Subgroups of Amish
Over the years, the Amish churches have divided many times over doctrinal disputes. The 'Old Order' Amish, a conservative faction that withdrew from fellowship with the wider body of Amish in the 1860s, are those that have most emphasized traditional practices and beliefs. There are as many as eight different subgroups of Amish with most belonging, in ascending order of conservatism, to the Beachy Amish, New Order, Old Order, or Swartzentruber Amish sects.
Beachy Amish Mennonite
The Beachy Amish Mennonite constituency is a loose association of Anabaptist churches without a central governing body. Because of the loose structure, few common characteristics are shared by all Beachy congregations. Some similarities include adhering to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith and practicing varying degrees of Anabaptist practice, such as nonresistance, separation from the state, and adult baptism.
The Beachy church arose from a 1927 division in the (Casselman) River Old Order Amish congregation in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Bishop Moses M. Beachy led the congregation during that time and his name became associated with the faction. The Beachys favored a milder discipline for members whose only offense was transferring membership to other Anabaptist churches, specifically the conservative Amish Mennonite congregation that broke from Moses Beachy's congregation (then not under Beachy's leadership) in 1895.
In contrast to the Old Order Amish, the Beachys have meetinghouses, Sunday School, and a Bible School for young adults, and most also support missionary work. Excommunication is used less frequently and accompanying bans are even more rare.
Most Beachy churches today more closely resemble the Conservative Mennonites (which see for fuller discussion of beliefs/distinctives under that entry) rather than the Old Order Amish. The practices and lifestyle still similar to the Old Order Amish include:
- Women wear head covering
- Married men have beards in most congregations
- Television and radio are forbidden
Practices that distinguish the Beachy church from the Old Order Amish include:
- Filtered Internet is permitted by most congregations
- Men wear ready made clothing
- Ownership of personal automobiles.
In 2006, there were 11,487 Beachy members in 207 churches, with the highest representation in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio. International Beachy churches or mission work can be found in El Salvador, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Ireland, Ukraine, Romania, Kenya, Australia, and Canada. Mission work is sponsored by Amish Mennonite Aid (AMA), Mennonite Interests Committee (MIC), or individual churches.
New Order Amish
The New Order Amish are, despite the name, a subgrouping of Old Order Amish, which split away from other Old Order Amish church fellowships in the 1960s for a variety of reasons. These included a desire for "clean" youth courting standards, meaning they do not condone tobacco, alcohol, or the practice of bundling, or non-sexually lying in bed together, during courtship. They also wished to incorporate more evangelical elements into the church, including Sunday school and mission work.
In 1966, around one hundred families split with the Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and created two new congregations, and have since taken on the name "New Order Amish." A separate movement developed in Ohio at around the same time.
Like Old Order groups, New Order Amish use the horse-and-buggy, wear Plain clothing, speak the Pennsylvania German dialect, and practice home worship. As with other Amish, technological restrictions include prohibitions on the internet, television, and radio. Some New Order Amish allow electricity around the home, and some groups permit telephones in the home as well. New Order Amish may be more lenient in the practice of shunning, and may be more permissive of photography than older-order groups. New Order Amish prohibit alcohol and tobacco use (seen in some Old Order groups), an important factor in the original division.
There are several different fellowships which are referred to as being "New Order." New Order Amish communities can be found in around a dozen states, with the largest population in the Holmes County, Ohio, settlement.
Old Order Amish
The Swartzentruber Amish are an Old Order Amish sect that formed as the result of a division that occurred among the Amish of Holmes County, Ohio in 1917. The bishop who broke away was Sam E. Yoder. The Swartzentruber name was applied later, named after bishop Samuel Swartzentruber who succeeded him. There are nineteen districts of Swartzentruber in Holmes County and Wayne County, where the subgroup originated. Now there are groups of Swartzentruber Amish settled in 15 other states, with the largest group in the U.S. located in the Holmes/Wayne County settlement.
Swartzentruber Amish speak Pennsylvania German, and are considered a subgroup of the Old Order Amish, although they do not fellowship or intermarry with more liberal Old Order Amish. Like some other Old Order groups, they avoid the use of electricity and indoor plumbing. Many other common devices and technologies are also disallowed for being too worldly, including buttons, Velcro and bicycles. Swartzentruber farms and yards are often unkempt. The Swartzentrubers discourage interest in outward appearance, as such an interest could promote vanity and pride. Their farms can be identified by dirt drives and surrounding roads, while most roads of the Old Order contain either gravel or paving to keep out the mud. The roofs of the houses and outbuildings are often made of tin. The clothing differs from that of the other Old Order Amish in subtle ways: all colors are dark and somber rather than the bright blues and mauves; more common is navy, dark burgundy, and even gray. Men frequently wear a single suspender to avoid any pride associated with two matching suspenders. The dresses of the women, rather than reaching mid-calf, usually reach to the top of the shoes. The tack on the horses and buggies is often all black, rather than brown leather.
Swartzentruber Amish use reflective tape on the back of their buggies, in place of bright triangular slow moving signs for road travel, which they regard as too worldly. These buggies will also use lanterns, rather than battery-operated lights, or reflectors. The lanterns are also often staggered, one side slightly higher than the other, so as not to appear like the tail lights of a vehicle. There have been several court cases across the country where the state and county challenged the local Swartzentruber group to use the regulation orange triangle. So far, even as far as the federal Supreme Court, the Amish have prevailed, although statistics suggest that in areas where these groups exist, accidents involving buggies are more prevalent.
On September 13, 2011, nine Old Order Swartzentruber men were jailed for not paying a fine for refusing to display an orange reflective triangle on their horse-drawn carriages.
Swartzentruber is a Mennonite and Amish surname of Swiss origin, coming from the Trub river valley, located approximately midway between Bern and Lucerne. It has been thought to mean "seller of black grapes". Other English spellings of the name include Swartzendruber, Schwartzendruber, Schwarzentruber, and Schwarztrauber.
Swartzentruber wore hats the same as the rest of the Amish up to this time. Up to 1942 free moving from one sect to another was also allowed without penalty in the Troyer Church.
The Tobe Amish, or Tobe church, was a splinter group from the Troyer Amish, formed in the 1940s.
In the spring of 1942, Troyer bishop, Abe Troyer moved to close the door between sects by excommunicating those who joined another sect of Amish outside of the fellowship and when the dust settled, the excommunicated families, led by Tobe Hochstetler, were called the Tobe church. The Tobe church remained mainly in Wayne County, although they split into Tobe Old Order and Tobe New Order.
- Yoder 1987
- For a detailed discussion of the 1927 split and its history, see http://www.beachyam.org/librarybooks/BeachyAJThesis.pdf. The author, Alvin J. Beachy (1913-1986), was Moses' eleventh child.
- "2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
- "2000 2000 Religious Congregations and Membership Study". Glenmary Research Center. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
- Mackall, Joe (2007), Plain Secrets: An outsider among the Amish, Beacon Press (published June 15, 2007), ISBN 978-0-8070-1064-8
- Stanglin, Douglas. "9 Amish men ordered to jail after refusing to put reflective orange signs on buggies". USA Today. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- Swartzentruber, Elmer G and N. van der Zijpp. "Swartzendruber (Swartzentruber, Swartzendrover Swartzendruver, Schwartzentruber, Schwartzendruber, Schwarzentruber, Schwarzentruver, Schwarztrauber, Schwarzentraub)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 January 2007 
- Beachy, Alvin J. 1955. The Rise and Development of the Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches. Mennonite Quarterly Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, 118-140.
- Lapp, Aaron. 2003. Weavertown Church History. Sugarcreek: Carlisle Printing.
- Mast, J.B. 1950. Facts Concerning the Beachy A. M. Division of 1927. Meyersdale, PA: Menno J. Yoder.
- Mennonite Church Information 2007. Harrisonburg: Christian Light Publications.
- Miller, Devon. 2008. Amish Mennonite Directory. Millersburg, OH: Abana Books. A directory of all US and Canadian Amish Mennonites, including the Beachys.
- Schwieder, Dorthy and Schwieder, Elmer. 1977. The Beachy Amish in Iowa: A Case Study. Mennonite Quarterly Review, Vol. 51, No. 1, p. 41-51.
- Yoder, Elmer S. 1987. The Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship Churches. Hartville, OH: Diakonia Ministries. Comprehensive account of the Beachys by Beachy minister Simon L. Yoder's son.
- A Beachy Amish Mennonite information website
- Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship in Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia
- Profile of the Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches on the Association of Religion Data Archives website
- Amish Online Encyclopedia-"Differences Between New Order and Old Order Amish"
- The Geography of Difference - Essay on the differences between Old Order Amish and Swartzentruber Amish by Amish-Mennonite historian Darren Byler.
- Who are the Swartzentruber Amish? - Amish Online Encyclopedia entry on Swartzentruber Amish technology, history, and customs.