Our Religious Freedom

Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,

This week I revisited, what to me is a most significant historical site in Zürich, and in the world, regarding Christian liberty; a place I like to return to that reminds me of the biblical principles I stand on regarding the doctrine of the church, and a solemn reminder of true commitment to Christ and the Word of God. It is the site where the first protestants were martyred by protestants. The place is Schipfe, Lindenhof (just below Lindenhof on the water’s edge slightly down river), where there is a plaque that reads:

“Here in the middle of the River Limmat from a fishing platform were drowned Felix Manz and five other Baptists during the Reformation of 1527 to 1532. Hans Landis was the last Baptist to be executed in Zürich during 1614.”

Feliz Manz and several others felt that the established church had become half-hearted followers of Christ and had also continued practicing some of the Church of Rome’s traditions. For them, a commitment to follow Christ was total and meant not only belief but also practice. The sign of one’s joining Christ’s church was baptism, which only born-again people could receive. They therefore refused to have their infants baptized. Felix Manz and the five men who were martyred with him had been convicted of not presenting their children for “baptism” as required by the City Magistrates and were sentenced to death.

Prior to this, history records that in 1525 an event took place that started what has been called the Radical Reformation. A biblical scholar named Conrad Grebel baptized a priest from the Tyrol, George Cajacob. Then Grebel was baptized by Cajacob, along with the other men, including Felix Manz, one of the city’s most promising biblical scholars. ‘In the high fear of God’ and with a deep bond of ‘togetherness’, the brothers then solemnly committed themselves to the Lord and to each other, and they emerged ‘to teach and keep the faith.’ With this event, the first believer’s baptism since the church’s early centuries, the Baptist movement began, and with it the free church tradition within Protestantism.

The term Anabaptist was a name used negatively by critics of these sixteenth-century radical reformers which means “rebaptizer”. The Anabaptists believed the Bible taught “believer’s baptism,” while the church followed infant baptism which they believed was not biblical. They simply called themselves “believers” or “brethren” or “Christians.” They met together and began a free (non-state) church in Zollikon, just outside Zürich. But because of persecution this church could not continue. However, the Radical Reformation spread throughout German and Dutch-speaking countries of Europe. Out of the conviction of Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz and many others we have religious freedom today.

As a church we follow the biblical principles that these reformers died for: 1). Separation of church and state. The Church is not to be identified with the State nor is it, in its faith or practice, to be directed or controlled by the State; 2). The principle of religious liberty, namely, that no individual should be coerced either by the State or by any secular, ecclesiastical or religious group in matters of faith. The right of private conscience is to be respected. For each believer this means the right to interpret the Scriptures responsibly and to act in the light of his conscience; 3). Priesthood of all believers, by which we understand that each Christian has direct access to God through Christ our High Priest, and shares with Him in His work of reconciliation; 4). Congregational church governance. This principle recognises that a constituted church meeting, subject to the direct Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture, is the highest court of authority for the local church.

This Sunday:

09:15 An inter-active study on “Sharing your faith”. Please join us as we learn how to introduce a gospel conversation, make a biblical gospel presentation, and disciple a new believer.

10:00 Church Prayer Meeting

10:30 Worship Service: sermon, “Do Not Be Conformed”, Romans 12:2; followed by a time of fellowship.

Your friend and pastor,



  1. Michael Ellis says

    Good to see, read and be reminded about these significant events in God’s work through history and our fellowships in Christ.

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