About Anabaptists and Pietists


The Anabaptist movement emerged at various points in Europe during the sixteenth century, beginning in Switzerland in 1525. Most early Anabaptists stressed the separation of church from government and voluntary church membership by adult (believers') baptism. Most Anabaptist groups adopted biblical pacifism (nonresistance), advocated separation from worldly corruption, and practiced church discipline. One major emphasis was their desire to follow New Testament teachings in the church. The movement spread rapidly, but encountered severe persecution because of its radical positions on baptism and separation of the church from government.

Anabaptism survived among the Swiss Brethren (later known as Mennonites) in Switzerland and South Germany, the Mennonites in the Netherlands and northern Germany, and the Hutterites in Eastern Europe. The Amish, a well-known Anabaptist group, developed from a division among the Swiss Brethren/Mennonites in 1693. The first Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1683. Amish settled in Pennsylvania in the 1730s. The Hutterites began moving to Dakota Territory and the western plains in 1874.


Pietism was a renewal movement in European Protestantism beginning in the late seventeenth century. Seeking a renewal of spiritual life within the church grounded in the Bible, Phillip Jakob Spener, a Lutheran pastor in Frankfurt, is often regarded as the main leader in emergent Pietism. His distinctive practice was the creation of small groups for mutual spiritual growth. His associate, August Herman Franke, created an institutional center for Pietism in Halle, Germany, at the newly renovated university in 1694. Pietism spread to Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. Some more radical Pietists emphasized distance from the institutional church and more radical views on Christ’s return. Gottfried Arnold’s writings influenced the Radicals. Pietism stressed a lively, experiential faith, often described as spiritual rebirth, close fellowship among believers, the practice of godly living, and service to others.

In addition to pietistic renewal in the Lutheran and Reformed churches and the renewal of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) under Count Zinzendorf, some Radical Pietists formed separate groups such as the German Baptists (Church of the Brethren and related groups) and the Community of True Inspiration (Amana Church Society). Although as a renewal movement Pietism reached its peak by the 1750s, it continued to influence revival movements in America and elsewhere, including Methodism, the United Brethren, the Evangelical Association, and the Brethren in Christ/River Brethren.