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 Table of Contents

by J. C. Wenger
The Articles:
VIII. Church
IX. Church Offices
X. Holy Supper
XI. Washing Feet
XII. Matrimony
XIII. Authorities
XIV. Revenge
XV. Oaths
XVI. The Ban
XVII. Shunning
XVIII. Judgement

of the Confession



Home Historical Committee

The Dordrecht 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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