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Oconto Mennonite Minister Addresses Loomis Historical

Mennonite minister Marcus Martin of the Oconto Church presented a program of its history and practices at the meeting of the Loomis Historical Society on Thursday, Aug. 1. Basically, he stated, Mennonites believe all that is in the Bible. We go to scripture to settle questions, he added.

He related how the Mennonites developed from the outgrowth of the 1517 Reformation led by Martin Luther when he posted his Ninety-five Thesis on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany which invited debate on many theological questions, including the sale of indulgences. The Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli had a disciple Konrad Grebel, who launched the Anabaptist movement which rejected infant baptism. He adopted the belief that children were regarded as saved until they became old enough to be converted. It was from a Dutch reformer and former priest, Menno Simons, that the Mennonites took their name. Simons regarded war and the taking of administrative oaths as unlawful.

Mennonites strongly believe in the separation of church and state although they appreciate the value of government. The Mennonite history, the speaker noted, included severe persecution with instances of entire colonies being murdered. Mennonites sought refuge in rural areas of Germany but often could not gain ownership of the lands they farmed. They learned of the promise of freedom of religion in America and settled in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania in 1683. Mennonites later settled in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska. A large number also located in Manitoba, Canada.

During a question and answer period, it was noted that Mennonites do not vote because candidates take stands not consistent with the Bible, such as homosexual marriage and abortion. Also, their anti-war stance has sometimes led to imprisonment although their beliefs do not forbid them from working in military hospitals. When asked about their differences with the Amish people, it was noted that the Amish object to modern machinery, tractors and automobiles. Mennonites have no objection to modern machinery and automobiles. We do not permit radios and television, and we do use computers for our farm and other businesses but we do have a problem with the internet, Pastor Martin stated. Members run their own schools and children complete the eighth grade, but additional education is not forbidden. Men and women have prescribed duties in the family and the male is the breadwinner.

The Oconto Mennonites have experienced only friendly relations with their non-Mennonite neighbors. Generally, about 30 families make up a Mennonite community. Although many are farmers, other businesses are prevalent. Pastor Martin is a dairy farmer with about 100 dairy cows. Mennonites generally do not carry insurance as the community comes to the aid of members in the event of, for example, a medical emergency. Mennonites may go fishing but many not attend a Green Bay Packer game. Family recreation includes soccer, baseball and singing. Membership in the Mennonite community is voluntary and not by birth. The church is our center, concluded Pastor Martin.


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