Old Order Amish
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The Old Order Amish are a North American ethno-religious group consisting of some 2000 local churches. There is no formal church organisation to bind them together, but they are linked by common faith, traditions and ancestry. The Amish separated from mainstream Mennonites in 1693, led by Jakob Ammann. The Old Order Amish form by far the largest group of Amish.
Different groups of Amish
"Old Order Amish" is an American term that describes those who resisted innovations both in society and in church work. A series of conferences held in Ohio from 1862 to 1878 resulted in a clear distinction between the conservative and progressive Amish. Traditionally they referred to themselves as Amish Mennonites, but after the schism (especially over issues like the use of meeting houses and innovations like Sunday School) this more traditional group became labeled by others as "Old Order Amish Mennonites".
The Old Order Amish are distinguished from less conservative groups of Amish derivation by their strict adherence to the practice of forbidding automobile ownership, and their traditional manner of dress. The Old Order Amish is the concept many outsiders have when they think of "Amish".
In 1990, Old Order Amish settlements existed in 20 states in the United States and in one province in Canada. Membership was estimated at over 80,000 in almost 900 church districts. By 2002, there were over 1,200 districts. According to sociologist Julia Erickson, of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world. Old Order Amish groups include the Byler group, Nebraska Amish in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, the Reno group, and the Swartzentruber Amish in Holmes County, Ohio.
Old Order Amish subscribe to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith, a Dutch Mennonite Confession of Faith adopted in 1632. Doctrinally they are similar to other Swiss Mennonites, but show the influence of the Dutch Mennonites. They practice shunning of excommunicated members, and emphasize that a person can only hope to be saved, and that it is a form of pride to claim the assurance of salvation. Feet washing is observed twice annually, in connection with the Communion. Non-resistance, including refusal of military service in any form, is a standard practice.
Most Old Order Amish do not build church houses, but meet for service in private homes every other Sunday. Because of this, they are sometimes called "House Amish".
One group of Amish more concerned with the spiritual life of its members and especially its youth established a publishing house called Pathway Publishing Company located in Lagrange, Indiana, and Aylmer, Ontario. Pathway has become the major publisher of Amish material. There are also a number of private enterprises who publish everything from general reading to reprints of older literature that has been considered of great value to Amish families.
Beverly Lewis, an author of Christian fiction, has written novels based on the Amish. Some of her books include The Covenant, The Betrayal, The Sacrifice, The Prodigal, and The Revelation. These five works are part of a series called "Abram's Daughters", which takes place in a rural Amish community during the 1940s, blending together facts about the Amish with a fictional storyline.
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