Mennonites are Anabaptists, a faith stream within Christianity. They are often mixed with Amish people, but there are differences between the two groups. Speaking of their faith, Anabaptism grew out of the 16th century Radical Reformation. Technically, they are neither Catholic nor Protestant. Yet, they do share some beliefs of both.
The first Anabaptists separated from the state church when they began re-baptizing adults and refusing to baptize infants until they could make an adult decision.
They are named after Menno Simons, a Dutch priest who lived between 1496 and 1561 and embraced Anabaptist theology as an alternative to Catholicism.
What do they believe in?
There are three core values in the Anabaptist religion. Mennonites believe in them as well. Those are:
– Jesus is the center of the our faith
– Community is the center of our lives
– Reconciliation is the center of our work
Speaking about it deeper, they believe in salvation through Jesus and in the Bible’s authority. Their church believes that “through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offers salvation from sin and a new way of life to all people”.
They encourage the practice of foot washing. This is their way of showing that they share in the body of Christ. It is their frequent need of cleansing and renewing their willingness to let go of pride and worldly power.
They are not Amish
As we said before, a lot of people mistake Mennonites and Amish people. While they do come from the same Anabaptist root from the 16th century, the Amish are a separate group. They agree on many beliefs, but the Amish follow a stricter doctrine.
One of the core differences is that the Amish create their own community isolated from the world, while the Mennonites do not. And Amish hold to stricter rules like no electricity, horse, buggy transportation, plain dress, and more.
Strong belief in peace
The group believes that God’s peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ and they are responsible for following him in the way of peace, doing justice, bringing reconciliation and practicing non-resistance even in the face of violence.
They do not enlist and during World War II, they served by working in Civilian Public Service not in the fighting forces.
Some of them even do not pay the portion of taxes that is earmarked for the military.
Food and cuisine
Food plays an important part in their celebration and culture. In the past, Mennonite cooking and Mennonite cuisine had a strong German or Russian flavor. But today, that has changed, and they have accepted influence from Dutch, Swiss, and other backgrounds.
What do women wear?
There are some groups that have rules on clothing. Generally speaking, Mennonites are not like Amish, and they do not adhere to a strict dress code. It depends on the specific Mennonite church.
There are no codes, even for women. Yet, some conservative sects dress in a way to encourage modesty and separation from society.
In the past, women wore coverings or prayer veils on their heads all the time. They dressed plainly, wearing conservative clothing and no makeup or jewelry. This has changed in some modern societies.
What about homosexuality?
There are some disagreement about homosexuality within the general Mennonite society. The official Mennonite Church US views homosexuality as a sin and defines marriage between one man and one woman.
Yet recent policies have supported the LGBT movement. The Mennonite Church USA has reportedly implemented some LGB support policies. And in response, the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, the largest group of Mennonite congregations in the US separated from the Mennonite Church USA.
Their pastor said, “We are in a sense not really leaving. They are the ones that essentially have left true biblical Christianity in this respect”.
Do they vote?
The Anabaptist doctrine holds allegiance to God above nationalism. This is why they traditionally do not vote or participate in political processes.
But things changed in the 19th and 20th century. Today, voting is accepted among contemporary Mennonites.