Groningen Old Flemish Mennonites

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The Groningen Old Flemish Mennonites (Dutch, Groninger Oude Vlamingen) were a branch of the Dutch Mennonites. About 1630 the Groningen Old Flemish separated from the Flemish in objection to the tendency of Flemish to unite with other Mennonite groups, as had happened at Hariingen 1610. Especially the country churches in the province of Groningen opposed such unions, as is seen from a meeting held at Middelstum, Groningen, in 1628, where Jan Luies combatted the views of Claes Claesz of Blokzijl and other Flemish leaders who favored the unions. They did not participate in the union of Flemish and Old Flemish at Dordrecht in 1632. After much negotiation especially between the congregation of Amsterdam and the preachers of the country churches in the province of Groningen, the final separation was made.

From then on the Groningen Old Flemish existed as a special group among the Dutch Mennonites; in the province of Groningen they were often called "Uko-Wallists" after Uko Wallis, who, second to Jan Luies, was the most prominent leader of this group. The following 33 congregations belonged to this group in 1710. In the province of Groningen 15—Appingedam, Beerta (also called Klein-Oldampt), Bierum, Groningen, Houwerzijl, Huizinge (also called Middelstum), Humsterland, Leermens, Loppersum, Noordbroek, Rasquert, Sappemeer, Uithuizen, Ulrum, and Zijldijk; in East Friesland 4—Emden and Emdenland, Leer, Neustadt-Gödens, and Norden; in Friesland 5—Drachten, Knijpe, Mildam, Sneek, and IJlst; in Overijssel 4—Borne, Deventer, Hengelo, and Kampen. Besides these, there were Groningen Old Flemish congregations in Enkhuizen, Haarlem, and Zaandam, and also two in Prussia—Kleinsee (Jeziorka) and Konopath (Przechowka-Wintersdorf), also later Brenkenhoffswalde-Franztal. The Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church record, which dates back to the 17th century, has the title Oude Vlamingen oder Groningersche Mennonisten Sociëtaet. During the 17th century there had also existed the following additional 19 Groningen Old Flemish churches, all of which had been dissolved or merged with neighboring congregations before 1710: in the province of Groningen 10—Baflo, Kloosterburen, Leens, Lutkegast, Meeden, Midwolda, Wold-Oldambt, Scheemder-Hamrik, Vliedorp, and 't Zandt; in Friesland 5—Franeker, Joure, Kollum and Visvliet, Langezwaag, and Oldeberkoop; in East Friesland 1—Oldersum; in Overijssel 1—Kuinre; and besides this at Amsterdam and Middelburg (see Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1879, 2-8).

The Groningen Old Flemish congregations soon united in a conference (see Groninger Doopsgezinde Sociëteit). They insisted on strict maintenance both of doctrine and practice; they rejected a trained and salaried ministry, holding to feetwashing when most Dutch Mennonites had dropped it, performing it in connection with the Lord's Supper, which was only held when the whole congregation was at peace. No offerings were taken during the meetings; the meetinghouses were plain with no pulpits and, of course, no organs. The ban was rigorously applied. They stood for plain living and clothing as may be seen from a number of resolutions drawn up by a conference held at Loppersum in 1659, prescribing even the furnishing of the houses and the materials and the cut of the clothes. (These resolutions were published by Blaupot ten Cate, Friesland, 307-308.) In 1685 and during the first decades of the 18th century these regulations were repeated several times though less strictly. They only admitted their own members into the communion services, and if a Mennonite of another branch wished to join one of their churches, he had to be rebaptized. They were very active on behalf of the Mennonites who were expelled from Switzerland and those in Prussia who were being persecuted in the early 18th century or struck by floods and crop failures. In this connection the names of Alle Derks of Groningen and Steven Cremer of Deventer should not be omitted. The Groningen Old Flemish formed a rather closed group, which apart from the joint assistance to the distressed Mennonites abroad did not have much contact with other Dutch Mennonites.

The group mostly provided its churches and members with their own confessions, catechism books, and devotional literature. Mention (chronologically) should be made of "Bekentenisse des Christeiycken Geloofs," a manuscript of the 17th century; A. S. D(ijck), De Heilbegerige Jongeling onderwesen (Groningen, 1732); Pieter Hendriks, Korte Schets van verscheydene waarheden des Christendoms (Groningen, 1743); H. Waerma, Beknopt Ontwerp van de voornaamste Geloof-zaaken (Emden, 1744); Pieter Hendriks, Schrijtuurlijke Katechismus . . . nevens een Aanhangsel, behelzende de Schets der Lere van Menno Simons (Groningen, 1744); Geloofsbelijdenisse der Doopsgezinden, behent onder de naam van Oude Vlarningen ... (Groningen, 1755, reprints Groningen, 1774, 1805, and a later ed. n.p., n.d.); A. S. D(ijck), Prove eener kleine catechetize Passischool (Groningen, 1759); Teunis Clasen, Verklaringe van de Geloofs-belijdenisse . . . (Groningen, 1762); H. Waerma, De evangelische Geloofs-leere der Doopsgez. Christenen . . . (Groningen, 1768); A. S. D(ijck), Catechetise behandeling over de Geloojsbelijdenis . . . (Groningen, 1773).

The most prominent leaders of this group were Uko Wallis, Alle Derks, Aldert Sierts Dij(c)k, Wolter ten Cate.

During the second half of the 18th century many of the old regulations were abandoned or laxly maintained. The old principle of not accepting other Mennonites into the church without baptism was gradually abandoned. Both ban and feetwashing were dropped and salaried ministry was admitted, e.g., in Groningen in 1772 and in Deventer as early as 1761. The meetinghouse in Groningen acquired a pulpit in 1756, and an organ in 1785. So in this period much of the old strictness was lost, though the Groningen Old Flemish still were among the most conservative Mennonites.

In 1710 (earlier statements are not available) the total membership of the Old Flemish group can be estimated at 2,500 baptized members. This number had decreased to 1,280 in 1767 and about 800 in 1800. During the 18th century many of these congregations were dissolved or merged with other Mennonites, and early in the 19th century, the Groningen Old Flemish Sociëteit having been dissolved in 1815, the remaining congregations of this group were successively absorbed into the main Mennonite brotherhood.


Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden en hunne geschiedenis aanwezig in de bibliotheek der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam. Amsterdam: J.H. de Bussy, 1919: 172, 173, 219, 260-262, 264-265.

Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland, 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: I and II, passim.

Dassel H., Sr. Menno's Volk in Groningen. Groningen, 1952: 11-17, 24-35.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 185 f.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: I, Nos. 558 II, 558 V, 559-564, 571-577, 590, 600, 605 f., 614-616, 1067, 1074-1079, 1087-1091, 1093-1094, 1096-1098, 1114, 1580-1581, 1599, 1610, 1627, 1635, 1638, 1645, 1664, 1730-1735;

Inventaris van het oud-archief der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Groningen. Groningen: H. Schut Azn, 1940.  

Rues, Simeon Friderich. Tegenwoordige staet der Doopsgezinden of Mennoniten, in de Vereenigde Nederlanden: waeragter komt een berigt van de Rynsburgers of Collegianten. T' Amsterdam: By F. Houttuyn, 1745: 14-67.

Zijpp, Nanne van der. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Nederland. Delft: Familie Van der Zijpp], 1980:  81, 114 f., 119, 130 f.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1956

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Groningen Old Flemish Mennonites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 27 Feb 2024.

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1956). Groningen Old Flemish Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 February 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 595-596. All rights reserved.

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