Mennonites are a Protestant religious group descended from the 16th century Anabaptists, taking their name from Menno Simons, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest converted to the Anabaptist faith. Menno Simons was active in the Netherlands and also developed a following in Holstein and along the lower Rhine and the Baltic.
The Mennonites rejected infant baptism, the swearing of oaths, military service, and worldliness. They practiced strong church discipline in their congregations and lived simple lives in emulation of the earliest Christians. As summarized by the Dordrecht Confession of 1632, Mennonite theological principles stress the direct influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart of the believer and the importance of the Bible, with its message of salvation through the mystical experience of Christ's presence in the heart.
Because Mennonites refused to assume state offices, to serve as police or soldiers, or to take oaths of loyalty, they were considered subversive and as such were severely persecuted. These persecutions led at various times to the emigration of Mennonite groups, e.g. to the American colonies (circa 1683), where they settled in Pennsylvania.
In the Colonies, the Mennonites branched into several groups, of which the (Old) Mennonite Church is the parent. Other groups include the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Brethren Church. The Amish Church, named for Jacob Ammann, a 17th-century Swiss Mennonite bishop, remains insular and conservative.
- Cornelius J. Dyck, An Introduction to Mennonite History: A Popular History of the Anabaptists and the Mennonites (Herald Press; 3 Sub edition, 1993) ISBN 0-83613-620-9
- Scott, Stephen, An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups (Good Books, 1995) ISBN 1-56148-101-7
- Smith, C. Henry (1981), Smith's Story of the Mennonites (Fifth Edition, Faith and Life Press, 1981) ISBN 0-87303-060-5
- Pannabecker, Samuel Floyd, Open Doors: A History of the General Conference Mennonite Church (Faith and Life Press, 1975) ISBN 0-87303-636-0