Anabaptism: An Introduction

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The Anabaptist movement had its genesis as the radical wing of the Protestant Reformation. It began in Zurich in 1525 when a small group of men and women gathered to baptise one another. This group and those that followed them became known as Anabaptists because they believed that Christians must choose baptism as consenting adults rather than as infants.

The concept of believer's baptism was rejected by more moderate reformers who still believed in the Christendom model in which baptism of infants served as entry into both the church and the state. The Anabaptists were hunted down and persectued by both the Catholic and Protestant authorites for their baptism of adults as well as their rejection of the sword, swearing oaths and their focus on evangelism.

For centuries the term ‘Anabaptist’ has been reviled and its beliefs and practices have been ignored. Anabaptism has usually appeared as only a brief footnote in books on church history – and a negative one at that!

There has never been an indigenous Anabaptist movement in Britain. The few Anabaptists who crossed the English Channel were forcibly ejected in the late sixteenth century. But in the past few decades Christians from many traditions in Britain (and in many other nations) have rediscovered this movement and have begun to value its legacy.

As the culture of Christendom gradually fades and the church at the centre gives way to a church on the margins, Anabaptism now seems surprisingly relevant and helpful. A movement that rejected Christendom ways of thinking and operated from the margins has much to offer.

For more information on Anabaptism, see "What is Anabaptism?"

You can also download the file below (in pdf format) for a summary of the history and distinctives of the Anabaptist tradition. The second version is formatted to enable you to print it off as a booklet.

Who were the Anabaptists? - front page (18KB)
Who were the Anabaptists? for on-line reading (207KB)
Who were the Anabaptists? for printing as booklet (223KB)