Altevangelische Wehrlose Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden

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Altevangelische Wehrlose Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden is the name the Swiss Mennonites once gave themselves. In a petition to the government in 1810 the Langnau congregation emphasized the right to the use of this name in that they traced their derivation to the time when the Christian Church became a state religion and had forsaken its apostolic character and become worldly, from which time on there had been "old Evangelicals" who remained true to the apostolic church in spite of all persecution. Later the Swiss Mennonites may have clung to the name the more tenaciously because of the rise of a new church founded by Samuel Fröhlich about 1832 called the Neutäufer, or Apostolic Christian Church. The conference of the Swiss Mennonites since 1910 bore the name Konferenz der altevangelischen Taufgesinnten Gemeinden der Schweiz. The Neutäufer called themselves in Switzerland Gemeinschaft evangelisch Taufgesinnter.                                                        

The yearbook which H. G. Mannhardt of Danzig published in 1888 carried the title, Jahrbuch der altevangelischen Taufgesinnten oder Mennoniten Gemeinden. According to the author, he had no particular purpose in this use of the name, but it was only an incidental introduction of Swiss usage. In the second (1891) edition of her book, Ursprung, Entwicklung und Schicksale der Taufgesinnten oder Mennoniten (Soltau, 1888), Antje Brons added the word altevangelische to the title. In like manner Peter M. Friesen put it into the title of his book, Die Altevangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (Halbstadt, 1911). Johannes Bartsch's use of it in his Geschichte der Gemeinde Jesu Christi, das heisst: der Altevangelischen und Mennoniten Gemeinden (Elkhart, 1898) was the only known use in an American book and was distinctly an imitation of Keller, Brons and Mannhardt. John Horsch had used the term once in 1891 in a series of three articles in the Herold der Wahrheit (Elkhart), "Die Altevangelischen Taufgesinnten und die Münsterischen Wiedertäufer" during the period when he was under Keller's influence, but he did not continue its use.

Actually the introduction of the term Alt-Evangelisch and its corresponding historical concept into the literature and usage of the German Mennonites after 1885 was largely due to the influence of the noted archivist, historian and defender of the Anabaptists, Ludwig Keller, of Münster, Germany. Keller developed the theory that there was a succession of true evangelical groups down through history, outside the Roman Church, and that the Anabaptists of the Reformation period were a continuation or revival of these groups. In his Berlin lecture of 1887 (Zur Geschichte der Altevangelischen Gemeinden, Berlin, 1889) he pressed his point vigorously and told (p. 41) how he was led to use this name, having found it in use among the Swiss Mennonites. He used the term extensively for the first time in his book, Die Reformation und die älteren Reformparteien (Leipzig, 1885), making it the carrying symbol of his historical construction. At this time also he advocated its use in his articles in the Mennonitische Blätter, where it appeared for the first time in February 1885 in his article, Die "alt-evangelischen Taufgesinnten" und der Urprung dieses Namens, reprinted from the January 1885 Zionspilger of Langnau, Switzerland. For a time some German Mennonites used the term, being deeply influenced by their powerful friend, but they never adopted the term altevangelisch as a part of their official name. The newly founded (April 1886) Vereinigung der Mennoniten-Gemeinden im deutschen Reich chose rather the name "Mennoniten," much to Keller's disappointment.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 41.

Mennonitische Blätter 33 (1886): 33-34; 35 (1888): 21, 25.

Author(s) Harold S Bender
Date Published 1955

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. "Altevangelische Wehrlose Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 20 Jul 2024.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. (1955). Altevangelische Wehrlose Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 July 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 78-79. All rights reserved.

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