This movement began in the 16th century within the Protestant Reformation in Europe. A small group of earnest young believers in Switzerland, lead by Conrad Grebel, attempted to recover the New Testament Christianity when they baptized and verbalized their faith in Jesus Christ. Fired by their new faith, the believers began to evangelize and baptize. The movement rapidly spread to South Germany and the Netherlands. The official churches, even some early protestant groups, immediately opposed the movement and scoffed at them as “Anabaptizers”, which literally means re-baptizers, because they practiced the baptism of adults. The state would not tolerate this change because in essence it defied the government-run church, despite the Anabaptist’s strong appeal to Scripture in support of their position. In a short time, many Anabaptist leaders were martyred. Thousands more died gruesome deaths at the hands of their persecutors over the next two generations. Fifty years of persecution took a terrible toll. The small groups lived without the right to own property or to meet publicly for worship. They moved to many places, including Russia and North America, seeking freedom to live their faith according to their consciences. For nearly every generation over the past 450 years, the church has experienced persecution somewhere in the world.
Through the years, Mennonites have developed a substantial ministry of emergency relief and development services which stand alongside church extension; and continue to stress peacemaking and family (spiritual and biological) relationships as important for wholeness.
In the 1940s the first Mennonites arrived in Puerto Rico and soon they were well known for their commitment to serving the community. A hospital was founded as well as various churches in the area of Aibonito. Slowly the church expanded to cover other areas of the Island. In 1959, the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Summit Hills was founded as a result of this missionary service. In 1961, this church founded Academia Menonita, with the purpose of providing the community with a complete educational service of quality inspired by Christian love and the example of Jesus Christ.
Where did the Mennonites get their name?
Like Lutherans who were named after Martin Luther, Mennonites were nicknamed after an early Dutch leader, Menno Simons; they preferred to call themselves “brethren”, but as people continued referring to them as Mennonites, as such they became known to the world. But just as Menno Simmons was a follower of Christ, so Mennonites are followers of Christ, not Menno.
What are the Mennonites basic beliefs?
At the center of Mennonite teaching is the need to believe in Jesus Christ as the model for life, and as the One who died and rose from the dead in order that people could live in union with God. They believe that the church should keep Christ’s life and ministry alive in the world, just as though Christ was still living on earth: that’s why they refer to the church as “the body of Christ”. Mennonites believe that the church is made of people whose sins have been forgiven and who choose to follow Christ’s teachings. They believe that Christians should try to relate to each other and the world in the same loving, forgiving way that Jesus practiced.
Here are highlights of seven basic beliefs:
1. THE BIBLE IS CENTRAL – trying to live in obedience to the Word of God – the Bible, which the Holy Spirit uses to give new life to the church and to help people grow in faith.
2. NEW LIFE IN CHRIST – living for Jesus Christ
3. VOLUNTARY MEMBERSHIP AND COMMITMENT TO CHRIST – voluntary baptizing as a public acceptance and commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
4. REACHING OUT TO THE WORLD – by bringing “the good news” to all persons throughout the world, being concerned for “spiritual” and “physical” aspects of life.
5. BELONGING TO EACH OTHER – by being a loving and caring community of believers, Christians grow in faith, unity, service, and witness; we need each other for growth and encouragement, for confronting one another in a supportive way and for help in times of crisis.
6. LIVING PEACEFULLY – loving the enemy and refusing to use violence or participate in military service, living peaceably with others at all levels, serving the poor and needy, and including taking risks to work actively for justice and mercy.
7. HELPING EACH OTHER – caring for the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of others.
If you want to learn more about the Mennonites, feel free to contact the School Chaplain or the Church Pastor, who will be happy to assist you. We invite you, your family and friends to visit our local church, Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Summit Hills, where the doors are always open to welcome you in Christian love.