The Anabaptist movement began in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 21, 1525, when a group of believers baptized adults who made a voluntary confession of faith.
The word “Anabaptist” means “to rebaptize.” Sixteenth century Anabaptists rebaptized adults who had received the sacrament of infant baptism. This name was attached to a group of believers who called for voluntary, adult baptisms at a time when the state called for infant baptism.
The Anabaptists sought to restore the church to reflect Christendom of the first three centuries after the time of Christ. They believed the church had been corrupted by state control, which demanded all citizens be baptized as infants. Infants upon baptism were registered as citizens while the rebaptized Anabaptists were persecuted and martyred as heretics by both the government and state church.
Because of their radical views and practices, the Anabaptists were violently persecuted by Catholic and Protestant authorities who considered their stance both heresy and treason. Beliefs such as adult voluntary baptism, separation of church and state, non-violence in all of life which included not taking part in the military, and the Bible (N.T.) as final authority threatened the unity of church and state. Unlike today, the political and religious alliances were knitted very tightly. Their only answer was to attempt to stamp out this Christian group.
The Anabaptists became the first church in more than 1,000 years to call for separation of church and state.
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