Patheos Watermark

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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

Most Old Order Anabaptist groups are congregational in structure, though various means exist for inter-congregational dialogue and decision-making. Other Anabaptist groups have adopted formal denominational structures with regional and/or national decision-making bodies.


Conservative Anabaptist groups choose ministers by lot, drawing upon the male membership within a congregation; these ministers are typically unpaid and ordained for life. Progressive Anabaptist groups hire college--and/or seminary--educated pastors endorsed by a regional or denominational body; some progressive groups ordain women as well as men.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Jesus' life and teachings, especially the Sermon on the Mount, provide the moral framework for Anabaptist ethics. One distinctive aspect of Anabaptist discipleship is nonviolence in all areas of life, which includes conscientious objection to war.

Vision for Society

Anabaptists have traditionally espoused a two-kingdom theology, which envisions a radical divide between God's kingdom (as manifest in the church) and the kingdom of "the world." While many Anabaptists continue to be wary of the larger world and eschew political involvement, some Anabaptists have sought to engage the world, particularly in the areas of peacemaking and social justice work.

Gender and Sexuality

Conservative Anabaptist groups (e.g., Old Order groups) espouse distinct gender roles for men and women, both in church and home. Progressive Anabaptist groups are more likely to afford leadership roles to women, including ordained ministry roles. All Anabaptist groups support traditional understandings of marriage and sexuality, though some progressive congregations welcome gay and lesbian members.