Anabaptist Theology

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered by Hanspeter Jecker at the May 2012 Mennonite World Conference in Basel, Switzerland.

  1. The voluntary nature of faith and church membership:
    • The practice of voluntary believers baptism follows from a rejection of obligatory infant baptism.
    • A refusal to obey any government-imposed church attendance, or coerced participation in worship of the Lord’s Supper.
    • The call for the freedom of faith and conscience for oneself and for other leads to a rejection of every form of coercion in matters of faith and church membership.

  2. The pursuit of an authentic personal faith:
    • Receiving or accepting salvation does not happen through the mediation of the church, nor through the sacraments, nor through a simple affirmation of “justification by grace,” or through belief based on the pure letter of the Scripture, but rather through a personal encounter with God, a change of heart and a subsequent transformation of life, all made possible by the Spirit of God.
    • The point of departure for this is a refusal to assume Christian identity as a birthright or a given; therefore, the call to repentance and faith and to Christ-centered discipleship is central.

  3. The development of “free church” congregations, independent from the state:
    • God and His Kingdom are worthy of the highest loyalty in all questions of faith and life.
    • In light of the competing claims to priorities, a critical, discerning distance over against the attempts of earthly “principalities and powers” (e.g., nation,culture, spirit of the times, etc.) to seize control is absolutely crucial.

  4. The development of local congregations in fraternal relationships:
    • In a community of voluntary believers no one has everything; but everyone has something.
    • Acknowledging every person’s incompleteness requires the creation of structures in which the gifts of the individual can contribute to the wellbeing of the whole (for example, in biblical interpretation or in reaching decisions).
    • This leads to valuing and celebrating the gifts of “the least of these,” but also to the leveling and correction of the “strong.”
    • Mutual encouragement and admonition are the foundations for pursuing a collective process of decision-making and conflict resolution, and for becoming a forgiving – as well as forgiven – community.

  5. “Fruits of Repentance”:
    • The visible and practical consequences of faith are important, also for those outside the community; they are the expression of thanks for that which has been received.
    • A consistency of the word and deed supports the integrity of one’s position.
    • Wherever the “fruit of repentance” encounters resistance as an expression of Christian discipleship, we must turn to Christ for civil courage and fortitude in nonconformity, as well as for compassion to others.
    • “Fruits of repentance” also include a transformed attitude toward people outside one’s own community. Transparent solidarity with, and support for, the needs of others is foundational to the Christian life – first for those within the congregation, but also to those beyond it, even including one’s own enemies. “Seek the welfare of the city!” (Jer. 29)
    • “Fruits of repentance” in Christian discipleship must also include a transformed relationship to war and power. In the history of the Anabaptists the rejection of the oath and military service, as well as a refusal to support the death penalty, have often become some of the most important characteristics of their witness to the faith.