Swiss Brethren

They were the first generation of Anabaptists—Conrad Grebel (a patrician’s son and Zwingli’s former protege), Felix Manz (a clergyman’s illegitimate son), George Blaurock (middle-aged ex-priest of peasant origins), Simon Stumf (parish priest in rural Hongg), Wilhelm Reublin (middle-aged priest in Witikon who was the first Zurich pastor to marry and to persuade parents to refuse baptism of their child), and Johannes Brötli (priest in rural Zollikon)—to name a few. Stumf, Reublin, and Brötli had achieved reform in their rural parishes through their refusal to send tithes to support Zurich’s clergy while Zwingli was still trying cautiously to institute reforms in the mass in that city. Zwingli’s insistence on the full support of city council frustrated Grebel and Manz, who concluded that the magistrate’s way and Christ’s way were not necessarily the same. Relinquishing their first hope of packing city council with likeminded reformers, they met on 21 January 1525 to discuss and pray about their response to city council’s newest law: that all infants be baptized within eight days of birth. When Blaurock asked Grebel to rebaptize him and then proceeded himself to rebaptize Grebel and others, these brothers in Christ signaled their intention to go a different way and suffer the political consequences of following Christ. Grebel left home and family, sold his books, and became a traveling evangelist working with Manz—first winning followers at Zollikon in what became the first Anabaptist congregation and then later quelling extremism among the rebaptized.

On 5 January 1527, Manz became the first martyr of the Swiss Brethren. Grebel had died of natural causes six months earlier, and Blaurock by 1528 was banished from ...

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