Every year, January 25 marks a significant anniversary for Anabaptists, those who have chosen to be baptized as adults. It was on that day in 1525 that George Blaurock was “re-baptized,” upon his own request, by Conrad Grebel at a prayer meeting in Zurich, attended by a number of radical reformers.
As Alexandra Kroeger wrote in this column last week, Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation in 1517 by challenging some of the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church of the day. This took place in a period when the church essentially controlled the state.
Both the church and the law required that infants be baptized shortly after birth. However, the group of radical reformers had come to the conclusion that baptism should be a choice made by an adult on the basis of one’s faith. Hence the re-baptism of Blaurock on January 25 as described above.
This action introduced two of the basic tenets that set Anabaptists apart from other Christian faith systems: baptism by choice on the confession of one’s faith, and the separation of church and state.
These radical departures from what was then the norm created much conflict and suffering. Society at that time tended to be considerably less tolerant than our Western culture is today. As a result, these reformers and many of their followers suffered significant persecution and even martyrdom.
This persecution caused some of the early Anabaptists to seek refuge in other countries, such as Poland and Prussia at that time. That exodus became the first of a several migrations undertaken by Anabaptists, always in search of freedom to live out their faith according to their beliefs.
Clearly there was a notable lack of grace in that era when people risked losing their lives because of something they believed. Few of us in the West have any sense of what it would be like to publicly declare our beliefs and convictions at the risk of being tortured or killed.
Hopefully we are able to worship in churches where the teaching most aligns with our personal understandings of scripture. And hopefully we are able to enjoy fellowship and friendships with others even when their understanding of scripture differs from ours. These current freedoms are, at least in part, the result of the courage of our forebears, the radical reformers of the sixteenth century. We are grateful for, and inspired by, their courage.
Calendar of Events
February 7: Vespers Service – 7:00 PM