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Menno Simons

1496-1561. Founder of the Mennonites.* Born in Friesland, in his twenties a Catholic priest there, he began reading Luther and other Reformers and was attracted to Anabaptism, though opposed to its militant wing (writing, in 1535, a pamphlet against John of Leyden*). In 1536 he joined the group around Obbe Philips* and soon became a leading figure in the Anabaptist* movement. For the next twenty-five years he traveled through the Netherlands and the German North Sea coasts, spreading the Gospel as he saw it, organizing congregations, disputing with other Protestants (e.g., 1544, against the Calvinist Jan à Lasco*), often forced to move on, continually writing. His last years were spent in Holstein; he died in Wüstenfelde, near Lubeck. Menno stressed the idea of the community of believers, committed to a new life, sealed by adult baptism, tightly knit (e.g., no marriage outside the community), withdrawing from the secular world and its follies (thus, distrust of learning, refusal to take part in politics or bear arms). Suspicious of dogmatic theology, Menno relied on Scripture taken literally. He thus refused to use terms and concepts not clearly scriptural, such as (in his view) the Trinity. At some points, curiously, he seemed to question Christ's full humanity. He held to a speedy second coming of Christ.

See I.B. Horst, A Bibliography of Menno Simons (1962), and Complete Writings of Menno Simons (tr. L. Verduin; ed. J.C. Wenger, 1956).