Old Order Mennonite
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Old Order Mennonites form a branch of the Mennonite Protestant tradition. There is no overall church or conference to unite all the different groups of Old Order Mennonite. The term is usually used to refer to those groups of Mennonites who practice a lifestyle without some elements of modern technology. A large minority of them use cars, whereas a majority have retained horse and buggy transportation. They are almost entirely of Swiss German or south German descent and speak Pennsylvania German. Very conservative Plautdietsch speaking Russian Mennonites, who may have a similar belief and lifestyle are normally not called "Old Order Mennonite". There are quite a lot of similarities between Old Order Mennonites and Old Order Amish and to a lesser extent with conservative Russian Mennonites living in Latin America and with the Hutterites.
Beliefs and practices
The avoidance of technologies by Old Order Mennonites and Old Order Amish is based not on a belief that the technology is in some way evil, but over a concern for the nature of their communities. Community is important to a Mennonite, and a technology or practice is rejected if it would adversely affect it. This means that the prohibitions are not usually absolute; a Mennonite who would not own a car may use a car or other modern transport if a pressing need arises. This basis also means that a Mennonite sees no contradiction in having electricity in their milking barn — since that is necessary to comply with regulations on milk cooling — but not in their house.
Other aspects of Old Order Mennonite life are concerned with plainness. The concept of plainness dictates the distinctive dress of the Mennonite. Plain to a Mennonite is the opposite of showy or ostentatious, and is considered a virtue. It is based on the belief that a person's true worth does not lie in their clothes or appearance. It is this aspect of their beliefs that regulates the dress style, giving Mennonites their distinctive look with straw hats or bonnets, and plain dresses or pants. Many Old Order Mennonites do not allow cars. Those who do drive only black cars, like the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference.
Many Old Order Mennonites refuse to accept Social Security, unemployment benefits or state pension benefits. Old Order Mennonites in Ontario have negotiated with the government to gain exemption from paying contributions to many social funds on which they will not collect and from other dues from which they will not benefit.
Many Amish and Old Order Mennonites do not use traditional health insurance with monthly premiums and co-pays. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, some Amish and Mennonites use Preferred Health Care (PHC) Old Order Group coverage (OOG). When an OOG member visits a participating provider (approximately 1100 local physicians and nine hospitals in the Lancaster area accept the OOG coverage), he or she would present a unique white card with red and blue print identifying him or her as a PHC member. These cards are void of any identifying information, as is the custom of their religious belief. After care is rendered, providers submit a claim to PHC for a "repricing" as if the patient had insurance. A PHC statement is then sent to the medical practice and the patient indicating the discounted amount due the provider. The practice then collects the repriced amount from the patient directly, as per practice policy for collecting balances due on self-pay patient accounts. In this way, the Old Order Group has engaged in collective bargaining practices to lower their cost of health care. Additionally, the community will support any member who is sick, disadvantaged, old, or who suffers an accident.
Unlike Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonites have meeting houses for worship, typically of very simple design and lacking adornment. In many respects some Old Order groups are very similar to Conservative Mennonites but differ particularly in their non acceptance of Sunday School and Revival Meetings and the predominant use of the German language in their worship services.
Groups of Old Order Mennonites
Old Order Mennonites can be found in many parts of the United States and Canada. There are large numbers in Wellington County, Ontario, and Waterloo Region, Ontario, but they are also found in other parts of Ontario.
- Groffdale Conference Mennonite Church, also called Wenger Mennonites, with 8,542 adult members and a total population of 17,775 in 2002.
- Weaverland Old Order Mennonite Conference (now the Weaverland Mennonite Conference), with 4,767 adult members in 1994. They use cars.
- Stauffer Mennonite with about 1300 adult members in several subgroups in 2008.
- Ohio-Indiana Mennonite Conference, also called Wisler Mennonites, with a population of 637 in 1994. They use cars.
- Reidenbach Old Order Mennonites with about 300 adult members in 1994, dividet in 10 sub-groups.
- There are several smaller groups mostly with less than 100 adult members, like the Orthodox Mennonites and Scottsville Mennonites in Kentucky.
In Ontario a gradual shift is taking place among a number of families within the Old Order Mennonite Conference away from the acceptance of electricity and the use of the telephone and toward a simpler more traditional way of life. Many of those adhering to the more traditional way of life have moved to Huron-Kinloss township in Bruce County, Ontario.
The Old Order Mennonites find an affinity with the Old Order Amish publishing house called Pathway Publishing Company located in Lagrange, Indiana and Aylmer, Ontario. More recently the Old Order Mennonites of Ontario have done some of their own publishing and a private enterprise known as Vineyard Publications has been formed near Wallenstein, Ontario. Members of the Old Order churches tend to use the Pennsylvania German dialect for literary expression more often than Old Order Amish. There are several authors of Pennsylvania German prose and poetry. Well known, for example, is Isaac Horst (1918-2008) from Mount Forest (Ontario, Canada), who wrote the book "Bei sich selwert un ungewehnlich" (in English: "Separate and Peculiar"). Pennsylvania German texts are mostly published in the Pennsylvania German dialect newspaper Hiwwe wie Driwwe.
- Donald B. Kraybill and James P. Hurd: Horse-and-buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World. University Park, PA 2006.
- Stephen Scott: An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Intercourse, PA 1996.
- "Patient Financial Information: Old Order Group". Ephrata Community Hospital. Retrieved 2007-12-26.[dead link]
- Stephen Scott: An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups, page 73
- Donald Kraybill: Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites, page 258.
- Stephen Scott: An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups, page 72