Because of this standard, we are often looked upon as holding a peculiar and distinctive place apart from main-line Christianity. We certainly profess to be Christians in the essential meaning of the term (Acts 11:26), but are more commonly known as Mennonites. Among contemporary Mennonites we are often referred to as Holdeman Mennonites due to the leadership of the evangelist-reformer John Holdeman.
Several major beliefs of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, set it apart from other denominations. The foundation of our faith is personal salvation through the new birth. This experience involves faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, repentance, forsaking our sins, and a resulting change of life from sin to serving Christ.
We believe the Bible teaches that Christians are to be a separate people, not conformed to the world about us in spirit (our attitude and outlook) and life-style. We believe in simplicity and modesty in clothing, homes, and all other personal possessions. In addition to simplicity in dress, we believe men should wear a beard, and Christian women should wear the devotional head-covering.
The Christian belongs to a heavenly kingdom. We believe Christ teaches His followers to live peacefully. We do not take any part in politics, government offices, or the military establishment.
Origin of the Mennonite Church
The Mennonites are largely descendants of those known as Anabaptists during the Reformation of the 1500's. The Anabaptists (meaning re-baptizers) were so named because they rejected infant baptism and insisted on a believer's baptism. In doctrine and practice they carried on the faith of the apostles of Jesus. Theirs was also the faith of the pre-Reformation Waldenses and other nonconformist groups of the Middle Ages. They were neither Catholics nor Protestants, and they were bitterly persecuted by both for their independence from the state-controlled churches. Of the various groups of Anabaptists that sprang up all over Europe, it was largely the rural Swiss-German Anabaptists who preserved the faith.
Because of intense persecution, they fled their homelands, often leaving well-established farms and businesses, choosing to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). In time many of them immigrated to America.
The Name Mennonite
In 1536, Menno Simons (1496-1561), a Catholic priest in Holland, came under conviction of sin and began studying the Bible. His repentance and surrender to God resulted in spiritual new birth. As a converted Christian he renounced Catholicism and united with the persecuted Anabaptists by believer's baptism.
A gifted, humble man, Menno Simons ardently studied the Bible and became a very able teacher during those times of severe test. The Church called him to serve as minister, which he accepted after prayerful consideration. He was powerfully used by the Lord. With the help of other faithful ministers he brought together the brethren in fellowship and unity of doctrine and practice. He baptized many people and helped organize congregations. By his keen discernment and skillful pen he defended the faith against the errors of Catholicism, the compromising reformers of Protestantism, and false teachers among other Anabaptists.
Under Menno Simons' influential labors in Holland, the Anabaptists became known as Mennonites. Gradually the Anabaptists who were scattered over Germany, Switzerland, France, and elsewhere came to be called Mennonites. These early Anabaptist-Mennonites were known by their application of Christ's teachings in every area of life: pure speech, modest apparel, diligent business, social and moral purity, separation from worldliness, and nonresistance in times of war and in everyday life. Their insistence on experiencing a change of heart through a true conversion to Christ was the basis of their whole way of life.
The Mennonite Church in AmericaThe earliest permanent settlement of Mennonites in America was at Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1683, almost a century before the New England colonies became the United States of America. The coming of the early Mennonite settlers was brought about by personal invitation of William Penn, an English Quaker, who sought to fill an extensive tract of land granted him by the king of England.
Other immigrations to America occurred from 1704 until the French and Indian War in 1754. There were an estimated three to five thousand Mennonites in America by the time of the Revolutionary War. Another migration to America (1815-1861) began after the time of Napoleon.
Among the Mennonites who fled Europe during times of persecution in search of promised freedom in the New World were those who were faithful in maintaining the faith of the apostles. In America they braved the dangers of frontier life and were confronted by new challenges. They became known as quiet, God-fearing people, sober and devout in faith, and industrious and temperate in everyday life.
The Mennonite Church, sometimes referred to as the Old Mennonite Church, faithfully maintained the high standard of the gospel through the early history of the United States. A strong conservatism in doctrine and way of life characterized them in their communities. In times of war they steadfastly refused to bear arms and fight, in obedience to the Lord's teaching on nonresistance. Their consistent stand through the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War gained for them the reputation of being a historic peace church. The power of the Holy Spirit was evident in their personal lives. They observed discipline as taught in Matthew 18:15-18. Through careful observance of this principle a scriptural separation from the world was maintained.
However, times of test and spiritual decline came upon the Old Mennonite Church. It is saddening to note that over the last century many of the descendants of these early Mennonites deviated broadly from the doctrines of their forefathers.
The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite
In spite of the drift away from sound doctrine, there were those who sought to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Among these was John Holdeman (1832-1900), who was born of Mennonite parents in Wayne County, Ohio. Although he was converted at twelve years of age, he was not baptized until he reconsecrated his life to Christ at the age of twenty-one years. He gave himself wholeheartedly to the study of the Scriptures and pledged unwavering loyalty to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the years that followed he became increasingly aware that the Old Mennonite Church had drifted from the faithful practice of true doctrine. Some issues of concern were the apparent traditionalism and lack of spiritual life; the baptism of people who were not converted from worldliness; the lack of diligent child training; and default in practicing the doctrine of church discipline. John Holdeman appealed to church leaders and visited conference assemblies, seeking understanding and support. Although some agreed with his evaluations, few shared his concerns to the point of taking action. He and a few others began holding separate meetings in 1859. This small beginning eventually resulted in permanent separation from the Old Mennonite Church.
In time this group organized as the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.
John Holdeman was a Spirit-filled preacher and evangelist, and he was soon recognized as a minister called of God to shepherd the little flock. He also became a prolific writer, both in German and English. His most outstanding work is the Mirror of Truth, a collection of doctrinal writings and practical Bible teachings still regarded as edifying and instructive by the Church today.
Besides doing so much writing, John Holdeman traveled widely. As individuals experienced spiritual rebirth and came to the faith, congregations were formed in various states and provinces of the United States and Canada.
These congregations functioned in unity. Conferences were held to discuss matters of doctrine and practice. Growth continued, both in membership and in outreach. The German periodical Botschafter der Warheit was published on a regular basis for many years. Publication of the English Messenger of Truth was begun in the early 1900's. This paper is still being published.
Growth brought about the need for organization to coordinate different aspects of the work. Committees have been appointed by the conference for the publication of books and doctrinal materials, for printing and distributing evangelistic tracts (learn more about available free tracts at the end of this page), for voluntary peace service, disaster assistance, humanitarian aid at home and abroad, mission work, the operation of schools, and other administrative responsibilities.
Evangelism and mission outreach have been carried out from the beginning by individual members and by the Church on an organized basis. The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, following the teaching and example of the apostolic church, invites people of every culture, race, and nation to come to Jesus to be saved. This invitation is extended by literature in the form of tracts to many languages and countries. Mission boards are responsible for directing the domestic and foreign mission activities, and indigenous churches have been established in various countries. The cry for the gospel in many nations presents an opportunity and responsibility of great magnitude to carry out Christ's great commission: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" Matthew 28:19-20).
The Church Today
Since the days of John Holdeman, the Church has weathered many storms, both in times of prosperity and adversity.
In World Wars I and II, the doctrine of nonresistance was tested. Although pressures were great to join the national war efforts, the faith of Jesus Christ endured in the Church. Religious and secular movements rose and fell around the Church, but her testimony remained constant.
Since the 1930's the mission program has been active and expanding. The Church has established mission work within the United States, Canada, Belize, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Europe.
With the largest concentration of members in the United States (12,450) and Canada (4,260), the Church has a world-wide membership of about 18,900 (January 2001).
Since the early 1970's, almost every congregation has operated a Christian school. It is our goal to provide a basic education in a Christian environment for our children. It is a concern of the brotherhood to maintain a sound vision of education-to safeguard our schools against misleading or worldly influences, and yet to prepare our children adequately for life in today's world.
Despite the wickedness of the world which surrounds us, we face the future with a living hope that God's grace is sufficient for our victory over the world (1 John 5:4). We face the future with confidence in a providential God who over-rules the world with divine purpose, and with watchfulness to be ready when he comes (Matthew 24:44; 25:13).
Summary of Fundamental Bible Doctrines of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite
We believe that man is saved by the grace of God through the atoning sacrifice of Christ; that he is justified by the blood of Christ on meeting the conditions of faith, repentance, and obedience; that through the new birth he becomes a child of God, is saved from condemnation of sin, and partakes of eternal life. It is man's blessing to have the inward assurance of peace with God and knowledge of sins forgiven on condition of faithful obedience by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:20-26; John 1:12-13; John 3:16; Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5; James 2:14-26; Matthew 24:13; Romans 2:7).
We believe the Church is the visible representative of Christ's spiritual kingdom on earth, composed of those who are regenerated and baptized into her fellowship. Christ established one true, visible Church, and through her He has preserved His faith and doctrine through the ages. It is the Church's divinely appointed mission to proclaim the faith of the gospel to the world, nurture the redeemed by teaching obedience to Christ's commandments, and show forth a pattern of good works for the glory of God (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23-27; 4:11-13; Jude 3; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Peter 2:12).
Church Order and Discipline
Jesus, as head of the Church, has delegated
to the Church the authority and responsibility:
 to call and ordain faithful, able leadership (2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 3: Acts 6).
 to regulate the observance of the ordinances (1 Corinthians 11:2).
 to exercise discipline, including excommunication, for the purity of the Church and to redeem the fallen (Matthew 18:15-18; Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; Titus 3:10).
 to hold scriptural avoidance of the excommunicated (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).
Peace and Nonresistance
The kingdom of Christ is peaceable and nonresistant and must remain separate from the kingdoms of this world:
 Church and state should be separate (John 18:36). a) The Church is called to maintain the gospel standard of the spiritual kingdom for the regenerated children of God (Romans 12:17-21; Matthew 5:38-44). b) The state represents God's providential arm of justice within society (Romans 13:1-7), but it is not the responsibility of Christians to enforce that justice.
 The true Christian may not hold civil office, vote in civil elections, nor sit on civil juries (John 18:36).
 Biblical nonresistance is based on divine love for all mankind and requires that a Christian may not: a) quarrel with his fellowmen. b) use the law in retaliation or take part in lawsuits. c) return evil for evil. d) take part in the armed forces or war in any form. e) serve in civil law enforcement. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4; Matthew 5:38-44; Romans 12:17-21).
 It is the Christian's duty to pay his taxes (Romans 13:6-7), pray for the civil rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and be subject to the state as long as it does not conflict with his Christian calling (Romans 13:1-7; Acts 5:29).
Nonconformity to the World
A true Christian may not love the world nor conform to the ways of the world. He is to be separate and live a holy life )Romans 12:1-2). Therefore, fashion, pleasure and entertainment, professional sports, politics, prestigious business, idolatrous art, etc., are avoided. The Christian must remain separate from television, radio, movies, popular music, dancing, alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, and all manner of immorality (Luke 16:15; 1 Peter 4:1-4).
New Testament Ordinances
We believe it is vitally important to observe
the ordinances as taught by Christ and the
 Baptism should be administered only upon the confession of faith as an outward sign of an inward cleansing and infilling of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38).
Communion should be observed as a memorial of Christ's death, symbolizing the blood and body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23-33), preceded by self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:28).
 The washing of feet is observed with the Communion service, symbolizing both a cleansed walk of life and the humility of serving one another in Christian brotherhood (John 13:1-17).
 A headcovering is required for sisters while they are praying or worshipping. This signifies their submission to man according to God's order (1 Corinthians 11:3-12).
 Holy matrimony is an ordinance involving the marriage of two believing people united in the Lord, symbolizing the holy relationship of Christ and the Church (Genesis 2:18-24; Ephesians 5:22-25). We believe it is wrong for a Christian to marry an unbeliever or one from another church (2 Corinthians 6:14). We believe that divorce and remarriage of divorced people are a violation of Jesus' commands, and contribute to the moral breakdown of society (Mark 10:9-12).
The End of This Present World
We believe this present world will come to
an end with the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46; Titus
2:13; 2 Peter 3:10-14).
 Jesus will come to judge the world (2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:31-46).
 Jesus is coming to claim His own (John 14:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
 It will be a literal return (Acts 1:9-11; Revelation 1:7).
We believe that hell is the place of everlasting torment prepared for the devil and his angels, and that the wicked shall suffer with them forever and ever (Matthew 25:41,46; Daniel 12:2; Revelation 19:3; 20:10; 21:8).
We believe that heaven is the final resting place of the righteous, where they will abide in the fullness of joy with God and the holy angels forever (John 14:1-3; Psalm 16:11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; Matthew 6:19-20; Revelation 7:9-17). God desires that all may have an opportunity to be saved (2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:17).