Approximately 4 million Anabaptists live in the world today with adherents scattered across all inhabited continents. In addition to a number of minor Anabaptist groups, the most numerous include the Mennonites at 2.1 million, the German Baptists at 1.5 million, the Amish at 300,000 and the Hutterites at 50,000.
The early Anabaptists formulated their beliefs in the Schleitheim Confession, in 1527. Anabaptists believe that baptism is valid only when the candidate confesses his or her faith in Christ and wants to be baptized. This believer's baptism is opposed to baptism of infants, who are not able to make a conscious decision to be baptized. Anabaptists are those who are in a traditional line with the early Anabaptists of the 16th century. Other Christian groups with different roots also practice believer's baptism, such as Baptists, but these groups are not seen as Anabaptist. The Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites are direct descendants of the early Anabaptist movement. Schwarzenau Brethren, Bruderhof, and the Apostolic Christian Church are considered later developments among the Anabaptists.
The name Anabaptist means "one who baptizes again". Their persecutors named them this, referring to the practice of baptizing persons when they converted or declared their faith in Christ, even if they had been baptized as infants. Anabaptists required that baptismal candidates be able to make a confession of faith that is freely chosen and so rejected baptism of infants. The early members of this movement did not accept the name Anabaptist, claiming that infant baptism was not part of scripture and was therefore null and void. They said that baptizing self-confessed believers was their first true baptism:
I have never taught Anabaptism.... But the right baptism of Christ, which is preceded by teaching and oral confession of faith, I teach, and say that infant baptism is a robbery of the right baptism of Christ.
Anabaptists were heavily and long persecuted starting in the 16th century by both Magisterial Protestants and Roman Catholics, largely because of their interpretation of scripture which put them at odds with official state church interpretations and with government. Anabaptism was never established by any state and therefore never enjoyed any associated privileges. Most Anabaptists adhered to a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount which precluded taking oaths, participating in military actions, and participating in civil government. Some groups who practiced rebaptism, now extinct, believed otherwise and complied with these requirements of civil society. They were thus technically Anabaptists, even though conservative Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and some historians consider them outside true Anabaptism. Conrad Grebel wrote in a letter to Thomas Müntzer in 1524:
True Christian believers are sheep among wolves, sheep for the slaughter... Neither do they use worldly sword or war, since all killing has ceased with them.
Believer's baptism (occasionally called credobaptism, from the Latin word credo) is the Christian practice of baptism as this is understood by many Protestant churches, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist tradition. According to their understanding, a person is baptized on the basis of his or her profession of faith in Jesus Christ and as admission into a local community of faith.
The contrasting belief, held in other Christian churches, is infant baptism (pedobaptism or paedobaptism, from the Greek paido meaning “child”), in which infants or young children may be baptized upon the request of a parent who professes faith.
Baptisms are performed in various ways: believer's baptism by immersion and infant baptism by affusion or aspersion or immersion. Believer's baptism is often erroneously referred to as adult baptism, even though children may be baptized so long as they are old enough to earnestly profess their faith. (More...)
Born in approximately 1490 in Staufen, Germany. Sattler became a Benedictine monk in the cloister of St. Peter and most likely became prior. He left St. Peter's probably in May 1525 when the monastery had been overcome by the troops from the Black Forest fighting in the peasant's war. He later married a former Beguine named Margaretha.
When Sattler arrived in Zurich is not known except that he was in town before being expelled from the city November 18, 1525 in a wave of expulsions of foreigners resulting from the November 6–8 disputation on baptism. Some believe that Sattler is to be identified as the "Brother Michael in the white coat," mentioned in a document dated March 25 of that year, thus placing Sattler in Zurich before Snyder's estimation of when he left St. Peter's. Snyder believed that Sattler possibly arrived in Zurich to attend that disputation.