Introductory t Anthropology 101
November 11, 2012
It hasn’t been agreed unanimously where the Amish community is categorized in Christianity. However, most Amish consider themselves Anabaptist while some people view them as conservative Protestants.
J Gordon Maelton, categories The Amish as part of European Free-Church Family, together with Brethren Quakers, Mennonites and other denominations.It is in the above understanding thatthis paper will discuss the origin, beliefs, and practices of The Amish.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli separated from the Roman Catholic Church in Europe in what was termed as a protestant reformation. They promoted the concept of salvation through the grace of God, freedom of belief, removal of priests or any intermediary with God, integration with the church and state and absolute reliance on the Bible.
Some religious reformers advocated for believers freedom to form free churches which were different from the organized state churches at the time. They also secluded themselves from secular activities including the state and formed autonomous religious groups that were similar to early Christian congregations.
A Swiss Christian group led by FexixManz and Conrad Grebel recommended changes to the state protestant church but were rejected by the church head and Zurich City Council.
The first Swiss Brethren Congregation was formed in Switzerland in 1525 CE and membership in to the believer’s church was through baptism. This was met with resistance by the Swiss state church and was considered a crime that saw many members go into exile and others executed by burning at the stake or by drowning. The acts by this congregation were regarded as unorthodox by the Roman Catholic Church but toleration of religion came later in Europe.
The Brethren believed in the baptism of adults only which was in contrast with the normal practices at the time where baptism was for infants and new born. This saw the group nicknamed Anabaptist that means re-baptizer.
The Anabaptists encouraged loose association of adults and self-governance of the church. They carried out their church services in homes rather than church buildings. In 1527 The Anabaptist leaders met at the Swiss German border in secret and developed a declaration of “Brotherly Union” now known as "Schleitheim Articles" that comprises of seven principles that are guidelines to the Brethren’s.
They stipulated that: baptism be done after repentance and confession of faith in adult hood, members who misbehave be warned twice in private and the third time publicly infront of the congregation, only those baptized in adulthood to attend to the lords supper, seclusion from evil and violence in the world, leaders be of good character and be called shepherds, members not to hold public office or engage in civic affairs, and members were not to take oaths as their word was sufficient (Hostetler 1993).
These principles are being used to date by the Swiss brethren and Amish to date. In 1534, some radicals in the movement who expected the world to end tried to create by force a theocracy in Munster, Germany. Genocide programs were organized by protestant groups under Luther and Calvin, the Roman Catholic Church and the Government. Hunters were hired in some city states to arrest the Anabaptist believers (Nolt S. 1992). Despite these persecutions their numbers still grew and they became a loosely organized Bible-oriented church (Melton J. 1991).
In 1536, Memo Simons, a Dutch, left the Roman Catholic priesthood, after losing touch with their concentration of the Gospel message, forming the Mennonites. He became a leader of the Anabaptist movement in Holland bringing unification of the various diverse groups and based on the "Schleitheim Articles". In 1577, a religious tolerance policy was introduced in the country that provided freedom to practice religion