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Adult Baptism, Pacifism, Church, State Separation Hallmarks of Anabaptists

Young, Steve. "Adult Baptism, Pacifism, Church, State Separation Hallmarks of Anabaptists." Argus Leader, 17 November 2003.


South Dakota's Hutterites are part of the Anabaptist movement, which came out of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and emphasized adult baptism, pacifism and the separation of church and state.

Following is a question-and-answer discussion about who they are and how they differ from other Anabaptist groups.

Question: What groups came out of the Anabaptist movement?

Answer: There are as many as 50 Anabaptist-affiliated groups worldwide with slightly more than 1 million members. Half of those live in the United States.

Q: What are the most common Anabaptist groups in America?

A: The Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish and the Society of Brothers are the most sizable.

Q: How do they differ?

A: The Hutterites differ from the others primarily in their practice of communal ownership of property and communal living.

The Mennonites take their name from Menno Simons, a Dutch priest who joined the movement in 1536. While clinging to their Anabaptist beliefs, they drive cars, work in a wide variety of occupations and professions, and choose to live and dress like their neighbors.

The Amish, led by Jacob Ammann, began in 1693 with a group that split from the Mennonites. The Amish have resisted many modern conveniences, declining to own cars, radios, or televisions, and rejecting the use of phones and electricity inside their homes. Today the Amish are located primarily in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

Members of the Society of Brothers, or Brethren, are like the Amish and Mennonites in that they don't live communally, but among other people. They are more distinct in their appearance than Mennonites - the bearded men and plainly dressed women often are mistaken for Amish. And their homes have no pianos, guitars, radios, televisions, stereos or VCRs. Alexander Mack Sr. is recognized as the Brethren's first leader. They live in 16 states, primarily Indiana and Ohio.

Q: What are the population numbers for each group?

A: According to Donald Kraybill, senior fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, the Amish number about 180,000. There are 45,000 to 50,000 Hutterites in the United States and Canada, 24,000 Mennonites and 3,000 Brethren.

Reprinted with permission of the Argus Leader.

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