Mennonite Beliefs and Practices

Mennonite choir
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Many people associate Mennonites with buggies, bonnets, and separate communities, much like the Amish. While that is true of Old Order Mennonites, the vast majority of this faith live in society like other Christians, drive cars, wear contemporary clothes, and are actively involved in their communities. Mennonites number more than 1.5 million members in 75 countries.

Founding of the Mennonites

A group of Anabaptists broke from the Protestant and Catholic ranks in 1525 in Switzerland. In 1536, Menno Simons, a former Dutch Catholic priest, joined their ranks, rising to a leadership position. To avoid persecution, Swiss German Mennonites migrated to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. They first settled in Pennsylvania, then spread to the Midwest states. The Amish split from the Mennonites in the 1600s in Europe because they felt the Mennonites had become too liberal.


The largest concentration of Mennonites is in the United States and Canada, but great numbers are also found throughout Africa, India, Indonesia, Central and South America, Germany, the Netherlands, and the rest of Europe.

Mennonite Governing Body

The largest assembly is the Mennonite Church USA Assembly, which meets on odd years. As a rule, Mennonites are not governed by a hierarchical structure, but there is a give-and-take among local churches and the 22 regional conferences. Each church has a minister; some have deacons who supervise finances and the well-being of church members. An overseer guides and advises local pastors.

Sacred or Distinguishing Text

The Bible is the Mennonites' guiding book.

Notable Mennonite Ministers and Members

Menno Simons, Rembrandt, Milton Hershey, J.L. Kraft, Matt Groening, Floyd Landis, Graham Kerr, Jeff Hostetler, Larry Sheets.

Mennonite Beliefs

Members of the Mennonite Church USA consider themselves neither Catholic nor Protestant, but a separate faith group with roots in both traditions. Mennonites hold much in common with other Christian denominations. The church places emphasis on peacemaking, service to others, and living a holy, Christ-centered life.

Mennonites believe the Bible is divinely inspired and that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save humanity from its sins. Mennonites believe "organized religion" is important in helping individuals understand their purpose and in influencing society. Church members are active in serving in the community, and a large number participate in missionary work.

The church has long held a belief in pacifism. Members act this out as conscientious objectors during war, but also as negotiators in resolving conflict between warring factions.

  • Baptism: Water baptism is a sign of cleansing from sin and a pledge to follow Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a public act "because baptism means a commitment to membership and service in a particular congregation."
  • Bible: "Mennonites believe that all Scripture is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit for instruction in salvation and training in righteousness. We accept the Scriptures as the Word of God and as the fully reliable and trustworthy standard for Christian faith and life..."
  • Communion: The Lord's Supper is a sign to remember the new covenant Jesus established with his death on the cross.
  • Eternal Security: Mennonites do not believe in eternal security. Everyone has free will and can choose to live a sinful life, forfeiting their salvation.
  • Government: Voting varies greatly among Mennonites. Conservative groups often do not; modern Mennonites frequently do. The same holds true of jury duty. Scripture warns against taking oaths and judging others, but some Mennonites do welcome jury duty. As a rule, Mennonites try to avoid lawsuits, seeking negotiation or another form of reconciliation. Some Mennonites seek public office or government employment, always asking whether the position will let them further Christ's work in the world.
  • Heaven, Hell: Mennonite beliefs say those who have received Christ into their life as Lord and Savior will go to heaven. The church has no detailed position on hell except that it consists of eternal separation from God.
  • Holy Spirit: Mennonites believe the Holy Spirit is the eternal Spirit of God, who dwelt in Jesus Christ, empowers the church, and is the source of the believer's life in Christ.
  • Jesus Christ: Mennonite beliefs hold that Christ is the Son of God, Savior of the world, fully human and fully God. He reconciled humanity to God through his sacrificial death on the cross.
  • Ordinances: Mennonites refer to their practices as ordinances or acts, instead of the word sacrament. They recognize seven "biblical ordinances": baptism on confession of faith; the Lord's Supper; washing of the saints' feet; the holy kiss; marriage; ordination of elders/bishops, ministers/preachers of the Word, deacons; and anointing with oil for healing.
  • Peace / Pacifism: Because Jesus taught his followers to love everyone, killing, even in war, is not a Christian response. Most young Mennonites do not serve in the military, although they are encouraged to spend a year in service in missions or in the local community.
  • Sabbath: Mennonites meet for worship services on Sunday, following the tradition of the early church. They base that on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.
  • Salvation: The Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation, who moves people to accept this gift from God. The believer accepts God's grace, trusts in God alone, repents, join a church, and lives a life of obedience.
  • Trinity: Mennonites believe in the Trinity as "three aspects of the Divine, all in one": Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Mennonite Practices

As Anabaptists, Mennonites practice adult baptism on believers who are able to confess their faith in Christ. The act may be by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring water from a pitcher.

In some churches, communion consists of foot-washing and distribution of bread and wine. Communion, or The Lord's Supper, is a symbolic act, done as a memorial of Christ's sacrifice. Some practice the Lord's Supper quarterly, some twice yearly.

The Holy Kiss, on the cheek, is shared only among members of the same sex in conservative churches. Modern Mennonites usually just shake hands.

Sunday worship services resemble those in evangelical churches, with singing, a minister leading prayers, soliciting testimonies, and giving a sermon. Many Mennonite churches feature traditional four-part a cappella singing, although organs, pianos, and other musical instruments are common.

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Zavada, Jack. "Mennonite Beliefs and Practices." Learn Religions, Sep. 3, 2021, Zavada, Jack. (2021, September 3). Mennonite Beliefs and Practices. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "Mennonite Beliefs and Practices." Learn Religions. (accessed March 22, 2023).