What Is An Anabaptist?
The only appropriate place to start this blog I think is with the simple question: what exactly is an Anabaptist anyway? What does it mean that I apply that label to myself? And why do I care enough about it to set up this blog? You could check out a simpler answer on the Mennonite Church Canada website, the complete Mennonite Canada Statement of Faith, or you can read the rest of this post. For me, it is not a cultural or a familial distinction. I was not raised in an Anabaptist community (Mennonite, Amish, Hutterite, or otherwise) which can, although are not always, quite distinct in many features of their lifestyle from North American culture as a whole. When I use the term, I use it strictly theologically: my beliefs are most closely aligned with those of the Anabaptists, more than any other category within Christianity.
I think the easiest way to explain Anabaptist distinctives is from a historical point. In 1527, the early Anabaptists came together and formed a statement of their beliefs, the Schleitheim Confession. It was a descriptive statement, explaining how they understood their faith, not a prescriptive one which forced the same on any who wanted to be affiliated with them. Although there are lots of variation within different branches of Anabaptists that emerged over the years, there are still these core points that they share. These 7 points of summary of that confession were taken from the notes for a sermon at The Meeting House in Oakville, Ontario.
Baptism: To baptize only those who place voluntary faith in Christ.
Confrontation: To practice the discipline of confrontation leading to reconciliation or removal (as opposed to torture and execution) for those who hold opposing views.
Communion: To practice the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) in memory of Christ (not as a sacrament to receive God’s grace).
Separation: To be separate from the world of evil, sin, and violence, including all Protestant and Catholic churches to the extent they embrace the ways of the world.
Leadership: That Pastors (not priests) shall be chosen by local churches (not appointed by a dominating hierarchy) and will lead as servants of the congregation.
The Sword: To reject all violence, whether for attack, defense, or punishment and to refuse employment by the state, who bears the sword outside of the perfection of Christ.
The Oath: Not to swear oaths of loyalty or word-keeping, which may be necessary for adversaries but not for brothers and sisters working together for the common good.