European Free Church Family
10 European Free Church Family
Beginning in the 1960s, the history of the Reformation era, the sixteenth-century protest movement that began within the Roman Catholic Church and eventually split the church into a number of large fragments, has been rewritten. Reformation historians have been forced to recognize the vital role played in the Protestant Reformation by the so-called radical reformers. These radicals were independent groups and people who protested the continued ties of Martin Luther (1483–1546) and John Calvin (1509–1564) to the state. Before the 1960s, Lutheran and Calvinist writers treated these additional reformers as revolutionaries, mystics, anarchists, and heretics; they were the object of scorn. However, as theologian and historian George H. Williams (1914–2000) noted in The Radical Reformation, his ground-breaking 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” (1962, p. xix).
Who were the radical reformers? They were men who, like Luther and Calvin, were interested in the reform of the Christian church, but who, because of their variety of backgrounds, outlooks, and theologies, placed 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 church involvement in secular activity, and they were typically persecuted by the state. Most radicals came from the lower class, so they built upon the traditional adversarial relationship between the lower class and the ruling class. The radicals took the central ideas of the Reformation (e.g., the priesthood of believers and the freedom of the Christian) 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. As a result, some radicals, such as Thomas Müntzer (c. 1490–1525), Hans Denck (c. 1495–1527), and Michael Sattler (c. 1490–1527), did not leave even a surviving remnant of followers 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 build 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 are 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 is, 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 Wittenberg, Germany. On this day, Andreas Bodenstein of Carlstadt (c. 1480–1541, called Carlstadt by historians) celebrated the first “Protestant” communion. (Protestant services today follow the trend set by that service.) He preached, and without donning 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 like Carlstadt.
The career of Thomas Müntzer was one of the results of Carlstadt’s activity. Müntzer came to prominence in 1520 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 made up of 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. Müntzer aroused the laity to support 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 delivered 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 German peasants. Not the least of these events was the preaching of Müntzer and his radical colleagues. As the
|European Free-Church Family Chronology|
|1525||Conrad Grebel rebaptizes George Blaurock in protest of the state church based in Zurich, Switzerland.|
|1527||Feliz Manz becomes the first of many executed for refusing to recant his Anabaptist views. The Schleitheim Confession is developed.|
|1536||Menno Simons leave the Catholic Church and reorganizes scatters remnants of the Radical Reformation.|
|1632||Mennonites issue Dortrecht Confession.|
|1652||George Fox founds the Society of Friends (also known as “Quakers”) at Pendle Hill, England.|
|1671–73||Fox visits Quaker families in the American colonies.|
|1681||King Charles II grants William Penn a charter for a colony in British America.|
|1683||Thirteen German Mennonite families arrive in Pennsylvania; they purchased 43,000 acres of land and founded Germantown. First Quaker Meeting House in Philadelphia.|
|1688||Philadelphia Quakers begin history of anti-slavery activities with an initial formal protest.|
|1695||Controversy over the strictness of behavior leads to separation of the Amish from the Mennonites in Switzerland.|
|1719||Schwarzenau Brethren first arrive in colonial America at Philadelphia under the leadership of Elder Peter Becker.|
|1729||Alexander Mack and other Brethren emigrate to America from Rotterdam.|
|1735||First Amish migrations to North America.|
|1754||John Woolman publishes Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes, which launches two decades of anti-slavery activity among the Quakers.|
|1758||Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends declares slavery inconsistent with Christianity.|
|1775||Quakers take lead in the formation of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.|
|1778||The Brethren (later the Church of the Brethren) hold the first “recorded” Annual Meeting.|
|1827||The preaching of Elias Hicks emphasizing the “Inner Light” leads to a major schism among American Quakers. Hicksite Quakers later form the Friends general conference.|
|1847||John Oberholtzer leads in the formation of the General Conference Mennonite Church.|
|1870||A program of Russification initiated by the Czar motivates many Mennonites to lead for North America.|
|1883||The Brethren Church founded in Dayton, Ohio, by Progressive Brethren.|
|1902||The Friends United Meeting, the largest American Quaker group, is formed.|
|1911||Ann Allebach becomes the first Mennonite woman to be ordained.|
|1920||First World Conference of Friends is held.|
|1925||First meeting of the Mennonite World Conference.|
|1937||Friends World Committee for Consultation formed.|
|1939||Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches organized.|
|1947||Nobel peace prize awarded jointly to English Friends Service Council and American Friends Service Committee.|
|1948||Church of the Brethren joins the World Council of Churches as a charter member.|
|1955||James Lark, the first African American Mennonite pastor, becomes the first African American Mennonite bishop.|
|1958||Church of the Brethren grant women full ordination status as ministers.|
|1972||U.S. Supreme Court upholds Amish schools in Wisconsin v. Yoder et al.|
|1984||Christian Peacemaker Teams, which sends teams of peace workers into conflict areas around the world, develops from a suggestion made at the Mennonite World Conference. It receives continuing support from the Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Church of the Brethren, and Friends United Meeting.|
|1995||Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church merge to form Mennonite Church USA. The new church adopts a new statement of faith, the “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.”|
Peasants’ War began, Müntzer, having given up on the immovable princes, joined the peasants’ forces at Mühlhausen, ready to wield his sword for the kingdom. He saw the Peasants’ War as his instrument. When the revolt was put down in 1525, 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 (1480–1528), Denck led in the reconstitution of his group as a truly reformed church with 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, and 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 executed, as a result of which this meeting is frequently referred to as the Martyrs’ Synod.
The main item of concern for the synod was the eschatological program of Hans Hut (c. 1490–1527), 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. Hut believed that God would do his work, and 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 in preparing 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 to 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 plague soon afterward.
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. The Swiss Brethren developed a mature, articulate Anabaptist stance, and from them would come the most important statement of the Anabaptist position.
Swiss Anabaptism arose in the 1520s to protest the 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 left Zurich, 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 a center of controversy. On January 21, 1525, layman Grebel rebaptized Blaurock, a priest, and that action led to months of disputation.
The Swiss 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 their differences with Müntzer and Hut. Müntzer 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 Strasbourg. Upon his return to Switzerland, Sattler became head of the Schleitheim Synod of 1527. There, the mature Anabaptist position was hammered out in a document originally titled “The Brotherly Union of a Number of Children of God Concerning Seven Articles,” now called simply the Schleitheim Confession.
The Schleitheim Confession set the distinctive elements of the Anabaptist position. Rejecting the state church, in which citizenship and church membership were largely equivalent, the Anabaptists desired 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 service as a magistrate. Finally, the Anabaptists refused to take oaths. All of these positions were based upon their study of the Bible.
The distinctive doctrinal and ethical position of the Anabaptist church was accepted, with minor modifications, by the various bodies that survived the era of persecution. The church is composed of those united to Christ by baptism of believers 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 activities—war, the use of violent force against one’s neighbor, civic affairs, courts, oaths, worldly amusements, and service as a magistrate—are studiously avoided.
Pacifism, in particular, has arisen as the essential point in the Anabaptist avoidance ethic, and these churches have been characterized as 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 a disciplined fellowship. It appoints its own leadership and accepts its authority. The leadership’s primary means of enforcing discipline is the ban, a practice based on Matthew 18:15–17. Menno Simons (c. 1496–1561) is credited with emphasizing a modified form of banning, termed shunning, in which the church stops all dealings with an erring member, including eating with him or her, with the intent of winning the individual back to the straight and narrow. This practice is based on I Corinthians 5:11.
The church was opposed to both popish and antipopish works and church services. From this position comes a lay-oriented, nonliturgical, noncreedal, Bible-oriented church. The Anabaptists’ opposition to the state church, a position that was articulated, as well as manifested, by the Anabaptists’ very existence, led to the appellation free church. Nonliturgical worship in its extreme form can be seen in the classic Quaker service.
The Bible is the primary document from which the Anabaptists derive their belief and practice. Their method of biblical interpretation, which does not fall back on tradition and philosophy, has become literalistic. Sacraments became ordinances, or symbolic acts, with baptism functioning as 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 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 uses triune immersion, the practice of entering the water once for each person of the Trinity.
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 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 (c. 1495–c.1535). 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 migrants were Jan Mathijs (d. 1534) and his major supporter, Jan of Leiden (c. 1509–1536). The migrants 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. As Mathijs imposed his religious beliefs, the town adopted a communist lifestyle and made military preparations for the siege. In the midst of these reforms, Mathijs was killed by Catholic forces besieging the city. 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 end the persecution of Anabaptists. The Martyrs Mirror, a book first published in 1554 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. Persecution left a stamp on the members of the free churches, who came to see themselves literally as wandering pilgrims in a hostile world.
Many Anabaptists flocked to Menno Simons in the Netherlands. Emerging in 1537 as a leader, Menno began writing 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, a third form of Anabaptism developed. It turned inward into 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. Long a student of the mystic John Tauler (c. 1300–1361), Denck began to preach of a God who meets people as a light, a word, and a presence. Denck was followed by others, such as Sebastian Franck (1499–1542), Johann Bünderlin (c.1498–1533), and Christian Entfelder (d. 1547).
As a whole, the spiritual Anabaptists collected little following and left none behind. 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 peculiar views on the sacraments and Christ, and a mystic leader with a large following that still exists.
The spiritual reformers’ primarily contribution 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 movement in medieval Catholicism, and the inspiration for later mystical and devotional movements, primarily Quakerism and to a certain extent Pietism. Each of these strains was to find a home in colonial Pennsylvania.
The central surviving Anabaptist tradition owes its name to one of its major leaders, Menno Simons (c. 1496–1561). Simons, a Dutchman, was born in Witmarsum in the Netherlands. After Simons was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, he came 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 doubt the validity of infant baptism as well. Continued investigation of Anabaptist views convinced him that they were correct.
In 1536, a year after his own brother’s death as an Anabaptist, Simons left his Catholic heritage. Because of his abilities, he immediately became a leader in the Anabaptist community. His main tasks became protecting the community from the authorities and keeping it free from militarism (which had led Anabaptists to take complete control of Münster and to 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 Menno’s followers Menists. The bulk 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 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, and opposition to capital punishment, holding office, and taking oaths. On two points only did Menno Simons differ—his use of the ban and his doctrine of incarnation.
Menno joined the argument with the Brethren concerning the strict versus the liberal use of the ban. Menno advocated its strict use as the only means to keep the church free of corrupt sects. He also advocated “avoidance” or shunning of all who were banned. Shunning was centered upon the idea of not eating with the person under the ban; this practice created a significant in-group problem when one member of a family was banned. 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 becomes an issue between a church member and a spouse who is being shunned. In such cases, the church member is not allowed to eat dinner with the shunned spouse.
The Mennonite movement spread slowly, and during the late 1500s 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 (1729–1796) of Russia offered religious toleration to German settlers who would populate the country’s 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 the face of the growing military power of Prussia. The Mennonites, pacifists, refused to join the military. As a result, in 1874 a six-year mass immigration to the United States and Canada began. Those that remained in Russia prospered until 1917, when most became victims of the Bolsheviks. The Russian Mennonites survive, however, in small scattered communities.
Reference to Mennonites in American history occurs as early as 1643 in the records of New Netherlands. In 1633 a communal experiment led by Cornelius Pieter Plockhoy (c.1625–c.1665) was established on Delaware Bay, then 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 Americas. First, religious persecution in Europe caused many to immigrate. Second, Quaker leaders William Penn (1644–1718) and George Fox (1624–1691) were seeking German converts and appealed to members of Mennonite communities to migrate 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 Palatinate in the early eighteenth century.
The Revolutionary War (1775–1783) became the first major crisis in the American Mennonite community, leading to their first schism. The issue was whether or not to support 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 (1731–1811), argued in favor of support, including the special war tax, drawing his view from Jesus’ words on taxation in Matthew 22:21. Funk was excommunicated, and with his followers formed the Mennonite Church (Funkite), which existed until the mid-nineteenth century. It died out as all the participants in the original dispute passed away.
Continued immigration and the natural expansion of the Mennonites, who generally have large families, forced them west, looking for new land. In the early nineteenth century, Mennonites settled in Ontario and the Old Northwest Territory, and after the American Civil War (1861–1865), the prairie states. This expanding migration and wide separation geographically set the stage for the formation of schismatic churches, especially in the 1880s.
While no clear 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 colonists. The greatest distinction among the Mennonites as a whole is that between the western European and the Russian settlers. Most of the western European Mennonites arrived in the initial wave of settlers into Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. They later pushed west into Canada and Indiana. The Russian immigrants are those Mennonites who migrated in the nineteenth century and settled in Canada and the western United States, primarily Kansas.
Mennonites have been proud of a heritage of biblical theology and avoidance of hairsplitting and other 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 method 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 on the believer’s direct encounter with the living Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit within. Pietism, an 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.
Among the more liberal Swiss Mennonites of the late seventeenth century, there arose a party led by Jacob Amman (c. 1644–1711), 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 on a strict interpretation of discipline. For his practices, he appealed to Menno Simons’s writings and to the Dordrecht Confession, 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. Nonreligious customs of the period—the use of hooks and eyes instead of buttons, shoestrings instead of shoe buttons, bonnets and aprons, and broad brimmed hats, and the wearing of 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 arrive 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, the strongest community was 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 whether to accommodate 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 been added to such perennial Amish problems as in-breeding. A lack of consensus on these issues has produced several schisms.
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.
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 (1818–1881).
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 power of the Russian military. 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 had broken off from the Russian Mennonite Church. These settlers brought their 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 the United States joined the Mennonite Brethren Church in 1960. These churches are described below, as is the General Conference Mennonite Church, which was formed in the United States instead of in Russia.
The first immigrants to North America included Bernard Warkentin (1847–1908), Cornelius Jansen, and David Goerz, who were prominent in the resettlement program. New communities were established on open lands from Oklahoma to Manitoba, with the largest settlements in Kansas.
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 western 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.
Durnbaugh, The European Origins of the Brethren, 1958, p. 121.
As a part of the act of forming the new church, they rebaptized themselves, thus placing the community in the Anabaptist tradition, a tradition reinforced by their use of the German language upon their arrival in America.
While the residents of the Palatinate had changed state churches after the religious wars, neither Catholics, Lutherans, nor Reformed were happy with separatists, that is, 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 to the Netherlands. Toleration diminished further as they began to win over members of 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 corresponded with their European counterparts. They chose Peter Becker (1687–1758) as their pastor. He proceeded to baptize the first American converts and to preside over the first love feast, a service that included foot washing, a group meal, and the Lord’s Supper. This church is the mother congregation of the present-day Church of the Brethren.
In mid-seventeenth-century England, 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. Many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:4–11) were regular elements of 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 people’s thoughts to vanity and looseness. During the wars waged when Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) 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 with 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 toward 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 sourcebook 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 worn 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 addressed organization and discipline. Meetings 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, for Quakers, 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 Holy Spirit to move them. Often, no word would be spoken, but as Francis Howgill (1618–1669), a prominent early Quaker, 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 (1703–1791) 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, Rhode Island soon became their sanctuary, and the first meeting was established there in 1661. George Fox’s visit in 1671 to 1673 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. He become a Quaker after meeting George Fox, and 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 human beings, Quakers began a campaign against slavery. One of their number, John Woolman (1720–1772), became a widely traveled leader in early Christian antislavery efforts. A mission was begun among the Indians, in line with the same belief in human equality. Quakers controlled the Pennsylvania government until 1756, when they gave up their seats rather than vote in favor of war measures during the French and Indian War (1754–1763).
The first General Meeting of Friends was held in 1681 at Burlington, New Jersey, and meetings were held annually for several years at both Burlington and Philadelphia. In 1685 these two meetings were given 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, most Quakers live in the Midwest, and few live south of the Ohio River.
As Quakerism expanded westward, regionally based yearly meetings were formed as autonomous units 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 the American Friends remained until the 1820s, when schism began to rend the Friends and produced the various denominational bodies that exist today. Philadelphia remains home to a broadly based, if more conservative, form of Quakerism.
Quakers, while fitting clearly within the free church tradition and following the European spiritual Anabaptist faith, deviate from other groups on 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 have also held an unusual status in Quakerism, their right to full participation having been accepted at an early date. Women were thus accepted into the Quaker 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 priest-hood of believers. However, Quakers maintain a free church anticreedal 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 held. 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 maintain an intense social-activism witness in some intrafamily structures. The American Friends Service Committee, founded during World War I (1914–1918), emerged as an expression of national loyalty for Quakers seeking to serve in war-alternative activities. It has gained wide respect for its refugee work. The Friends Committee for National Legislation is a nonpartisan lobby group.
Besides the churches in the four main free church traditions 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, with the church forming around his or her teachings. Some churches have followed the emergence of a revival movement in a 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, these churches represent a new religious impulse that is 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 did immigrate to the United States, one arrived from Russia. Beginning with what was termed the Great Schism in the seventeenth century, a series of dissenting sects emerged in the Russian Orthodox Church, and disturbed the unity of the religious landscape. In the 1650s, the 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 new innovations. Gradually, as unrest with Nikon’s 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, a group known as 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 priestists, and 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, however, were necessary for the ordination of priests. For almost two centuries, the Popovtsy found 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 (1937–1945).
In 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Patriarch Tikhon (1865–1925) consecrated a bishop for the Yedinovertsy, a group of Old Believers that had made 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 emerged, so did numerous divisions of the Bezpopovtsy. Without a hierarchy to provide a point of clear unity, differing parties became 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 the author Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), approximately 7,400 settled in western Canada beginning in 1899.
The Molokans were started by Simeon Uklein (b. 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, Uklein formed a rival group. He proclaimed the Bible the sole authority for the faithful and rejected the allegorical methods favored by the more mystical sects. He also emphasized moral content over concern for inner illumination. Among the moral precepts of the Molokans was pacifism.
The Molokans’ problems in Russia began with the introduction of compulsory military service by the czar, but their situation became critical after their refusal to bear arms in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). 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, including Norway and Switzerland, have been transplanted to America. In all likelihood, others, as yet operating quietly out of members’ homes, have arrived in the United States, and more will come in the future.
European free churches provide a religious home to people who have left the more established churches and state churches of Europe. Free churches do not share a common theological heritage, except for their basic affirmation with all of Christendom. Thus, there are no ecumenical structures that unite these churches in a common organization. The free churches share a 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, but they generally favor structures that demand less commitment than the councils 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.
Mennonites, among the most historically conscious of religious communities, have established a number of historical libraries. The Archives of the Mennonite Church, at 1700 S. Main, Goshen, IN 46526, issues the Mennonite Historical Bulletin. Canadian Mennonite history and archives are 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 are 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 semiannual Quaker History.
Durnbaugh, Donald F. The Believer’s Church: The History and Character of Radical Protestantism. New York: Macmillan, 1968. 315 pp.
Grimm, Harold J. The Reformation Era: 1500–1650. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1973. 594 pp.
Hillerbrand, Hans J., ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. 4 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
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. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. 352 pp.
Kraybill, Donald B., and C. Nelson Hostetter. Anabaptist World USA. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001. 294 pp.
Littell, Franklin H. The Anabaptist View of the Church: A Study in the Origins of Sectarian Protestantism. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1952. 231 pp.
Snyder, C. Arnold, Anabaptist History and Theology: Revised Student Edition. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 1997.
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.
Barrett, Lois. A Mennonite Statement and Study on Violence. Newton, KS: Faith and Life Press; Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998.
Bender, Harold S. Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature: A Bibliography of Mennonitica Americana, 1727–1928. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1929.
Dyck, Cornelius. An Introduction to Mennonite History: A Popular History of the Anabaptists and the Mennonites. Lancaster, PA: Herald Press, 1993. 456 pp.
Epp, Frank H. Mennonites in Canada, 1786–1920: The History of a Separate People. Toronto, ON: Macmillan of Canada, 1974. 480 pp.
———. Mennonites in Canada, 1920–1940: A People’s Struggle for Survival. Toronto, ON: Macmillan of Canada, 1982. 640 pp.
Hostetler, Beulah Stauffer. American Mennonites and Protestant Movements: A Community Paradigm. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1987. 366 pp.
Hostetler, John A. Mennonite Life. Rev. ed. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1959. 39 pp.
Loewen, Harry, ed. Mennonite Images: Historical, Cultural, and Literary Images Dealing with Mennonite Issues. Winnipeg, MB: Hyperion Press, 1980. 279 pp.
MacMaster, Richard K. Land, Piety, Peoplehood: The Establishment of Mennonite Communities in America, 1683–1790. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985. 340 pp.
The Mennonite Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Reference Work on the Anabaptist-Mennonite Movement. 5 vols. Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1955–1990.
Quiring, Walter, and Helen Bartel. Mennonites in Canada: A Pictorial Review. Altona, MB: Friesen, 1961. 208 pp.
Redekop, Calvin W. Mennonite Society. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. 397 pp.
Scott, Stephen. An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1996. 252 pp.
Simons, Menno. The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, 1491–1561. Ed. and trans. Leonard Verduin. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956. 1092 pp.
Springer, Nelson P., and A. J. Klassen, eds. Mennonite Bibliography, 1631–1961. 2 vols. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1977.
Waltner, James H. This We Believe. Newton, KS: Faith and Life Press, 1968. 230 pp.
Wenger, John Christian. The Doctrines of the Mennonites. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1950. 160 pp.
Coleman, Bill. The Gift to Be Simple: Life in the Amish Country. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001. 120 pp.
Hostetler, John A. Amish Life. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1959. 39 pp. Rev. ed., 1983. 48 pp.
———. Amish Society. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1963. Rev. ed., 1993. 435 pp.
———. An Annotated Bibliography on the Amish. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1951. 100 pp.
Kraybill, Donald B. The Riddle of Amish Culture. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. 304 pp. Rev. ed., 2001. 387 pp.
Schreiber, William. Our Amish Neighbors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. 227 pp.
Smith, Elmer Lewis. The Amish. Witmer, PA: Applied Arts, 1966. 34 pp.
The Russian Mennonites
Smith, C. Henry. The Coming of the Russian Mennonites. Berne, IN: Mennonite Book Concern, 1927. 296 pp.
Stucky, Harley J. A Century of Russian Mennonite History in America. North Newton, KS: Mennonite Press, 1974. 119 pp.
The Brethren Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Philadelphia: Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., 1983–2005.
Durnbaugh, Donald F., ed. The European Origins of the Brethren: A Source Book on the Beginnings of the Church of the Brethren in the Early Eighteenth Century. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1958. 463 pp.
———. “A Brethren Bibliography, 1713–1963.” Brethren Life and Thought 9, 1–2 (1964): 3–177.
———, ed. The Brethren in Colonial America: A Source Book on the Transplantation and Development of the Church of the Brethren in the Eighteenth Century. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1967. 659 pp.
———. Guide to Research in Brethren History. Elgin, IL: Church of the Brethren General Board, 1977. 16 pp.
———. Fruit of the Vine: A History of the Brethren, 1708–1995. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1997. 675 pp.
Holsinger, H. R. History of the Tunkers and the Brethren Church. Lathrop, CA: Author, 1901. 827 pp. Reprint, North Manchester, IN: Schultz, 1962.
Mallot, Floyd E. Studies in Brethren History. Elgin, IL: Brethren Publishing House, 1954. 382 pp.
Sappington, Roger E., ed. The Brethren in the New Nation: A Source Book on the Development of the Church of the Brethren, 1785–1865. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1976. 496 pp.
Willoughby, William G. Counting the Cost: The Life of Alexander Mack, 1679–1735. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1979. 176 pp.
The Friends (Quakers)
Bacon, Margaret Hope. The Quiet Rebels: The Story of the Quakers in America. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill, 1999. 249 pp.
Baltzell, E. Digby. Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979. 585 pp.
Barbour, Hugh, and J. William Frost. The Quakers. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. 407 pp.
Barbour, Hugh, and Arthur O. Roberts, eds. Early Quaker Writings, 1650–1700. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973. 622 pp.
Benjamin, Philip S. The Philadelphia Quakers in the Industrial Age: 1865–1920. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976. 301 pp.
Birkel, Michale L. Silence and Witness: The Quaker Tradition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004. 164 pp.
Brinton, Howard H., ed. Children of Light: In Honor of Rufus M. Jones. New York: Macmillan, 1938. 416 pp.
Comfort, William Wistar. Just Among Friends: The Quaker Way of Life. Philadelphia: Blakiston, 1945. 178 pp.
Elliott, Errol T. Quakers on the American Frontier: A History of the Westward Migrations, Settlements, and Developments of Friends on the American Continent. Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 1969. 434 pp.
Evans, Thomas. A Concise Account of the Religious Society of Friends. Philadelphia: Friends Books Store, c. 1870. 161 pp.
Friends Directory of Meeting, Churches, and Worship Groups in the Section of the Americas & Resource Guide. Philadelphia: Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas, 1996. 256 pp.
Hamm, Thomas D. The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800–1907. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
Jones, Rufus. The Quakers in the American Colonies (1911). New York: Norton, 1966. 606 pp.
Peck, George T. What Is Quakerism? A Primer. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill, 1988. 47 pp.
Quakers Around the World. London: Friends World Committee for Consultation, 1994. 157 pp.
Van Etten, Henry. George Fox and the Quakers. New York: Harper, 1959. 191 pp.
Yount, David. How the Quakers Invented America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. 192 pp.
Other European Free Church Traditions
Bolshakoff, Serge. Russian Nonconformity: The Story of “Unofficial” Religion in Russia. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950. 192 pp.
Conybeare, Frederick C. Russian Dissenters. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1921. 370 pp.
Struve, Nikita. Christians in Contemporary Russia. Trans. Lancelot Sheppard and A. Manson. New York: Scribner’s, 1967. 464 pp.