Throughout the sixteenth-century, the Church experienced a split within the belief system. After the Protestant reformation, beginning in 1517, some Protestants were still not content with all of the rules and doctrines that were set by the Catholic Church. As a result, some continued the reformation, going further than Luther, Calvin and others had begun. In 1525, a group separated themselves and became known as the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists were more radicals in their reforms than other Protestants were. This was not an easy division for the Anabaptist Church, as both the Protestant reformers and Catholics persecuted them. This, however, did not stop the Anabaptist reformation. As we will see below, they were able to survive through difficult measures by fleeing their persecutors.
The term Anabaptist comes from the Latin word Anabaptista, meaning “rebaptizer”. The Anabaptist movement was started when some people in the church decided that one should be able to freely decide to follow Christ. The first generation, only, of Anabaptists were baptized twice, first as a child, and again as an adult. The first believer’s baptism occurred in 1525, which marked the beginning of the Anabaptist Church.
There was no one known leader of the Anabaptist movement. There were a variety of individuals from different parts of Europe and religious backgrounds that played important roles in developing the movement. Included in the many influential peoples were priests, monks, and even peasants. One of the most significant priests who influenced the rise of Anabaptism was Ulrich Zwingli. Moving to Zurich, Switzerland on December 27, 1518, Zwingli did not intend to create a division within the Catholic Church. Yet, he became a leading Protestant reformer within many Swiss city-states. Although not an Anabaptists, Martin Luther, an Augustine monk turned Protestant reformer, also had a great influence on the movement. Luther’s main idea that created division in the Catholic Church was his belief that salvation came from faith alone, and that doing good works for the Lord did not help in granting one’s salvation as the Roman Catholic Church had claimed.
Along with baptism by immersion, the Anabaptists believed that salvation was not granted by good deeds, but rather by faith alone. Spurred by Luther and Zwingly, Anabaptist believed that salvation was by faith alone and one’s faith should be solely based on Scriptures. However, from here, Anabaptists were radically different. They practiced believer's baptism based on their understanding of Scripture. Along with believer’s baptism and the sole reliance on Scripture, Anabaptists had many other doctrines they followed that were different from other denominations. Some of the other doctrines followed were: being governed by elders and not to resist violence by non-believers.
The Roman Catholic Church had a very conservative belief system compared to the Anabaptists. The Pope governed the Church and...