Groninger Doopsgezinde Sociëteit

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Groninger Doopsgezinde Sociëteit (Groningen Mennonite Conference). In the province of Groningen there were formerly an Old Flemish conference and a Flemish conference (Humsterlandsche Sociëteit). Now there is only one conference, called the Sociëteit van Doopsgezinde Gemeenten in Groningen en Oost-Friesland.

1. The Old Flemish Sociëteit. As early as 18 September 1628, a conference took place in Middelstum, which Blaupot ten Cate (Groningen I, 66) considers the first meeting of the Sociëteit. It was called to discuss the attempt at union and to mediate in the disputes between Jan Luies and Claes Claesz. Similar meetings were held in 1633 and 1636. In 1637 (26 February-7 March) a meeting was held in Groningen, chiefly to support Uko Walles in his work. A very important meeting was held at Loppersum on 20 April 1659 at which significant resolutions were passed with regard to the threat of increasing worldiiness; the simplest dress and house furnishing was prescribed and all luxury prohibited. Christians were, e.g., not to wear shoes with high heels or edged with white yarn; no paintings or gay colors were to be used in the homes (see Blaupot t. C, Friesland, 307 ff.). After 1677 annual meetings were held in the Old Flemish church (on Oude Boteringestraat). Besides 15 Old Flemish congregations in Groningen province, there were in this Sociëteit four congregations in East Friesland, five in Friesland, and seven in North Holland and Overijssel. In 1766 an attempt was made to unite the Groninger Sociëteit with the Zonsche Sociëteit, but the negotiations were unsuccessful.

The task of the Sociëteit was at first simply to preserve apostolic purity of life and doctrine. This was also the object of the elders in visiting the congregations and holding baptismal and communion services. When several of the active elders had died, the annual meeting appointed a number, usually twice the number to be replaced, as trial preachers. These men traveled through the congregations and preached. Then the membership elected their elders from these candidates. The elders at first had absolute authority; but gradually their power decreased. In 1749 it was decided that every preacher could administer baptism and communion. In 1750 the office of elder was changed to one of supervising, the name Oudste (Elder) being changed to Opziener (Supervisor); the elders now had only general oversight in matters of church discipline and doctrine. After 1766 the work of the Sociëteit was divided into four classes; each supervisor received a class. Soon the supervisors were called commissaris. Beside (or over) them stood for a time the only surviving supervisor Wolter ten Cate, who died in 1796. A new general supervisor was not chosen. The office became extinct.

It was thought that the task of the Sociëteit might be promoted by a confession of faith, especially when zeal began to flag and the old customs were no longer being so carefully preserved. Until about 1750 they got along with a written confession, which differed from one congregation to another. Copies of such written confessions are found in the [[Amsterdam Mennonite Library (Bibliotheek en Archief van de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam)|Amsterdam Mennonite Library]] (see Inv. Arch. Amst. I, Nos. 614, 959, and Catalogus Amst., 172). In 1748 the Sociëteit published the Kort vertoog rakende het verval en de reformatie der zeden and soon afterward a confession of faith with a foreword by A. S. Dijk in 1755 (3d ed., 1805), which had considerable authority, but was not obligatory. It was frequently reworded without being able to satisfy everybody. The age of fixed paths was past.

Then the second objective was made the primary one, viz., relief. In 1717, when a major flood afflicted many members, the other members gave them good support. The Sociëteit (especially Elder Alle Derks) took charge. From now on until the end (1815) the Sociëteit was faithful to this purpose. In addition it gave financial assistance to foreign Mennonites, as, e.g., the Prussian brethren in 1738 and 1765.

Beginning in 1785 a third purpose was the improvement of ministers' salaries. On this objective not much was accomplished, and by 1811 the Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit assumed this task. Now the Old Flemish Sociëteit had become superfluous. In the last times of its existence it no longer met annually. In 1815 it was dissolved. The last meeting was held on June 18, 1815.

2. In addition to the Old Flemish Sociëteit there was the smaller Flemish one, usually known as the Humsterland Sociëteit. It probably had its beginning not before 1750. It originally embraced ten Flemish congregations in the province of Groningen and until about 1798 the Foppe Ones brotherhood in Ameland. In 1806 only the congregations of Humsterland, Pieterzijl, Den Horn, and Huizinge were members of the Sociëteit. It met annually in rotation with its constituent congregations. Its initial objective was, like that of the Old Flemish Sociëteit, the preservation of the moral and doctrinal purity of the congregations. Beginning in 1773 an annual offering was taken for the support of the poor and to improve ministers' salaries. For a time it continued to exist without achieving very much. On 30 May 1825 it was dissolved.

3. In 1825, ten years after the Old Flemish Sociëteit had been dissolved, the chairman of the Humsterlandsche Sociëteit, Gerrit Bakker, the zealous preacher of Humsterland, made the proposal that all the congregations be invited to unite in the organization of a general conference in the province of Groningen. On 26 July 1825 a preliminary meeting was held in Groningen. A second meeting was held on 16 September, at which it was decided to proceed with the organization. On 31 March 1826 a constitution was adopted and on 22 May the first meeting of the Sociëteit was held. The chairman was P. Klomp of Groningen and the secretary Gerrit Bakker. At this session the constitution was signed by 13 congregations: Groningen, Den Horn, Pieterzijl, Humsterland (Noordhorn), Mensingeweer, Huizinge (Middelstum), Uithuizen, Zijldijk, Leermens en Loppersum, Sappemeer, NoordbroekMidwolda,  and  Veendam-Pekela.

The primary objective of the general Sociëteit was to care for a regular ministerial service. In the congregations which had no minister, the service was taken care of in rotation by those that had ministers. The second objective of the Sociëteit was to intermediate when difficulties arose between preachers and congregations.

In the course of time Stadskanaal (founded in 1848) also joined the Sociëteit. In 1878 the East Frisian congregations, Emden, Leer, and Norden, joined the Groninger Sociëteit. During World War I this tie loosened. Emden and Leer are now merged and have a German-speaking minister. In 1928, however, C. A. Leendertz, then pastor of Norden, was serving in the vacant pulpits of the Groningen congregations. After World War II the ties between the Sociëteit and the East Frisian congregations was again strengthened.

In 1835 a Widows' Fund was established on the initiative of Simon Gorter, the Zijldijk pastor. Also a ministers' pension fund (Emeritaat en Invaliditeitfonds) was founded in 1917, and in 1924 a fund for raising the salaries of ministers (Steunfonds). The Sociëteit meets annually in Groningen (still in the former Old; Flemish church on Oude Boteringestraat). "No great achievements have been made by the Sociëteit, but in our quiet circles it has done excellent work. And in the kingdom of God little things are also of value" (van Cleef).


Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 307 ff.

Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland, 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: I, 66, 125-148.

Cleef, L. van, Jr. "Feestrede." Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1877).

Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1840): 34-52.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1870): 110-117; (1872): 49-51; (1879): 1-11.

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

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: v. I, Nos. 614-616, 934, 959-965.

Parthuis, A. Inventaris van het oud-archief der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Groningen. Groningen, 1940: Nos. 136-148.

Vos, Karel. Het honderdjarig bestaun der Societeit von Doopsgez. Gemeenten en Oostfriesland. 1926.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1956

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Groninger Doopsgezinde Sociëteit." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 19 Aug 2022.

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1956). Groninger Doopsgezinde Sociëteit. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 August 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 596-597. All rights reserved.

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