2021-03-25

UU Minute #34

Roots Intertwined with Mennonites



Fausto Sozzini’s Racovian Catechism outlined the basic tenets of what was beginning to be called Socinianism.
  • The Ten Commandments and Christ’s teachings were to guide personal and social behavior.
  • Christians may hold public office and bring suit in court.
  • Common swearing is forbidden, but civil oaths are permitted.
  • Self-defense is permitted, but not the taking of human life.
  • Ownership of property is permitted, but not the accumulation of wealth above one’s needs.
  • Self-denial, patience, humility, and prayer” are the primary responsibilities.
  • Only one sacrament is recognized, that of the Lord’s Supper.
  • Baptism, while having no regenerative power and inappropriate for infants, is recognized as an appropriate act for welcoming converts.
In the years after Fausto’s death in 1604, the Socinian church grew. There were yearly synods. The 1611 synod drew about 400 ministers and lay leaders; later synods, even more. According to Jack Mendolsohn, “it is generally believed that by 1618 there were more than three hundred Socinian congregations."

There was a high emphasis on morality. Members were expected to take seriously the obligation to live by Christ’s model as much as possible.

It bears remembering that our history and the Mennonite history are intertwined at their roots. The Mennonites are also antitrinitarian, and continue to have the views about baptism that the early unitarians had. And while Sozzini took the moderate view that self-defense, bringing suit in court, and owning property is permissible, you can see in the culture of those Polish unitarian congregations certain similarities to Mennonite life – the pacificism, the repudiation of wealth above one’s needs, the self-denial, patience, and humility.

If the Minor Reformed Church hadn’t had such high standards, we might have had even more members. Our rules today are a bit looser than they were then, yet we continue to emphasize that religion must be lived, not merely believed.


NEXT: The Dissipation of Socinianism

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