After publishing “Things I Didn’t Learn in Baptist History Class,” I became even more interested in the source of the quote on that post. It turns out that the quote is from a Swiss Anabaptist pamphlet from 1532-1538, very early in the Reformation. You can find it in the article â€œAnswer of Some Who Are Called (Ana-)Baptists â€“ Why They Do Not Attend the Churchesâ€ by Shem Peachey and Paul Peachey. (Mennonite Quarterly Review 45 (Jan 1971), 5-32)
As I was reading through this pamphlet (which we only have because it was copied by one of their detractors), I noticed that the original authors did not stop at encouraging mutual edification during the church meeting. They also spoke against the practice of one person speaking, especially when the only person allowed to speak is an ordained minister:
And thus, as already mentioned, they [primarily Lutherans and Zwinglians] deny that we possess the evangelical order nor would they permit us to exercise it (if we did attend their preaching), but teach and presume that we also, as those who err, should remain silent in their preaching regardless of what we would have to speak to edification whether or not their preacher defaults from the truth, one must be silent, even though according to 1 Cor. 14 the listeners must judge the preacher’s doctrine. All judgment and everything, yes everyone in his conscience, is bound to the preacher and to his teaching, whether it be good or evil (to accept the same in conscience to believe and to do), and not the teaching of Christ and of his Holy Spirit. (12)
Later, the writers say that requiring everyone but the preacher to remain silent “annuls, transgresses and resists… yes, forbids and then also frustrates and impedes the rivers of living water.”
When most churches practice that only the pastor (or his representative) can speak during the church meeting, I do not think they intentionally do what the Anabaptists claim. Usually, its probably a matter of tradition and pragmatism.
But, were the Anabaptists correct? When we silence everyone (except one) do we hinder the work of God?
What do you think?