When the protestants began to revolt against the Catholic Church in the Sixteenth Century, becoming baptized as an infant was becoming a citizen of the state. Some, called rebaptizers, or “Anabaptists” by others, having recently obtained the Bible in their native languages, began to hold that baptism should be a mature commitment of people who understand the beauty and dangers of following Jesus as Lord.
Soon, these groups gathered together to confess together what they were hearing from the Spirit. Besides their conviction about Baptism, they held, despite the fact that persecution had already begun, that following Jesus meant that they could not do violence to those who would harm them.
One of the early groups of Anabaptists was led by a Dutch former priest named Menno Simons, from whom the name Mennonite comes. Since that time, Mennonites have been driven together, by their own commitments and by their strained relationships with dominant societies, into communities of mutual dependence that emphasize peace and shared practice. Despite centuries of persecution, they generally maintained their commitments to living without killing others, and cultivating peaceful communities of the baptized.
Today, Mennonites have entered the mainstream to a much greater extent than previously, but still hold in tension the calling of the Gospel of Peace and the pull of the world and its ways. Practices of peace-making, community building, foot-washing, non-violence, and reconciliation still mark Mennonite work in local churches and in relief and mission work all around the globe.