Association of Mennonite Congregations in Germany
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Gemeinden in Deutschland)
In 1536, Menno Simons, a parish priest in Dutch Friesland, joined the Anabaptists, who came from a variety of origins (mainly Switzerland and South Germany). They suffered severe persecution from the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Lutheran reformers.
The Anabaptist's convictions included adult baptism and separation of church and state. Those who included non-resistance in their interpretation of discipleship were called "Mennonites". Later they rejected any hierarchical church structure, infant baptism, and the doctrine of real presence in the eucharist. Mennonites have adopted a congregational church pattern.
The Union of German Mennonite Congregations was established in 1886 and is part of the larger "Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Gemeinden in Deutschland". Not all German Mennonites belong to this body. There are various other communities which have their own organization, in particular approximately 40,000 Mennonites who came from Russia to Germany from the 1970s onwards. Until the 19th century Mennonites lived as "strangers and guests" in society. In modern society, their life has become more demanding and engaging. Their emphasis on freedom of religion and non-violent peace-building has found new theological foundations, through which the community's identity is strengthened. Historical research has become more critical of the conduct of Anabaptists during the Reformation. The commitment to peace, service and mission has found new strength through ecumenical encounter as well as networking with other Mennonites around the world, mainly the Mennonite Central Committee (relief) and Mennonite World Conference.
At the eighth assembly of the WCC, a German delegate presented the motion to start the new century with a "Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches seeking Reconciliation and Peace". This has become a major focus for Mennonite ecumenical engagement. With other historic Peace churches a new series of ecumenical dialogues has started, reflecting on contemporary peace theologies in all regions.
In the past 20 years various bilateral dialogues on national and international levels were held: with the Baptist World Alliance (1989-1992), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (since 1984) and the Roman Catholic Church (1998-2003). In 2005 a dialogue with the Lutheran World Federation has begun, after several national dialogues with Lutheran Churches in France, Germany and the US. Today, the majority of the 1.3 million Mennonites lives in the southern hemisphere. This has changed the "face" of the community and will continue to do so.