Schism; Church division; Old Order Amish; Polity; Denominationalism; Institutionalism
A full history of the “Old Amish Church” project (c. 1865 to c. 1955-1973) has yet to be written, at least not in English, and not as an overarching, analytical narrative. However, several primary German accounts provide a close—albeit partial—analysis of events leading to the collapse of a unified Old Amish church in the aftermath of the 1860s Amish-Mennonite/Old Amish schism. While Amish-Mennonite churches continually drained a minority of Old Amish members, stricter church districts also emerged, moving members in the opposite direction. Though not self-evident as separate denominations at first, these movements were eventually recognized as schisms. These included the Sam Yoder, Stutzman-Troyer, and Andy Weaver Churches, started in the Holmes County, OH, Amish settlement, as well as the Joe L. Church in Adams County, IN, and the Highway A and Highway C Churches in Seymour, MO. Other contemporary Old Amish communities experienced similar unrest, although stricter individuals largely opted to migrate elsewhere and establish new settlements. Today, the Old Order dominate large, historic Amish communities, while the Andy Weaver and other, stricter denominations dominate the landscape of small settlements outside historic communities. Although three Ordnungs Briefen—1865, 1917, and 1939—represented overarching attempts to forge and maintain a unified Old Amish Church, these statements better predicted the types of changes on the horizon that would permanently divide Old Amish denominations. Hence, no Ordnungs Briefen have been written since 1939. The translations in this issue of JAPAS provide important insights into how Old Amish forged institutional unity and how schisms gradually unfolded. With these original documents now translated and compiled, we better understand more about the attempt at a unified Old Amish Church. Even today, the sheer amalgamation of membership loyalties, ideologies, and practices that characterize each Old Amish denomination suggests ongoing transformations in Old Amish understandings of church unity, in process, theology, and practice.
Anderson, Cory. 2019. “Of Process, Practice, and Belief: What Can We Learn about Old Amish Church History and Polity from this Special Issue’s Source Documents?” Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 7(2):101-08.