Old School Anabaptists: Leonhard Schiemer on Suffering and Discipleship


The burning of 18 people in Salzburg.

The Anabaptist church in the 16th century was a suffering church.  It is not surprise then, that much of the material from the Anabaptist founders was on the divine experience of suffering.  For the Anabaptist church today, and well, every church today, these words are important because frankly a theology of suffering is important in a North American context that drastically avoids it.  Suffering, while not present in the same form today in many contexts, is significantly formative in the life and DNA of the Anabaptist faith.

Leonhard Schiemer (1500-1528) was a tailor and a preacher who was influenced heavily by Anabaptist founder Hans Hut.  He did most of his writing in prison.  On January 14, 1528 he was caught trying to escape and was subsequently tortured and beheaded.

“A Letter to the Church at Rattenberg” 1527

As son as a man wants to begin to live as a Christian he will experience exactly those things that Christ experienced… That is the lot of all Christians for the disciple is no greater than the master.  For it is grace if someone for the sake of conscience suffers godly sorrow… For it is grace with God when you patiently suffer for doing good.  For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for us and left us an example that you should follow in his footsteps.  He committed no sins neither was deceit found in his mouth.  Christ suffered in the flesh.  Arm yourselves with the thought that whoever suffers in the flesh ceases from sin… It is given to you that you not only believe in Christ but also suffer for him and fight the same battle.  Paul says that you are heirs of God and join heirs with Christ if you suffer with him in order that you may be exalted with him in glory.  For we must be conformed to the image of his Son… It is true, Christ’s suffering destroys sin but only if he suffers in a man.  For as the water does not quench my thirst unless I drink it, and as the bread does not drive away my hunger unless I eat it, even so Christ’s suffering does not prevent me from sinning until he suffers in me.

Anabaptism in Outline,” Edited by Walter Klaassen,  page 90, 91

How does your church work through the experience of suffering?  What are the implications if we avoid suffering?


  1. AO Green · April 30, 2013

    “Anabaptism in Outline” is an excellent resource, great material is found in there, I dug my copy out just last night.

    • Chris Lenshyn · April 30, 2013

      It is a great resource. Love the old school Anabaptist primary sources simply because they are extremely foundational!

  2. AO Green · May 1, 2013

    Another good source from what I hear is “The Sources of Swiss Anabaptism: The Grebel Letters and Related Documents” by Leland Harder. I do not have a copy myself because it is so expensive but I hear it is great. I wish someone began a multi-volume set with the primary sources translated into English.

  3. AO Green · May 1, 2013

    Lol, I have a hard enough time with English, I am not even looking in the direction of 16th century German.

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