“....contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude v3
Of all the reformers and the movements started by them, Menno Simons and the “Anabaptists” are the nearest to where our church is theologically and in practice. Of course, our theological ‘roots’ go back to the apostles doctrine, as in Scripture. But for a thousand years those truths were obscured by religiosity. Many of these truths of the gospel and church practice truths were rediscovered and brought to light by this man, the founder of the Anabaptist movement.
“True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love; meanwhile, the persecution, suffering and anguish that come for the sake of it give a glorious joy and comfort.”
Menno Simons (1496-1561) entered seminary in the Netherlands, only a few years after Martin Luther’s trial in Germany. Because this was at the height of the Reformation, he was forbidden from reading the Bible. After becoming a priest he stumbled across a Lutheran work defending infant baptism, found it lacking, and turned his attention to Scripture. A few years later he was converted to Christ, renounced his ordination, and was baptized. He spent the rest of his life a wanted man. Charles V, the same Emperor who oversaw Luther’s trial, led the manhunt for Simons. A reward was offered for his capture, and those found guilty of aiding him were executed on the spot.
Despite Simon’s commitment to pacifism, he and his followers were also persecuted by the Reformers, who viewed them as a threat to their own reformations. They were called “ana-Baptists” (literally—“re-baptizers”), a derogatory term meant to mock believer’s baptism. Many of them were drowned or burnt; in fact, more Anabaptists were killed by Protestants than Protestants were by Catholics. After Simon’s death, his followers had no place in Europe where they could call home, and many eventually fled to the Americas. Because of his commitment to Scripture, believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, and church-discipline, Simons is remembered as “the first evangelical pastor.”