The Continental Anabaptists and Name Calling:
Rom 16:16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
Often modern historians make the mistake of thinking that the Anabaptists started in Europe. In fact 'Anabaptist' is from the Greek meaning to rebaptise a nickname given to those seeking to baptise believers who had already been baptised as infants. In Europe during the later 1500s what is known as the 'Continental Anabaptists' came into being.
Dating from 1525, these Anabaptists started in opposition to the reformation, which was not going far enough to restore true Christianity. In reality these were continental Baptists of differing opinions, united in their opposition to both the Catholic and Protestant State churches, upholding the concept of autonomous congregations (Elders and Deacons) and in church discipline turning to the authority of the scriptures in all things.
These people stood for the restoration of the apostolic church as opposed to reformation and died by the thousand under both Protestant and Catholic countries alike.
During 1533-5 a small group of Anabaptists tried to establish the Kingdom of God by force at Munster. It is said this group also believed and practised polygamy, as well as sharing all goods and property. It was from this act that the Anabaptists were to acquire a name quite unjustified for themselves and why in England such groups would be persecuted to death.
Continental Anabaptists first arrived in England during 1534. At first some Anabaptists baptised by pouring, immersion also being used. Later most Anabaptists did accept immersion as the correct mode. The Baptists today claim that Baptism reached England via Smith but the evidence that Baptism by immersion (for the remission of sins) was in England prior to Smith is certain. The Anabaptists saw their identity as being Christians and members of the church of Christ.
In 1536 the English churches of Christ held an international conference but it failed to produce unity with the continental church. The Bocholt conference took place in August 1536. Bocholt is a city in the north-west of Westphalia, Germany. In the 1530s it was a centre for 'Anabaptist' activities. Those who attended the conference came from Holland, Germany and England, about 25 representatives from various congregations. The purpose of the conference was to seek unity amongst the various groups of the Churches of Christ which was an initiative of the English brethren. It was the English brethren who financed the conference and it is interesting to note, that an international conference was instigated and financed by the English Churches of Christ in 1536. That they were sufficiently well organised and financed says something for the state of the English church at that time; they were very much in the lead, rather than as many historians tell, the poor relation against the disorganised churches in Europe.
In England the churches of Christ were called in the twelfth century publicani and Waldensian. Later these congregations were called Lollard. With the reformation many of the the doctrines held by the churches of Christ, such as opposition to pilgrimages, the ban on Bible reading (and ownership) along with transubstantiation were also in agreement by the reformers. A new name was invented - Anabaptist. Such a name is absurd as it means rebaptism, and the scripture is clear, there is one baptism - Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Of course the argument centred around infant baptism of the national churches verses believers' baptism. Another kinder was 'Known Men' taken from the Corinthian letter referring to their bible knowledge. In the 1500 they were said to hold to a doctrine of "Evangelical Obedience." In time this was shortened to "Evangelical" or "Evangelicals" which today is associated with faith only, not the original meaning.
After the Reformation many of the Waldensian churches converted to Calvinism and infant baptism. Some historians refer to the pre-reformation Waldensian churches as 'Old Waldensian' for this reason. The various denominations known as the Anabaptists also grew out of the continental churches of Christ.
The names they used was Christian and the church - The Church of Christ or Church of God. From the 1530s they also used the identity congregation of Christ, along with the previous two, all three being used interchangeably.
The Tewkesbury Church of Christ