When Conrad Grebel arrived at St. Gall Switzerland, on this day March 25, 1525, he began to speak on the need for repentance and baptism. Hundreds turned out to hear him preach and over the next few months, he baptized five hundred. What was significant about this was that most of them had already been baptized as infants.
Grebel was in exile from Zurich. Well-educated, he had studied the Bible with Uhlrich Zwingli, the reformer of Zurich, and stood by him as he made changes in the city. However, Grebel thought that Zwingli moved too slow in implementing reforms based on the Bible.
And Conrad Grebel became convinced from Scripture that infant baptism was wrong. In order to exercise faith, a person had to be old enough to understand the Gospel. Baptism could only have meaning for a person who understood why he or she was being baptized. Those who thought this way were called Anabaptists.
Zwingli and Grebel held public debates on the issue, but Zwingli stuck with infant baptism and so did Zurich. Consequently, Conrad Grebel and a number of others decided to obey their consciences. Grebel is often called the "Father of the Anabaptists" because on January 21, 1525, he re-baptized George Blaurock, a former priest. It was the first such adult baptism in Zurich.
Immediately the Zurich authorities forbade the Anabaptists to speak about their beliefs on adult baptism. Shortly afterward, they drove the Anabaptists out. Soon they would be killing them, often by drowning. Grebel went to St. Gall, where he found immediate success.
Seventh months later, he was arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison. Friends helped him escape, but his life was destined to be short all the same. He could not outrun the plague, which carried him off less than two years after he baptized George Blaurock. He was only about 29 years old.
Although Conrad Grebel left few writings, he left many converts. A college in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada is named for Conrad Grebel. It was founded by Mennonites--spiritual offspring of the early Anabaptist reformer.
- Bautz, Friedrich William. "Grebel, Konrad." (http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/g/grebel_k.shtml).
- Bender, Harold S. Conrad Grebel; c. 1498-1526, the founder of the Swiss Brethren sometimes called Anabaptists. Scottdale, Pa., Herald Press, 1971.
- "Conrad Grebel." (http://cat.xula.edu/tpr/people/grebel/).
- "Conrad Grebel." Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. New York : Oxford University Press, 1996.
- Little, Franklin H. The Origins of Sectarian Protestantism; a study of the Anabaptist view of the church. New York: Macmillan, 1972.
Last updated May, 2007.