Strasbourg Discipline (South German Anabaptist, 1568)
The Strasbourg Discipline is a set of 23 regulations drawn up in 1568 by the "preachers and elders from many places in the meeting at Strasbourg" and confirmed and renewed in 1607 at the same place by the assembled representatives of the congregations, This Abrede der Diener und Eltesten (Agreement of the Preachers and Elders) was expanded at two later conferences, viz., on March 5 (year not given) in Obersülzen in the Palatinate and in 1688 at Ofenstein.
These articles do not constitute an actual confession of faith or dogmatic teachings, but in general discuss practical questions of church life, for the most part dealing with the organization of the congregations, supply of ministers, discipline, ordinances, marriage, care of orphans, etc.
Three manuscript copies of the Strasbourg Discipline recopied and handed down through Amish bishops in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, and Indiana are now in the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College. One of these was is translated above together with an attached appendix of four articles adopted at Hoffingen in 1630.
William Yoder, an Amish bishop of near Nappanee, IN, published the Strasbourg Discipline together with additional material in 1905 as Artikel und Ordnungen der Christlichen Gemeinde in Christi Jesu (printed at Elkhart, Ind.) as a 16-page booklet.
The Gemeinde-Kalender for 1906 contains an interesting article by Mathias Pohl on the Discipline, in which he presented a paraphrase article by article from an old copy then in the possession of Peter Kipfer of the Emmental congregation near Langnau, Switzerland. Two additional articles appear in this paraphrase, one dealing with tobacco, which could not have been in the 1568 form, hence were likely added in 1607. Also presented by Pohl are four additional articles adopted by a conference at Obersülzen on March 5 (year missing) and another set of five articles adopted by the conference at Bronstein (Berstein) in March 1688.
Ernst Müller in his Berner Täufer (1895) refers to the Strasbourg Discipline with brief characterization and summary (pp. 50-52) stating that the manuscript copy he used was in private possession in Emmental Mennonite hands, possibly the Kipfer copy. He refers to the Obersülzen additions as of March 5, 1668, but does not mention the Ofenstein additions. An interesting and valuable feature of the Kipfer manuscript is a colored drawing on the cover picturing Anabaptist men and women in an assembly. This is reproduced in the Pohl article in black and white.
This is, next to the Schleitheim Confession, the only significant church document of the Swiss Brethren which has been preserved. It is of outstanding significance from the practical point of view, but of no value theologically.
Text of Confession
Agreement of the ministers and bishops of many localities in conference at Strassburg in the year 1568, and reaffirmed at the Strasbourg conference in 1607.
1. (It was decided) To warn against leaving the meeting, to earnestly admonish those who leave the meeting without godly causes, and not to permit it.
2. The ministers shall visit the neighboring congregations, and supply their needs, and comfort the brethren with wholesome teaching; with these shall travel ordained bishops by whom the oncoming bishops may be instructed in pastoral care (Haushaltung).
3. The ministers and bishops shall visit, provide for, and comfort the wives and children of those ministers who travel in danger or are in prison, so that the ministers may be comforted and gladdened by the assurance of brotherly love and care, whether he be in prison or absent for other reason.
4. All those who are sent out for this purpose shall be provided and furnished with all necessities.
5. Orphans shall be remembered and taken in before other servants, and shall be disciplined as children.
6. The poor, undeveloped children and orphans of brethren and bishops shall be brought up as opportunity affords from the common property; the rich orphans however shall be brought up from their own property for a reasonable allowance.
7. Such bishops as are ordained shall visit the congregations, fill all offices, and where there is a vacancy, they shall ordain ministers and bishops by laying on of hands.
8. In the communion there shall be no fixed rule observed as to whether the minister shall break and give or each one break. But each one shall be admonished so that in blameless heart and conscience and in unity with Christ there may be one bread and one manner of breaking. Yet no one shall be forced to accept another usage, and each one shall commune in the congregation in which be is.
9. The kneeling and self-humbling of those who have sinned and return with penitent hearts shall take place in the heart before God but the actual kneeling in posture shall not be done away with by this.
10. The avoidance shall be Practiced toward those who forsake the truth of the Gospel and the brotherhood, causing reproach to the name of God and the brotherhood; therefore we desire that the brethren in all temperance and lowliness withdraw from those who have fallen away, according to the teaching of the apostles.
11. The brethren and sisters, each to each, shall greet each other with a holy kiss; those who have not been received into fellowship shall not be greeted with a kiss, but with the words, "The Lord help you".
12. Those who wish to enter the state of matrimony shall do so with the knowledge and counsel of the ministers and bishops, and it shall be undertaken in the fear of God; and since it is fitting they should inform and report to their parents.
13. If believers are persecuted and driven from their homes by unbelieving husband or wife, they shall be encouraged to continue in earnest prayer to the Lord for patience until he shall show a way out; in order to avoid this danger believers shall marry only in the Lord, and not in unbelief, whether they be maidens, youths, or widows (or widowers).
14. As regards the incarnation of Christ, one should abide by the Scriptures according as Paul testifies concerning Him, a Son of God after the Spirit, and a Son of David after the flesh, and according as Peter confesses Him, a Son of the living God; and as far as possible all disputing should be avoided and omitted.
15. All those who wish to unite themselves with us, but have been baptized by others, shall be diligently examined, whether they have repented, and have believed on Christ, and have been baptized thereupon; such shall not be baptized again.
16. No brother shall engage in buying or building or other large, [unnecessary] business dealing without the counsel, knowledge, and consent of the brethren and bishops.
17. If one or more brethren assert themselves to cause trouble by attacking or withstanding the ministers or bishops, such an one shall be warned and censured in a gospel manner, and such gossip and backbiting shall not be allowed to anyone, nor shall such slander be accepted by any brother or sister, whether from strangers or from home people, but such matters shall be dealt with according to the regulation.
18. Also, if a member of a congregation shall withstand the ministers and bishops, he shall be silenced and admonished privately by the bishops lest they be discouraged.
19. Those among the brethren who catch or shoot game shall be warned according to the order of the Lord, and if they are disobedient, they shall [be punished] with the ban [and] expelled, unless it is done in free territory.
20. Tailors and seamstresses shall hold to the plain and simple style and shall make nothing at all for pride's sake.
21. Brethren and sisters shall stay by the present form of our regulation concerning apparel and make nothing for pride's sake.
22. If a brother or a sister has money or valuables and wishes to entrust them to someone, they shall entrust them to brethren and sisters, and not to the world.
23. If a brother or sister has debts from the world, he may let the authorities demand it, and let them set a date (for payment) but thereafter not let anything be mortgaged.
24. If a brother is to watch or guard in village, field, wood, or forest, he may hire someone, if it is for the best or he himself may guard but not to anyone's harm, and he may not carry any weapon such as spear and the like.
Agreement: On the 10th day of October, anno 1630, the Swiss Brethren of Switzerland were together near Hoffingen in the dark valleys ( ?) and discussed, counseled and agreed with one another to hold closer to the order of the gospel in the church of God according to the statement and deposition of the old brethren, to bold fast to them, and take care where something might have been neglected.
1. If a brother or sister has committed a public transgression, may God forbid, such shall be publicly punished.
2. If someone should wish to move away on account of tribulation it shall not be allowed them without godly cause.
3. No one shall let himself be brought before the government court, or shall cause anyone else to be brought before such court on account of money debts.
4. Anyone who has been appointed, who has a good testimony, and is in the confidence of the people, such an one may take charge of communion, baptism, marrying, punishing and expelling, if no ordained bishop should be on band, who might have been hindered for cause.
Copied 1733 and 1774. By Christian Guengerich of Hueninghausen, March 1, 1789, April 14, 1800, 1820. This discipline I received from Friederich Hege (Hege) at Martinscreek, Ohio, in the year 1860 and returned to his son in Iowa. Copied by me Jacob Schwarzendruber.
The copyist, J. Schwarzendruber, was born in the year 1800 at Mengeringbausen, about an hour from Hueningbausen in Waldeck in Germany and died in the year 1868 on the 5th of June in Johnson County, Iowa. Friedrich Schwarzendruber.
[ ] indicates omission in the earlier text of 1836. ( ) indicates words not in the German original.