First ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, Menno Simons later rejected the Catholic Church and joined with the Anabaptists in 1536. For the next 25 years, Menno’s writings and sermons on adult baptism, piety, and nonviolence would become so influential, other leaders began referring to the Dutch Anabaptists as Mennonites.
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Menno Simons (1496–1561) was a Dutch Anabaptist leader from Friesland whose followers became known as the Mennonites. Simons was ordained into the Roman Catholic Church in 1516—even though he had yet to read the Bible. When Simons began questioning his beliefs, he began to study the Bible in earnest, as well as the writings of the Early Church Fathers. He was also influenced by the writings of Martin Luther and Heinrich Bullinger. In 1536, Simons officially rejected the Catholic Church and fell in with a group of Anabaptists after he moved to Witmarsum. A turbulent time in Anabaptist history, Simons rejected the radical strain of Anabaptists, and instead expressed a theology based on peace, piety, and adult baptism. An influential leader and writer, Simons’ followers became known as Mennonites.