Adapted from: https://www.indymenno.org/about/mennonites/
Mennonite Practices and Beliefs (Mennonites offer room for individual latitude, also)
Mennonites practice a way of life that is especially needed in our success-driven, materialistic and often self-centered and violent society. Mennonites practice quiet actions that speak for them. Mennonites often choose to do without so that everyone can have enough. Mennonites are committed serving others, inspired by God’s love Mennonites actively pursue spirituality and mutual accountability. Mennonites pursue the often counter-cultural and costly way of Jesus.
Mennonites are centered on Christ and his teachings. Their faith is biblically grounded, and they have much in common with all Christians who are biblically based. God is the loving creator; Jesus Christ embodies God’s vision and love for humanity and all creation; the Holy Spirit is God’s transforming presence within us; and we are rescued from our own self-destruction by letting go of our self-centered controlling propensities and trusting God’s wisdom and grace (generosity).
Because Mennonites are more relationally focused, and more practical than dogmatic, they tend to keep their beliefs simple. Mennonite have very few “official” dogmas (positions). Beliefs and practices are rarely reduced to rules. What keeps Mennonites together is a strong sense of community, faith history, and shared values. The following seven areas help make Mennonites distinctive:
1. Church. Mennonites agree that the church is voluntary believers who follow Jesus Christ. As we worship together, teach each other, pray, and support each other, we make tangible a part of God’s vision for creation. The structure of churches is democratic, and decisions are made be consensus rather than win-lose voting.Pastors are teachers and support the activities and mission of congregations.
2. Salvation. Mennonites agree with Luther that we are saved by grace through faith. They say that true faith leads to repentance and the beginnings of a transformed life. Salvation becomes a full reality when genuine faith expresses itself in a Christ-centered life. Mennonites tend to view salvation as not merely a personal relationship with God, but a communal relationship with God and each other—experiencing hope and salvation by living it out together.
3. Baptism and Communion. For Mennonites, these are not sacraments that transmit salvation, but are symbols through which they express and strengthen faith. Baptism is a symbol of repentance for sin and commitment to follow Jesus Christ in daily life. As such, baptism is only for conscious believers who are old enough to understand and make their own commitment. Communion symbolizes rudimentary connection to Jesus Christ.
4. Lifestyle. Mennonites strive to practice a lifestyle that challenges the self-centeredness and materialism. For many Mennonites this takes the form of living as simply as possible for one’s own sake AND in order to free up resources for those in desperate need, and to implement choices that do not harm the environment and future generations.
5. Nonviolence. Perhaps more than any other belief, Mennonites are known for strong commitment against the use of violence in any form or for any reason. Most Mennonites refuse military service or occupations that promote violence or require a threat of force. Most Mennonites believe that the selflessness of Christ’s cross is an example for believers to follow. We are to overcome evil with self-giving love and taking positive action. We believe this is the clear teaching of Jesus. While mystical and elusive to understanding. the resurrection of Jesus promises that the way of love ultimately triumphs over other powers.
6. Biblical Authority. For Mennonites, the Bible is the highest authority in matters of faith and practice. The New Testament especially provides their model for living. Jesus Christ’s teachings and example are to be followed daily and radically in public and private life.
7. Service and Evangelism. Service to others near or far comes naturally to most Mennonites. Mennonites often summarize Christian life as service. As a result, evangelism is usually integrated with concrete service. This reflects the Mennonite concern and valuing the whole person.
A Short History of Mennonites
Mennonites are often confused with horse-and-buggy driving Amish, who share an Anabaptist history. During the Protestant Reformation, Anabaptism was a crime, and over a thousand Anabaptists were arrested by Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed civil authorities and put to death. Just living an exemplary moral life could lead to being accused of being an Anabaptist. Mennonites were founded by Menno Simons. Born in 1496, Simons was ordained a Catholic priest in 1524. He was a popular preacher and a successful priest, but privately he had doubts about the doctrines of transubstantiation and infant baptism. After studying the New Testament for himself, he concluded that the tradition of the church was wrong. Menno Simons was a prolific writer and had his own secret printing press that he moved from one location to another. Because of his writings, his peacemaking personality, and his long-term leadership (he was never caught and executed), Simons was able to pull together the shattered pieces of the Anabaptist movement that formed the foundation of worldwide Mennonite traditions.