Where Are Anabaptists Today

From the early days in the Reformation, the Amish were connected to the Anabaptist movement. This article discusses some of the other groups that are connected to the Amish and the Anabaptists in some way.

So what is an Anabaptist?1

In 1519 Ulrich Zwingli became the leitpriester (the people’s priest) of the Gross Muenster Church in Zurich. He had served in several parishes since he became a priest. In 1519 he became the priest of the Gross Muenster in Zurich and founded the Swiss Reformed Church. He began to preach abut reforming infant baptism and other religious practices. He preached a series of messages in expository style through the entire New Testament. This was a notable departure from the mass of the Catholic Church. It was his most notable contribution to the Swiss Brethren movement which separated from the state church in Switzerland and led to the beginning of the Anabaptist movement.2

In October of 1523 at a debate in Zurich regarding these issues, the debate was about to end when one of the more radical reformers stood up and asked Zwingli what should be done, Zwingli responded by saying that a decision would be made another time. A more radical reformer, Simon Stump interrupted Zwingli by saying that the decision has already been made by the spirit of God and that the Bible was the final authority. This made it clear to Zwingli that the Reformers had different expectations than Zwingli, as he expected to move only as fast the the City Council would allow them. To the Reformers they felt that the state did not even have a say in some of these decisions and began meeting on their own by 1525. The City Council of Zurich delayed and denied Zwingli’s proposals to reform these practices that they had trouble with, such as infant baptism. They called a final city council meeting and announced that a week later on January 21, 1525 all those who continued to refuse to baptize their infants will be expelled if their infants are not baptized.3

Their response was a meeting later that evening on the same night of the 21st where they baptized the first members of the new church.4

The secret meeting was held in Felix Manz’s house that night After a time of prayer, George Blaurock asked Conrad Grebel to baptize him upon his confession of faith in Jesus Christ. He did so and then Blaurock proceeded to baptize everyone else at the meeting. Blaurock became the most important reformer in Switzerland. This is considered to be the very beginning of the Anabaptist movement.5

The name Anabaptist was given to these Reformers by the State.

In March of 1526 Felix Manz was executed by drowning for his faith in Christ and his practice and participation in believer’s baptism which separated him from the Reform Movement of the Swiss Brethren in Switzerland.6

Execution by drowning was the state’s method of choice for executing Anabaptists. King Ferdinand declared drowning to be the best antidote to Anabaptism, declaring, “You just love being baptized as an adult don’t you?. Well, what’s another baptism going to do to you?” They called it a third baptism.7

Anabaptists never liked the term Ana. That was Greek for Re and they did not see themselves as getting rebaptized. They believed their childhood baptisms were meaningless and therefore of no account. Menno Simons made the case of adult baptism like this: “We are not regenerated because we have been baptized but we are baptized because we have been regenerated by faith and the Word of God. Regeneration is not the result of baptism but baptism the is result of regeneration.”8

Martin Luther9 was an important leader in Germany at about the same time. He joined them by nailing his 95 Thesis on the church door at Wittenberg. He believed that the repentance required by Christ in order for sins to be forgiven required inner spiritual repentance rather than external sacramental confession.10 He accepted the supreme authority of the scriptures but applied it more rigorously and comprehensively to all doctrines and practices in the church. He preached against infant baptism and believed that all babies should not be baptized but instead come to make that decision in adulthood and that priests should be allowed to get married.

In 1527 Michael Sattler organized their beliefs into a Confession of Faith.11 The Schleitheim Confession of Faith was drafted and signed. It touched upon many of their major disagreements with the reform movement such as baptism, excommunication, the Ban, Communion, separation from evil, pastors and Christian Pacifism and the swearing of oaths.

On May 20 of 1527 Michael Sattler was executed by the civil authorities because they believed the movement was immoral and treasonable. There was no tolerance for a difference in religious beliefs. If you did not believe and accept what the state sanctioned, you were persecuted and subject to execution.

There were other well known names and groups which formed during these times.

Menno Simons (1496-1561) was a Roman Catholic priest from Friesland who joined the Anabaptist movement. He became highly influential and eventually followers of his were known as Mennonites.12

Mennonites, several hundred years later, were known for Believer’s Baptism with pouring as the common mode of baptism. The Lord’s supper is practiced and viewed as symbolic. Foot washing is also practiced in many churches.

By about 1693 Jacob Amman13 showed up in the Emmenthal Valley region in Switzerland before moving on to France. He became a church leader and disagreed with Hans Reist who was in the Emmenthal Valley. Amman was a strong disciplinarian and when a disagreement arose, he traveled back to Switzerland to try and work out this disagreement. He, however lost patience and excommunicated Reist and many of his people.

Later he repented for doing this. He tried to rectify his errors in working with the church so harshly, but the church and his followers disagreed with him and he was never able to make peace with them again.

But he had a large following by this time. They identified themselves as the Amish. The Amish culture to this day has a strong fascination with excommunication and shunning. Excommunication is a practice that has followed the Amish church down to this day, using excommunication against any they were in disagreement with. His followers became a strong church that is still to be contended with today. 14

The Amish as we know them today are largely settled in North America. They are estimated to be over 350,000 in number by 2021 in the United States alone.

In 1927 they had a division in Somerset County, Pennsylvania and Moses Beachy led the Beachy Amish out of the original Amish. They distinguished themselves from the Amish by allowing more conveniences than the Amish did, particularly electricity, vehicles and phones. The Weavertown Amish Mennonite Church is the oldest known congregation of Beachy Amish.

It was during splits like this that the Amish became known as the Old Order, a term which still exists today for a large number of the original Amish.

Among the denominations that split off of the Beachy church are the Maranatha Amish-Mennonite Churches and the Midwest Beachy Amish-Mennonite Churches.

Another one of the groups which divided from the Amish are the New Order Amish. The New Order have many of the same beliefs and practices of the Amish but are more liberal in what they allow and practice. They have an emphasis on soul winning which is not among the Old Oder. Many groups use electricity but they don’t have vehicles, However, they do use tractors and trailers for many of their transportation needs. But they keep a horse and buggy to go to church on Sunday mornings.

The Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference formed in 1910 but completely removed the name Amish from their name by 1957.15

By 1998 they had another split and the BMA (Biblical Mennonite Conference) conference formed out of that.

The Conservative Mennonite Conference was known as the CMC but in 2003 renamed themselves to the Rosedale Network of churches.

Another group that separated from the Amish during this time (it was more of a wandering off than a split) were those who became known as Amish Mennonites but most joined other more developed groups as time went on. 16

Some of the Mennonite Conferences which grew out of this movement and were still considered part of the Anabaptist movement were the Indiana-Michigan Amish Mennonite Conference, organized in 1888, who merged with the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference in 1916. The Western District Amish Mennonite Conference organized in 1890 and merged with the Western Mennonite Conference in 1920. The Eastern Amish Mennonite conference was formed in 1893 but merged in 1927 with the Ohio Mennonite Conference.17

The Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference was formed in 1925 and was assimilated into the Mennonite mainstream Mennonite Conference then assimilated with the to Western Ontario Mennonite Conference in 1963.

There were more, like the Stuckey Amish and the Engli Amish who all joined Mennonite Conferences later.

The Kaufman Amish Mennonites, which are also known as the sleeping preacher churches, had over 2000 baptized members by 2017 and lived mostly in Missouri and Arkansas.

Then there is the Mennonite Christian Fellowship, which separated from the Old Order Amish during the 50s and 60s. They may best be defined as having the Rod and Staff Publishing house in Kentucky. They were estimated to have over 1600 members in 2006.

The Old Colony Mennonites originated in the Chortitza Colony in Russia but today are estimated at about 400,000 population. They are found in Mexico, Canada and Central America.18

The Old Order Mennonites are similar but are generally more modern in practice and lifestyle than the Old Order Amish are. Some of them don’t have facial hair. They are largely in Belize and in the United States.19

Then there are the Team Mennonites which split off of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference and was first known as the Piker Mennonites. Eventually they split off into more than 9 groups and they are still active today. They are in a number of states including Wisconsin and Missouri, from whence they settled from their main and original settlement of Lancaster County.20

In 1927 at the Groffdale Mennonite Church in Lancaster Pennsylvania there was a split between the group led by Moses Horning and the rest over cars. Moses had made the decision that they can now allow cars among members. But those who opposed him continued on as a horse and buggy group with services in German or Pennsylvania Dutch, became known as the Wenger Mennonites, or Team Mennonites. Originally only in Pennsylvania but they are now like 16,000 strong and in 8 other states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and other Midwestern states where they are often called the Horse and Buggy Mennonites.21

Other Mennonite groups today that are still considered part of the Anabaptist movement are the Ohio Wistler group and the Church of God in Christ Mennonite.

Several popular Mennonite Bible schools are in this list also which are Maranatha Bible School and Rosedale Bible School.

So Anabaptism is very much alive and well today in a number of groups from the very conservative to very liberal theologically Mennonite groups who carry some semblance of Anabaptist teaching and belief. The various Amish groups believe that they cling to the intent of the original Anabaptists. They have kept the intent of some of the original Anabaptist faith, but they do fall short in keeping the complete original intent as believed by men like George Blaurock and Michael Sattler.

But all of these groups cling to at least some semblance of what they understand the Anabaptist faith to be. This is not a complete list of all the groups but it gives you an idea of some of the Anabaptist groups that came out of the reformation.

1Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopedia. “Anabaptist.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Anabaptists.

2Bromiley, G. W.. “Huldrych Zwingli.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Huldrych-Zwingli.

3Daine, Spread of the Anabaptists (Complete Documentary) The Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites, YouTube, Uploaded by Daine, 10 July 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B6z7Kcpnsc


5Wikipedia. 2023. “Felix Manz.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified April 18, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Manz.

Daine, Spread of the Anabaptists (Complete Documentary) The Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites, Youtube, Uploaded by Daine, 10 July 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B6z7Kcpnsc

6Wikipedia. 2023. “Felix Manz.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified April 18, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Manz.

7Daine, Spread of the Anabaptists (Complete Documentary) The Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites, YouTube, Uploaded by Daine, 10 July 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B6z7Kcpnsc


9Hildebrand, H. J.. “Martin Luther.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther.

10Wikipedia. 2023. “Ninety-five Theses.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified September 18, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninety-five_Theses.

11Wikipedia. 2023. “Michael Sattler.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified March 1, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Sattler.

12Wikipedia. 2023. “Menno Simons.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified April 10, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menno_Simons.

13Wikipedia. 2023. “Jakob Ammann.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified May 8, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakob_Ammann.

14Jakob Amman. (2022, September 5). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakob_Amman

15 Amish Mennonite. (2022, November 2). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish_Mennonite)

16(Amish Mennonite. (2022, November 2). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish_Mennonite)

17Amish Mennonite. (2023, September 14). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish_Mennonite

18 Mennonites. (2022, November 23). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mennonites


20Wikipedia. 2023. “Stauffer Mennonite.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified February 17, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stauffer_Mennonite.

21Mennonites. (2022, November 23). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mennonites

This video explains many of the reasons Mennonites and Amish practice the doctrines the way they do. We included it here because you may find it interesting and gain more insight into the Anabaptist world. Independent Baptists Vs. Mennonites.

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The video below explores how the church responded to and dealt with the challenge of the Reformers and moved forward in their times. Spread of the Anabaptists (Complete Documentary) The Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites

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