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Confession of Faith, 1632
Introduction by J. C. Wenger
Mennonites are not a creedal
church. No human system of doctrine stands between them and the
Word of God. It is to the Scriptures that they are bound. Yet
it must also be stated that Mennonites actually hold to rather
well defined doctrinal views. Many confessions of faith were
produced beginning with the Schleitheim articles of 1527. The
best of these confessions, although they all resemble each other
rather closely, is undoubtedly the one adopted at Dordrecht,
Holland, in 1632.
In the days of Menno Simons, 1496-1561, the Mennonites of the
Netherlands were one brotherhood. But beginning in 1567 a number
of schisms occurred. Bishop Dirck Philips, 1504-68, the great
co-worker of Menno, affiliated himself with the Flemish Mennonites,
while Bishop Peter Janz Twisck, 1565-1636, who was married to
Menno's granddaughter, adhered to the Frisians. Hendrik Roosevelt,
a Flemish bishop, and others, labored unsuccessfully for union.
About 1630 another series of efforts were made to unite various
Mennonite groups. The "Olive Branch" confession of
1627 (printed on pages 27-33 of the 1938 Martyrs' Mirror)
was an effort to provide a basis for union between the Friesian
and Flemish churches. The Jan Cents' Confession of 1630 (pages
33-38, Martyrs' Mirror) was subscribed to by fourteen
Friesian and High German ministers.
The Dordrecht Confession of 1632 was written in the first draft
by Adrian Cornelis, bishop of the Flemish Mennonite Church in
Dordrecht. About the middle of April 1632 a number of Mennonite
ministers assembled in Dordrecht in spite of the protest of the
Reformed clergy against "this extraordinary gathering of
Anabaptists from all provinces." The conference was successful
in forming a union, a united brotherhood. At the close of the
sessions the ministers extended to each other the right hand
of fellowship, greeted each other with the holy kiss, and observed
the Lord's Supper together. Of the fifty-one Flemish and Frisian
ministers who signed this confession of faith, two were of Crefeld,
Germany and two represented "the upper country" (central
or south Germany).
The Alsatian Mennonites adopted the Dordrecht Confession in 1660,
when thirteen ministers and deacons subscribed to it. The Palatine
and German Mennonite Churches also subsequently adopted it. However,
the Swiss Mennonite churches never subscribed to it. In 1725
the Pennsylvania Mennonites, mostly Swiss, of what are now the
Franconia and Lancaster Conferences, adopted the Dordrecht Confession,
undoubtedly through the influence of the Dutch Mennonites of
Germantown, near Philadelphia. Sixteen ministers signed a statement
of adoption. A number of the more conservative Mennonite bodies
of America, including the Mennonite Church (MC), now recognize
the Dordrecht Confession as the official summary of their doctrinal
beliefs. Historically this confession of faith was used as a
basis of instruction to classes of young people who were being
prepared for baptism and church membership. At the present time
in the Mennonite Church the chief significance of the
Dordrecht Confession is undoubtedly its value as a symbol of
the Mennonite heritage of faith and way of life.
The text of the Dordrecht Confession printed below is basically
that which is now in circulation in the Mennonite Church in America.
It is apparently a translation of a German translation of the
Dutch original. In Van Braght's Bloedigh Tooneel of 1660
the Dordrecht Confession is printed in the unpaginated introduction.
The names of the signers given below were taken from the 1660
edition. For an English translation made directly from the original
Dutch, see the 1938 edition of the Martyr's Mirror, pages
38-44. The Martyr's Mirror text of the Dordrecht Confession
was used to correct the text which is in common circulation among
American Mennonites. The corrections were merely a matter of
wording, not a change in sense.
The Alsatian Mennonite statement which follows the Dordrecht
Confession was corrected from the Christliche Glaubens-Bekentnos
. . . , Amsterdam, 1664, pages 35, 36.
From John C. Wenger, The Doctrines of the Mennonites,
1950, Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pa., p. 75.
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