Cultural change; Christian holy kiss; Beards; Excommunication; Divorce; Voting; Social class; Insurance; Information communications technology; Secondary education


This study examines cultural change within the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (“Holdemans”). In this analysis, I contrast the religious culture of the Holdeman people with that of rural, middle America in order to understand the changes and the degree to which the Holdeman people have been assimilated into the prevailing rural culture. The Holdeman people live a form of Biblical Christianity in which decisions about both practical and spiritual matters are made by consulting the Scriptures. Yet, higher levels of income, more education, advanced technologies, and the transition from farming occupations to small businesses are all affecting both doctrine and practice. In this study, I use the conversations in 80 years of the biweekly Holdeman newsletter periodical Messenger of Truth and the Church General Conference reports to detect change, decline, and emerging dissent in the policies and practices that both ministers and members have held inviolable for over a century. To provide historical context, these conversations are supported by reference to John Holdeman’s two major books —Ein Spiegel der Wahrheit (Mirror of Truth) and Eine Geschichte der Gemeinde Gottes (A History of the Church of God). [Abstract by author.]