having attained the favor of the czar, rose from obscurity to become the church's patriarch. Nikon tried to introduce a greater degree of uniformity into Orthodox worship, using the Greek church as his standard. He placed very high on his program the correcting of the numerous corrupt service books then in use. Most of his changes were received as simply new innovations. Gradually, as unrest with changes led to the burning of new ritual books, the Czar abandoned him, and Nikon was banished. However, at the same council of the church in 1666 at which Nikon was deposed, his reforms were adopted. Those who opposed the reforms, the Raskol, were excommunicated. The Raskol, or Old Believers, developed as a separate body after the council. They would later divide into two main groups, the Popovtsy, or priestistsand the Bezpopovtsy, or priestless.

The immediate problem of the Popovtsy was the establishment of episcopal leadership, as no bishops chose to join with them. Bishops were most necessary for the ordination of priests. For almost two centuries, they gained their priests from among those who left the state church. It was not until the nineteenth century that they were able to develop a hierarchy. In 1844 some Old Believers residing in the territory controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire were able to persuade the government to designate an Old Believers' episcopal see at Bela Krynica (or Belokrinitsa). In 1846, Ambrose, the former bishop of Sarajevo, assumed the new position. Before the Russian government could react, Ambrose consecrated a number of bishops for the Popovtsy Old Believers. Bishops in this "Belokrinitskaya" line of succession continue to the present with archbishops in Moscow and in Galati, Romania (where the see of Bela Krynica moved after being overrun by the Russians during World War II).

In 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Patriarch Tikhon consecrated a bishop for the "Yedinovertsy," a group of Old Believers that had made a partial peace with the established church at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The established church had agreed to ordain their priests and allow them to follow the old rites. Their first bishop was killed in 1921 by the Communists, and it is believed that his successor met a similar fate. A third line of Popovtsy, the Beglopopovtsy, or Wandering Priestists, gained their own episcopal authority in the Soviet Union following World War II. The archbishop resides at Kuibyshev (Samara).

The second group of Old Believers, the Bezpopovtsy, originated as people began to argue against the legitimacy of an episcopally ordained priesthood who alone could dispense the sacraments. As the basic argument was accepted, disagreements as to its implications multiplied. Some argued that they possessed a presbyterial succession of priestly authority and that their priests, ordained by a presbytery (a group of priests rather than a bishop), were able to administer the sacraments. Others argued that the Russian Church had gone into apostasy and hence lost the sacramental office altogether. As differing opinions appeared, so did numerous divisions of the Bezpopovtsy. Without a hierarchy to provide a point of visible unity, differing parties turned into new sects with great ease. Eventually, most groups moved to limit their sacraments to those that laymen could administer–baptism and absolution. Communion was either dropped (some claiming that every meal eaten in the right spirit constituted a communion with Christ) or served with elements believed to have been consecrated in the days of true priests, that is, before Nikon.

Marriage became the most crucial problem for the Priestless, as such unions can only be consecrated by a valid priest. Some tried celibacy, while others did away with marriage but allowed sexual relations as a concession to the flesh. Eventually, most adopted a form of marriage that was simply blessed by the community elder.

Somewhat different in their origin are the various groups that arose around new mystical impulses in the decades after the Great Schism. Leaders of these new groups emphasized the role of inner illumination, the place of morality over ritual, and the need for simple biblical faith uncorrupted by the teachings of the Greek fathers. Among the most important of these new groups were the Khlysty, the Doukhobors, and the Molokans.

The Khlysty originated in 1631 in Kostroma Province when a peasant, Daniel Filippov, proclaimed himself God Sabaoth, who had come to give new commandments to the people. He selected another peasant to be his main prophet whom he designated as the Christ. The mystical and ascetic doctrine of the Khlysty found many supporters throughout Russia, and a series of Christs appeared to lead the group from generation to generation. The periodic attempts by the government to suppress them usually spurred their further spread.

Among people in the Ukraine attracted to the mystical emphases, but repulsed by some of their more radical notions, there arose a sect called the Doukhobors (literally, Spirit Wrestlers), originally a derisive name given to them by the Russian archbishop at Ekaterinoslav. During the leadership of Sabellius Kapustin over the group, they were deported to the Molochnye Valley. Kapustin took the opportunity to reorganize the Doukhobors into a communal society. Leadership continued in Kapustin's family after his death until 1886. At that time a split occurred and Peter Verigin emerged as the leader of the larger faction. It was he who arranged for most of his followers to leave Russia for Canada at the end of the nineteenth century. With the assistance of Leo Tolstoy, approximately 7,400 settled in western Canada beginning in 1899.

The Molokans were started by Simeon Uklein (1733–?), the son-in-law of a Doukhorbor leader in the late eighteenth century. He rejected his father-in-law's disdain for the Bible and his claims to be "Christ." Taking approximately 70 followers, he formed a rival group. He proclaimed the Bible the sole authority for the faithful and rejected the allegorical methods so favored by the more mystical sects. He emphasized moral content more than concerns for inner illumination. Among their moral precepts was pacifism.

The Molokans' problems in Russia began with the introduction of compulsory military service by the Czar, but became crucial after their refusal to bear arms in the Russo-Japanese War. Approximately 2,000 came to the United States between 1904 and the beginning of World War I.

Besides the Russian groups, free churches from various parts of Europe such as Norway and Switzerland have been transplanted to America. In all likelihood, others, as yet operating quietly out of members' homes, have arrived, and more will come in the future.

ECUMENISM. European Free-Churches provide a church home to people who have left the more established and state churches of Europe. They do not share a common theological heritage, except for sharing some basic affirmation with all of Christendom. Thus, there are no ecumenical structures that unite these churches in a common organization. The free churches have a common heritage of persecution by the older churches. They have disassociated themselves from such ecumenical organization as the World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches, which traditionally have been dominated by the older Reformation churches.

The free churches should not be seen as unresponsive to twenty-first century ecumenical imperative. They generally favor structures that demand less commitment than the council of churches. They have formed family ecumenical structures for those churches that share either a Mennonite (World Mennonite Conference) or Friends (Friends World Committee for Consultation) heritage.

Sources–European Free Church

Mennonites, among the most historically conscious of religious communities, have established a number of historical libraries. The Archives of the Mennonite Church is at 1700 S. Main, Goshen, IN 46526, and issues the Mennonite Historical Bulletin. Canadian history and archivesare focused at the Mennonite Heritage Centre supported by the General Conference of Mennonites in Canada, 600 Shaftsbury Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3P 0M4.

The primary archives of the Church of the Brethren is at 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60521. The nearby Bethany Theological Seminary publishes the quarterly Brethren Life and Thought.

The Friends support the Friends Historical Library at Swathmore College, Swathmore, PA 19081 and the Friends Historical Association, headquartered at the Haverford College Library, Haverford, PA 19041. The association publishes the semi-annual Quaker History.

General Sources

Durnbaugh, Donald F. The Believer's Church. New York: Macmillan Co., 1968. 315 pp.

Grimm, Harold J. The Reformation Era. New York: Macmillan Co., 1973. 594 pp.

Jones, Rufus M. Spiritual Reformers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Boston: Beacon Press, 1914. 362 pp.

Kraybill, Donald B., and Carl F. Bowman. On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren (Center Books in Anabaptist Studies). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. 352 pp.

Littell, Franklin H. The Anabaptist View of the Church. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1952. 231 pp.

Spotts, Charles D. Denominations Originating in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Lancaster, PA: Franklin and Marshall College Library, 1963. 41 pp.

Williams, George H. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962. 924 pp.

The Mennonites

Bender, Harold S. Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature, 1727–1928. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1929.

The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, 1491–1561. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956. 1092 pp.

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Epp, Frank H. Mennonites in Canada, 1786–1920. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1974. 480 pp.

Mennonites of Canada, 1920–1940. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1982. 640 pp.

Hostetler, Beulah Stauffer. American Mennonites and Protestant Movements. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1987. 366 pp.

Hostetler, John A. Mennonite Life. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1959. 39 pp.

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The Amish

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——. Amish Society. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1963. Rev. ed.: 1993. 435 pp.

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The Brethren

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——. "Guide to Research in Brethren History." Elgin, IL: Church of the Brethren General Board, 1977. 16 pp.

Holsinger, H. R. History of the Tunkers and the Brethren Church. Lathrop, CA: The Author, 1901. 827 pp.

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The Friends (Quakers)

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Other European Free Church Traditions

Bolshakoff, Serge. Russian Nonconformity. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1921. 192 pp.

Conybeare, Frederick C. Russian Dissenters. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1921. 370 pp.

Struve, Nikita. Christians in Contemporary Russia. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1967. 464 pp.

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Chapter 10: European Free-Church Family

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