Old Order Mennonite

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Old Order Mennonite horse and carriage in Oxford County, Ontario in 2006.
"Black bumper" car of the 1920s, such as might have been driven by early Horning Church members.

Old Order Mennonites form a branch of the Mennonite Protestant tradition. Old Order are those Mennonite groups of Swiss German and south German heritage who practice a lifestyle without some elements of modern technology, who dress plain and who have retained the old forms of worship, baptism and communion.

All Old Order Mennonite reject certain technologies (e.g. television), but the extent of this rejection depents on the group. Old Order groups generally place great emphasis on a disciplined community instead of the individual's faith beliefs.[1] The Pennsylvania German language is spoken and vigorous among all horse-and-buggy groups, except for the Virginia Old Order Mennonites, who lost the language before becoming Old Order. There is no overall church or conference to unite all the different groups of Old Order Mennonites.

A large minority of Old Order Mennonite use cars (~10,000 members), whereas a majority (~17,000 members) have retained horse and buggy transportation. They are almost entirely of Swiss German or south German descent and the majority of them speak Pennsylvania German. Very conservative Plautdietsch speaking "Russian" Mennonites, who may have a similar belief and lifestyle are normally not called "Old Order Mennonite".

Names[edit]

From the first Old Order division in Indiana in 1872 under bishop Jacob Wisler (1808–1889) until the middle of the 20th century sometimes all Old Order Mennonites were called "Wisler Mennonites",[2] "Old Order Mennonites, Wisler"[3] and the like or even "Wislerites".[4] In a few cases this usage has persisted, but today the term "Wisler Mennonites" normally refers to a certain subgroup, the Ohio-Indiana Mennonite Conference. Old Order Mennonites who do not use automobiles are either referred to as "horse and buggy Mennonites" or "Team Mennonites". The word for them in Pennsylvania German is Fuhremennischte. Sometimes the term "Old Order Mennonites" is restricted to groups that do not use cars. It is common to name groups after a bishop, in most cases the leading bishop during the time of division.[5]

History[edit]

The Old Order Mennonites emerged through divisions from the main body of Mennonites between 1872 and 1901 in four regions of North America: Indiana in 1872, Ontario in 1889, Pennsylvania in 1893 and Virginia in 1901. Conflicts over the introduction of such modern practices as Sunday Schools, revival meetings, and English language preaching drove the formation of Old Order Mennonite churches. These modernizing trends that changed the form of religious practice were pushed among the Mennonites especially by two men: John F. Funk and John S. Coffman. The traditional minded people left the old conferences to form new ones, not the modernizers.[6][7]

Between 1907 and 1931 another wave of church splits occurred among the Old Orders, concerning the use of new technologies, especially cars. The splits occurred in Indiana and Ohio in 1907, in Ontario in 1917 and 1931, and in Pennsylvania in 1927.[8]

The Stauffer Mennonites had already split away in 1845 over several issues, favoring a stricter church practice. Today they and groups that split from them are the most traditional Old Order Mennonite groups concerning technologies and dress.[9]

The Reformed Mennonites, formed in 1812, are a special group that does not totally fit into the "Old Order" group but that has best retained some old traditions, e. g. they wear the most traditional form of plain dress among all Mennonites. Concerns that led to the formation of the new group were "the worldly drift of the church" and "degeneration".[10]

Between the 1940s and the 1960s both the Orthodox Mennonites and the Noah Hoover Mennonites emerged from a long series of splits and reunifications of people among the Old Orders who were no modernizers but sought a purer form of Mennonite life. Both the Orthodox Mennonites and the Noah Hoovers are "intentionalist minded, ultra-plain Old Order Mennonite" groups.[11] Stephen Scott writes about the Noah Hoover Mennonite:[12]

Beliefs and practices[edit]

Many practices among the Old Order Mennonites stem from the biblical principle of nonconformity to the world, according to Romans 12:2 and other Bible verses.

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. Many Old Order Mennonite groups reject automobiles. In an emergency, even the most traditional Old Order Mennonite is likely to accept a ride in an automobile; those who sell milk in areas that require cooling will install electricity in the barn. Some of the groups that allow the use of cars and trucks, such as the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference, will ensure that they are all black, painting chrome sections to achieve this effect.[citation needed]

Old Order Mennonites also practise plainness, including the dress, which is the opposite of showiness in clothing but also in physical appearance.

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).[13] 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[edit]

The spectrum of Old Order Mennonite groups ranges from groups that differ little from mainstream or even conservative Old Order Amish groups like the Swartzentruber Amish to groups that are barely different from Conservative Mennonites groups concerning the use of technologies. What characterise automobile groups as Old Orders and not Conservative Mennonites is that they have retained the traditional forms of worship, communion, baptism, funeral and leadership structures. In contrast some wedding practices have changed. All Old Order Mennonites do not have Sunday School and normally no revival meetings.[14]

Horse and Buggy groups have retained a rural lifestyle with farming as an important part of their economy. Most horse and buggy Old Order Mennonites allow the use of tractors for farming, although some groups insist on steel-wheeled tractors to prevent tractors from being used for road transportation. Some groups like the Orthodox Mennonites and the Noah Hoover Mennonite still till their fields with horses. The horse and buggy people stress separation from the world, excommunicate, and normally shun in a strict form. All Old Order Mennonite groups meet in meeting houses or church buildings (when they have full-fledged congregations), contrary to the Old Order Amish, who meet in homes of the members.

Automobile Old Order Mennonites, like the Weaverland Conference Mennonites, Wisler Mennonites, and Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference also evolved from the same series of Old Order schisms from 1872 to 1901. They often share the same meeting houses with, and adhere to almost identical forms of Old Order worship as their horse and buggy Old Order brethren with whom they parted ways in the early 20th century. Although Weaverland Old Orders began using cars in 1927, the cars were required to be plain and painted black. The form of the ban among automobile groups in general is less severe, that means the ex-communicant is not always shunned, and is therefore not excluded from the family table, shunned by their spouse, or cut off from business dealings. All automobile Old Orders have already shifted from Pennsylvania German to English or are in the process to do so. Since some decades family size and growth rate of the Automobile groups have diminished compared to the horse and buggy groups.

In addition to the groups listed below there were also several smaller horse and buggy groups like the Joseph Brubaker group with 58 adult members, the William Weaver group with 55 adult members, the Aaron Martin group with 45 adult members and the Allen Martin group with 37 adult members. All this information dates from 1995. Kraybill and Bowman in 2001 mention to more small groups, the Harvey Nolt group and the William Weaver group, both divided from the Wengers.[15]

Because splits, mergers and even the dissolution of small groups are not uncommon among Old Order Mennonites, the situation in 2017 may look quite different. Below there is a table of all groups with more than 250 members in 2008/9:

Name Country Membership
in 1993
Membership
in 2008/9
Congrega-
tions in 2008/9
Use of cars First language
among members
Groffdale Conference Mennonite Church, "Wenger" USA **5,464 10,000 50 No Pennsylvania German
Weaverland Mennonite Conference, "Horning" USA *4,767 7,100 40 Yes Pennsylvania German,
shifting to English
Ontario (Old Order) Mennonite Conference, "Woolwichers" Canada 2,200 3,200 36 No Pennsylvania German
Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference Canada 1,106 1,400 12 Yes English
Stauffer Mennonite, "Pikers" USA ****700 1,300 13 No Pennsylvania German
Ohio-Indiana Mennonite Conference, "Wisler" USA *637 925 7 Yes English
Orthodox Mennonites USA, Canada ***220 650 8 No Pennsylvania German
Noah Hoover Mennonite USA, Belize 300 575 8 No Pennsylvania German,
Plautdietsch, English
David Martin Mennonites Canada ***400 *****500 6 No Pennsylvania German
Virginia Old Order Mennonite Conference USA ****400 500 4 No English
Reidenbach Old Order Mennonites, "Thirty Fivers" USA 300 375 10 No Pennsylvania German
Reformed Mennonite USA, Canada 346 300 12 Yes English
John Dan Wenger Mennonites USA 250 300 1 No English
Total 17,090 27,075 206

[16][17][18] * 1994, ** 1992, *** estimate, **** estimate for 1990 ***** this number given by Kraybill is most probably much too low and should rather be around 1,000[citation needed]

Distribution[edit]

State or
province
Team
Mennonite
population
around 2000
PG-speaking
Mennonite
population
in 2015
Pennsylvania 9,650 12,340
Ontario 6,900 9,495
New York 1,800 4,195
Virginia 1,550 (~2,000)*
Kentucky 400 2,563
Wisconsin 800 2,395
Ohio 800 2,360
Missouri 1,000 2,267
Indiana 700 995
Iowa 300 600
Tennessee - 565
Maryland - 525
Michigan 100 300
Belize 100 300**
Illinois - 235
Manitoba - 100
Minnesota - 27
Total 24,000[19] 39,265 [20]

Old Order Mennonites, who use horse and buggy, also called "Team Mennonites", can be found in the United States, Canada and Belize. In the year 2000 more than 70 percent of the horse and buggy people lived in Pennsylvania and Ontario, where they emerged through divisions from the main body of Mennonites in the late 19th century and from the division between automobile and horse and buggy groups in the early 20th century. In Indiana, Ohio and Virginia they also emerged through divisions, but in much smaller numbers. Settlements of horse and buggy Mennonites in other states were created by migrations, that started mainly since the 1960s. There are also Old Order Mennonites in Belize (Cayo and Toledo Districts). The table on the right lists the total population of horse and buggy Mennonites per state or province in North America in the late 1990s.[21][22]

|* Virginia Old Order Mennonites use horse and buggy but speak English instead of German.
|** Because some of the Noah Hoovers speak Plautdietsch instead of Pennsylvania German, the number given is maybe only half or a third of their total population.

Adherents and population[edit]

According to C. Henry Smith, who wrote in 1908, all Old Order Mennonite groups counted "hardly more than two thousand members".[23] In 1957 the total number of members of all Old Order Mennonite groups was 5,800 members in 44 congregations.[7] For the year 2001 Kraybill and Hostetter give the number 16,478 for the membership of "all Old Order Mennonites groups" in the USA.[24] According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia in 2002 there were approximately 17,000 baptized Old Order Mennonite members in the USA and 3,000 in Canada.[7] There were more than 27,000 adult, baptized members of Old Order Mennonites in North America and Belize in 2008/9. The total population of Old Order Mennonites groups speaking Pennsylvania German was about 40,000 in 2015,[25] which indicates that the total population of all Old Order Mennonites groups, including those who have lost the language or are in the process of losing it, was roughly between 60,000 and 70,000 in 2015.

Growth[edit]

The Wenger Mennonites, the largest horse and buggy group, have a growth rate of 3.7 percent a year which is comparable to the growth rate of Old Order Amish.[26] The Wengers have larger families and a higher retention rate than their car driving brothers, the Horning Mennonites.[27] In 2005 the average number of children per household was 8.25 among Old Order Mennonites in Indiana.[28] In a sample of 199 people from the Martindale District of the Wenger Mennonites born between 1953 and 1968 there was a retention rate of 95 percent in 1998.[29]

Similar groups[edit]

There are quite a lot of similarities between Old Order Mennonites and Old Order Amish, especially between the Amish and the horse and buggy Old Order Mennonites, who both speak Pennsylvania German and who have a shared tradition of Plain dress. To a lesser extent there are similarities with conservative "Russian" Mennonites, who live in Latin America, speak another German dialect, Plautdietsch, and who have their own tradition of Plain dress. The same is true for the Hutterites, who speak Hutterisch. There are also similarities with the different Old Order Schwarzenau Brethren groups and the Old Order River Brethren who have some shared Pennsylvania Dutch heritage with the Old Order Mennonites.

Publishing[edit]

The Old Order Mennonites find an affinity with the Old Order Amish publishing house called Pathway Publishers 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.

See also[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Donald B. Kraybill and James P. Hurd: Horse-and-buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World. University Park, PA 2006. (Mainly on Groffdale Mennonites)
  • Stephen Scott: An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Intercourse, PA 1996.
  • Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, Brotherhood. Waterloo, Ontario 2003.
  • J. Winfield Fretz: The Waterloo Mennonites: A Community in Paradox. Waterloo, Ontario 1989.
  • Isaac R. Horst: A Separate People: An Insider's View of Old Order Mennonite Customs and Traditions. Waterloo, Ontario 2000. (Mainly on Ontario Old Order Mennonites)
  • Daniel B. Lee: Old Order Mennonites, Rituals, Beliefs, and Community. Lanham, MD 2000. (Mainly on Horning Mennonites)
  • Donald B. Kraybill and Carl Bowman: On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore 2001.
  • Thomas J. Meyers and Steven M. Nolt: An Amish patchwork: Indiana's Old Orders in the Modern World. Bloomington, IN et al. 2005.
  • Donald B. Kraybill: Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites. Baltimore 2010.
  • Donald B. Kraybill and C. Nelson Hostetter: Anabaptist World USA. Scottdale, PA and Waterloo, Ontario 2001.

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://uwaterloo.ca/mennonite-archives-ontario/mennonites-conferences/old-order-mennonite
  2. ^ C. Henry Smith: The Mennonites of America, Goshen, Indiana 1909, page 307.
  3. ^ T. F. Murphy: Religious Bodies 1936: Volume I - Summary and Detailed Tables, Washington, DC 1941, page 92.
  4. ^ Henry F. Weber: Centennial history of the Mennonites of Illinois 1829-1929, Goshen, Indiana 1931, page 50.
  5. ^ Elmer Schwieder, Dorothy Schwieder, Tom Morain: A Peculiar People: Iowa's Old Order Amish, Iowa City 2009, page 146.
  6. ^ Stephen Scott (1996). An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. pp. 12–27. 
  7. ^ a b c Old Order Mennonites at Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online
  8. ^ Stephen Scott (1996). An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. pp. 70–88. 
  9. ^ Stephen Scott (1996). An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. pp. 89–104. 
  10. ^ Stephen Scott (1996). An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. pp. 105–119. 
  11. ^ Donnermeyer, Joseph, and Cory Anderson: The Growth of Amish and Plain Anabaptists in Kentucky, in Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 2(2):215, page 231, 2014.
  12. ^ Stephen Scott (1996). An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. p. 104. 
  13. ^ "Patient Financial Information: Old Order Group". Ephrata Community Hospital. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  14. ^ Stephen Scott (1996). An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. p. 77. 
  15. ^ Donald B. Kraybill and Carl Bowman: On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore 2001, page 84/5
  16. ^ Stephen Scott: An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups, Intercourse, PA 1996.
  17. ^ Donald B. Kraybill (2010). Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites and Mennonites. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 251–258. 
  18. ^ Reformed Mennonite Church at ARDA
  19. ^ Donald B. Kraybill and Carl Bowman: On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore 2001, page 67.
  20. ^ Simon J. Bronner and Joshua R. Brown (edit.): Pennsylvania Germans: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, Baltimore, 2017, pages 126-7.
  21. ^ Donald B. Kraybill and Carl Bowman: On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore 2001, page 67.
  22. ^ Stephen Scott (1996). An Introduction to Old Order: and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. p. 30. 
  23. ^ C. Henry Smith: The Mennonites of America, Goshen, Indiana 1909, page 310.
  24. ^ Donald B. Kraybill and C. Nelson Hostetter: Anabaptist World USA, Scottdale PA and Waterloo Ont. 2001, page 35.
  25. ^ Simon J. Bronner and Joshua R. Brown (edit.): Pennsylvania Germans: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, Baltimore, 2017, pages 126-7.
  26. ^ Kraybill, Donald B; Hurd, James P. (2006). Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World. University Park, PA. p. 2. 
  27. ^ Kraybill, Donald B; Hurd, James P. (2006). Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World. University Park, PA. p. 249/50. 
  28. ^ Thomas J. Meyers and Steven M. Nolt: An Amish Patchwork: Indiana's Old Orders in the Modern World. Bloomington, Indiana 2005, pages 149/50.
  29. ^ Kraybill, Donald B; Hurd, James P. (2006). Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World. University Park, PA. p. 107. 

External links[edit]