Memmingen, Resolutions of (1531)
Resolutions of Memmingen (Memminger Beschlüsse). Early in 1531 some of the imperial cities of Swabia, Germany, of Zwinglian creed formulated agreements on matters concerning the Reformation, which also dealt with the treatment of Anabaptists. They were closely connected with the resolutions of the 1530 diet of Augsburg, the religious aspects of which failed to satisfy some of the Protestants, whereupon the evangelical estates on 31 December 1530 formed the League of Schmalkald, in order to bring about clarification on the most important questions and to give each other mutual support in case of infringement of their rights. Unity in the punishment of the Anabaptists was another of their objectives.
The cities of Upper Germany, fearing subjection to the Confession of Augsburg, sought to come to an understanding on several points, including the checking of the Anabaptist movement. Representatives of Ulm, Memmingen, Biberach, Isny, Lindau, and Konstanz met in Memmingen 26 February-1 March 1531 to discuss these points. Reutlingen was not represented on account of an epidemic of the plague, but presented a written opinion drawn up by its preachers. The city council of Ulm appointed its mayor Bernhard Besserer and Konrad Sam to draw up a draft of the points under consideration. In point of both statesmanship and theology the principles they formulated show understanding for the ideas and demands of the Anabaptists. On many a disputed point they sided with the Anabaptists.
The decisions drawn up by Ambrosius Blaurer and unanimously accepted, declared that in baptism and communion all additions and deviations from the ordinances as instituted by Christ would no longer be countenanced; the use of oil, salt, and exorcism of devils were named as such additions. Nor should infant baptism be compulsory, "in order that the accusations of the Anabaptists might be somewhat moderated and their mouths closed." They were to see that "we observe infant baptism freely and without compulsion, and in accord with the requirement of love grant this custom or omit it." The weak should, however, be permitted to perform an emergency baptism in case the life of the child is in danger, although for the child "there is no danger toward God, if it should happen to the without outward baptism." The effort of the city representatives to meet the reproach of the Anabaptists that not enough attention was paid in Protestant cities to moral living, was shown in the decisions concerning the punishment of the laity and the clergy.
The decisions concerning the punishment of the Anabaptists showed that the Swabian cities were not in accord with the course taken against them in the empire and did not approve of severe penalties in matters of faith. They said:
"On account of the Anabaptists we wish very sincerely that they be treated as tolerantly as possible, so that our Gospel be not blamed or impugned on their account. For we have hitherto seen very clearly that the much too severe and tyrannical treatment exercised toward them in some places contributes much more toward spreading them than toward checking their error, because many of them, some out of stubbornness of spirit and some out of pious, simple steadfastness, endured all dangers, even death itself, and suffered with such patience that not only were their adherents strengthened, but also many of ours were moved to regard their cause as good and just.
"Thus it is contrary to the right of Christian government to force faith upon the world with the sword and other violent compulsion and uproot evil therein, which should be resisted alone through the mighty Word of God, and the person erring in faith shall not be suddenly knocked down, but should be tolerated in all Christian love as a harmless person.
"If he refuses to render the oath and military service, and does not yield after instruction from God's Word, he should be banished from the city. An outsider, who "teaches his error to others, should be kept out of the city." A citizen in a similar case should first be fined, then imprisoned, and if he still persists in his error, banished from the city. However, anyone who "under the pretense of Anabaptism incites other disturbances and revolt," shall be punished in accord with the imperial mandate as a sectarian and revolutionary. Anyone permitting himself to be baptized should be banished. Anyone who has been baptized and has been called to account for it, shall go to the preacher for instruction. Every citizen shall be under oath to report all Anabaptists of whom he knows to the authorities.
The delegates assumed that they could not be reproached in this position by God or either temporal or religious authorities. The decisions stated that there were in the cities many God-fearing persons, who thought the government was discriminating against them in not tolerating them, while it tolerated others who with their teaching, life, and seditious acts disgraced the name of Christian. Therefore the cities would punish Catholics in the same manner if "in order to teach others they stir up disturbance or revolution."
The decisions of Memmingen did not adapt themselves to the imperial mandates of 1528 and 1529 nor to the imperial law of 1529 on the punishment of the Anabaptists. They furnish an interesting insight into the attitude of Upper Germany, especially in the territory of the persecuting Swabian League. They had received little attention in the pertinent literature by the mid-20th century.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: III, 73.
Keim, K. Th. Schwâbische Reformationsgeschichte bis zum Augsburger Reichstag. Tübingen, 1855.
Pressel, Th. Ambrosius Blaurer. Elberfeld, 1861.
Thudichum, Fr. Die deutsche Reformation II. Leipzig, 1909.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 568-569. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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APA style: Hege, Christian. (1957). Memmingen, Resolutions of (1531). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M46020.html.