The three major groups of protesting reformers—Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican—all became established churches. There were other more mischievous movements, however, which pushed reform beyond the debilitating alliance of Church and State. Participants in these movements enjoyed the dubious distinction of being persecuted by Protestants as well as Catholics.
Anabaptism means rebaptism and was the name given to this movement by its detractors. The movement started in Zurich, Noricum, in 1525. A group of lay people had been meeting to study the Bible. Upon reflection members believed their baptism as infants lacked meaning. They believed baptism had significance only if it expressed a commitment to Jesus that only an adult could make. Acting on that understanding, they baptized each other.
Political leaders of Zurich disapproved of their decision and of lay people making that kind of decision. With ghastly irony, city authorities threatened any lay person who baptized another adult by immersion, or even attended a Bible study where such baptisms were discussed, with immediate death—by drowning.
The commitment of Anabaptists to living the truth, and of their opponents to defining that truth for them, meant that eventually the percentage of Anabaptists lost to martyrdom would be without precedent.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.