Mennonite Church in the Netherlands
(Algemene Doopsgezinde Societeit, ADS)
The Anabaptist movement dates back to the early 16th century. It originated in the south of Germany and in Switzerland. From there it spread along the Rhine to the north. The main issue was the rejection of the baptism of children, and - in general - a non-violent way of life. It was Menno Simons (1496-1561), a former priest in Friesland (The Netherlands) who organized much of the movement into what later was to be called the Mennonites. According to Menno, the Reformers over-emphasized justification by faith and neglected the sanctification of life (see United German Mennonite Congregations). Mennonites in the Netherlands, like their German brethren, were more radical than the Reformers in rejecting the institutional church and the doctrine of the two sacraments, and in emphasizing the separation of church and state. They were persecuted because of their withdrawal from society and their strong eschatological expectations. Many fled to the east, and so the Mennonites spread all over northern Europe, and later Russia.
During the period of the Republic of the Netherlands there was greater tolerance, but divisions surfaced in Mennonite ranks. The communities lacked educated pastors. A first seminary for the training of preachers was founded in Amsterdam in 1735. The ADS (General Mennonite Society) was inaugurated in 1811, mainly to organize a college for the training of pastors for all different Mennonite communities in the country. In the process, unification of the divisions occurred. Originally the ADS had little authority, but it developed into a more central organ in the 20th century. Although its core task is still to maintain the Mennonite seminary in the Netherlands, its work has broadened into organizing branches of relief and peace work, and mission. New emphasis is laid on mediation training and service. It is also the ADS, of which all 121 local Mennonite communities are members, that represents the Dutch Mennonites in national and international church bodies. After a long period of decline the Mennonites in the Netherlands are now a slightly growing religious community, strongly involved in ecumenical work, both locally and nationally. The ADS maintains close relations with sister communities in Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Paraguay, Canada and the United States.
In the 19th and early 20th century, Central Java and New Guinea were chosen as mission fields, and strong ties still link the (now) Indonesian and Dutch communities.