The Anabaptists (circa 1525) – Although the time of the Reformation is connected with a small handful of names like, Huss, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, others like Lukas of Prague, John Augusta, Balthazar Hubmeyer, Hans Denck, Konrad Grebel, Felix Manz, Jakob Huter, the Puritans, and countless others from every country in Europe, joined in the efforts to return the church to a first-century ideal. Many gave their lives to do so.
As groups of people formed and grew all over Europe, many would receive the name “Anabaptist” from their detractors. Their opposition to infant baptism as unscriptural and their insistence on rebaptism was instrumental in their being called Anabaptists, which means “to baptize again”. In the 16th century the word Anabaptist was used to describe any of the “radical” dissenters, for the Anabaptists wanted to do more than reform church doctrine. They also wanted to reform church practice–they sought to return to the model portrayed in the New Testament. Instead of a powerful institution, they desired a brotherhood, a family of faith, created by God, who worked in the hearts of people. They did not want a ruling church hierarchy or political system of bureaucracies. They wanted a self-governing church ruled by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
For many, the Anabaptists were just too extreme. Opposition arose from both the Catholics and Protestants. Condemnation and persecution resulted in the use of torture and other types of physical abuse in attempts to curb the growth of the Anabaptist movement. King Ferdinand declared drowning (called the third baptism) “the best antidote to Anabaptism”. Thousands of Anabaptists died in Europe in the 16th century. However, the Anabaptist survived. Continuing persecution all throughout Europe was largely responsible for the mass immigrations to North America by Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites. All tracing their roots back to the Anabaptists.