Mennonite Church

[Mennonite Church] [Beachy Amish Mennonite Church] [Bruderhof Communities]
[Church of God in Christ, Mennonite] [Conservative Mennonite Conference]
[Evangelical Mennonite Church] [Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches]
[General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches] [Missionary Church]
[Old Order Amish Churches] [Old Order Mennonite Churches]

Menno Simons (1496-1561) was an early Dutch leader of the "Radical Reformation" - radical in the sense that they yearned to get to the "root" of the biblical manner of living.  They specifically rejected the "magisterial Reformation" of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564).  This church was called the Anabaptists by others (because they denied the baptism of infants), and was often the object of criticism, charges of heresy, and persecution.  The Mennonites were not very different from other churches in their liturgy, theology.  Rather, they tried to exemplify Christian living through the examples given by Christ at His Sermon on the Mount.  Until very recently, most of those involved with the Mennonite tradition refused to take oaths, refused to be involved in any secular activity, bear arms, vote, or hold public office.  They are believers who are "called out" of secular society to the extent that they avoid any unnecessary association with it.  

The first Anabaptist congregation of record was founded at Zurich, Switzerland in 1525 by those who disagreed with Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) in his readiness to forge a union of church and state.  Anabaptist congregations were also formed in the Netherlands by Obbe Philips (1500-1568) as early as 1534.  Philips baptized Menno who was a converted Roman Catholic priest.  It was Menno who formed so many congregations that his name became synonymous with the movement.  Simon's writings, which emphasize pacifism, are still held in high regard by the movement today.  However, their pacifism and rejection of allegiance to the state brought severe persecution and the number of martyrs might have been much more had they not been offered haven in Pennsylvania by William Penn (1644-1718) in America.

Thirteen families settled in Germantown near Philadelphia in 1683, and eventually these families formed a Mennonite congregation.  Further Mennonite immigrants from Germany and Switzerland spread over Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, and far into western America and Canada.  Thanks to their tradition of nonviolence and pacifism, their colonies were relatively free from discord and often prosperous.

Mennonite beliefs are largely based upon a confession of faith signed in Dordecht, Holland in 1632.  The following doctrines were laid out in eighteen articles: faith in God as Creator, humanity's fall and restoration at the coming of Christ, Christ as the son of God who liberated mankind on the cross, obedience to Christ's law as the gospel, the necessity of repentance and conversion for salvation, baptism as a public testimony of faith, the Lord's Supper as an expression of common unity and fellowship, matrimony only among the "spiritually kindred," obedience to and respect for civil government except in the use of armed force, exclusion from the church and social ostracism of those who sin willfully, and future reward for the faithful and punishment for the wicked.

The Lord's supper is served twice a year at most Mennonite Churches, and baptism is generally by pouring and nor by immersion.  Most also observe foot-washing ceremony in connection with the Lord's Supper after which they salute one another with the kiss of peace.  The two sexes are separate in the last two ceremonies.  Mennonites are baptized only on confession of faith, refuse to take oaths before magistrates, oppose secret societies, and strictly follow the teachings of the New Testament.  There is also a strong intra-church program of mutual aid and provide worldwide relief through the Mennonite Council Committee.

The local congregation is fairly autonomous and authoritative, although sometimes appeals may be taken to the district or national level.  The officers of the church are bishops (often called elders), ministers, and deacons (almoners).  Many ministers are self supporting working at other occupations to earn their support when not occupied with the affairs of the church.  

The Amish movement is from within the ranks of the Mennonite Church and takes its name from Jacob Amman (1656 - 1730), a Swiss Mennonite bishop who insisted on strict adherence to the confessions of the faith, especially in the matter of shunning excommunicated members.  This literalism brought about a separation in Switzerland in 1693.  Amish immigrants came to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, and other western states and into Canada.  Many Amish are distinguished by their severely plain clothing are found in the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church and Older Order Amish Mennonite Church.  The Amish still cling tenaciously to the Pennsylvania Dutch language and seventeenth-century culture of their Swiss German forbearers.  The Amish oppose the use of automobiles, telephones, and higher education and are recognized as extremely efficient farmers.

The Mennonite Church

The major Mennonite body was brought to Germantown, Pennsylvania by Dutch and German immigrants in 1683.  The Dordrecht Confession was adopted at a conference of Pennsylvania Mennonite ministers in 1725 as a Mennonite statement of faith.  Christian Fundamentals were adopted, and a confession was adopted in 1963 which sought to set forth the major doctrines of Scripture as understand in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition.  The confessions stresses belief in Christ, the saved status of children, the importance of proclaiming God's Word and "making disciples," baptism of believers, absolute love, nonresistance rather than retaliation as one's personal response to injustice and maltreatment, and the church as a nonhierarchical community.  Because of their insistence on freedom from the usual Mennonite attire, this group has been considered "liberal" by some Mennonites.

The general assembly meets every two years and brings together representatives from all area conferences.  Discussion is open to all; however, only elected delegates may vote.

Church-wide programs boards are in charge of mission, congregational ministries, education, publishing, and mutual aid work all under supervision of the church's general board.  The church sponsors hospitals, retirement homes, and child-welfare services.  Membership is strongest in Pennsylvania and the Midwest states.

In 1995, the General Conference Mennonites and members of the Mennonite Church adopted a new Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.  The confession is the most recent in a series of historical Anabaptist faith statements beginning with the Scleitheim Articles, written in 1527.  The new confession of faith includes twenty four articles that interpret Mennonite beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy spirit, Scripture, creation, sin, salvation, the church, Christian life and mission, peace and justice, and the reign of God.

The Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana trains General Conference and Mennonite Church pastors, missionaries, pastoral counselors, peace workers, and lay leaders.

Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches

These churches are made up of mostly Amish Mennonites who separate from the more conservative Old Order Amish.  They were originally led by Bishop Moses M. Beachy in 1927, and they are now found primarily in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  They believe in the Trinity and that the Bible is the infallible Word by which all people will be judged, the righteous going to heaven and the wicked to eternal suffering.

These adherents resemble Old Order Amish in clothing and general attitude, but their discipline is milder.  They worship in church buildings, have Sunday Schools, and are active in supporting missionary work.  They sponsor a monthly publication, Calvary Messenger, and an annual twelve-week Calvary Bible School.  

Bruderhof Communities

This church started in Germany following the economic and social devastation following World War 1.  It was founded by Eberhard Arnold (1883 - 1835), a theologian and writer, and came to North America during the 1960s.  The church has now grown to nine communities in the United States, England, and Australia where about 2500 men, women, and children live in common in accordance with the witness of the early Christians as described in Acts Chapters 2 and 4.  They live in a community that shares their property, work and worship together, and in all things seek unity.  Many more people are associated with the movement without being members.

The church believes that followers of Jesus are empowered by the Spirit to live now in accordance with God's rule and reign as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount.  Their mission is to witness Christ as it is possible to lead a new life and share this life with others in a community of Saints.

The Bruderhof affirm the sanctity of all life and oppose every form of violence and killing including abortion, capital punishment, war, and physician-assisted suicide.  They believe in the sanctity of marriage (between one man and one woman), and the sanctity of sex (sexual intimacy within marriage only).  They do not proselytize but seek to work together with everybody.

Church of God in Christ, Mennonite

This church grew out of the teaching of John Holeman (1832 - 1900) who was a Mennonite who became convinced that the church was in error in many of its teachings and practices.  He believed that they had moved form the doctrines and teachings of its past, and preached the necessity of the new birth, Holy Ghost baptism, more adequate training of children in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, disciplining of unfaithful members, avoidance of apostates, and condemnation of worldly minded churches.  He separated from the Mennonite Church in 1859 and began to hold meetings with a small group of followers, eventually organizing into the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.

The church holds that the same confession of faith must be preached and believed in all churches "from the time of the apostles to the end of the world."  They also hold that the Bible, is the inspired, infallible word of God, and must govern all doctrine and teaching.  They accept the Eighteen Articles of Faith drawn up at Dordrecht, Holland in 1642, and insist that women keep their head covered and that men wear beards.  They also are not involved in the military or in secular government.

Most congregations of the Church maintain a Christian school for the education of their children, and have missions in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, the Philippines, India, Nigeria, and other countries.  In the United States, Kansas has the highest concentration of believers.

Conservative Mennonite Conference

The Conservative Mennonite Conference is an autonomous affiliation of congregations within the Mennonite church that formed in 1910 in a meeting of concerned Amish Mennonite Church leaders in Pigeon, Michigan.  There were five ministers in attendance at this conference who represented Amish Mennonite church that were reluctant to adopt the Old Order Amish Mennonite conservative approach toward culture expression.  However, they were also more conservative than the prevailing Amish Mennonite and Mennonite approach at that time.  Members are expected to refrain from gambling, alcohol, tobacco, immodest dress, swearing oaths, and premarital and extra-marital sexual activity.

The highest decision making body in the Conservative Mennonite Conference is the semiannual Minister's Business Meeting, which elects an executive board and a general secretary to oversee the day to day operations of the conference.  Rosedale Bible Institute in Irwin, Ohio offers college level courses in various Christian studies.  The  conference sponsors Bethel Mennonite Camp for youth in eastern Kentucky, and the official publication of the CMC is the Brotherhood Beacon.

Evangelical Mennonite Church

This body of believers was formerly called the Defenseless Mennonite Church and was founded as a result of a spiritual awakening among the Amish in Indiana under the leadership of Henry Egly.  The church stresses the need for repentance and regeneration before baptism.  Egly's practice of re-baptizing Amish who experience conversion led to conflict within the Amish community, leading to the formation of the evangelical church.  The church continues to emphasize regeneration, separation and nonconformity to the world, and nonresistance.

The church operate a children's home in Flanagan, Illinois, and a camp near Kalamazoo, Michigan.  The present name was adopted in 1949; however, by 2000 the church was exploring the possibility of dropping the word "Mennonite" from its name.

Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches

This group of Mennonite believers originated from the Russian immigration of Mennonites into the U.S. and Canada during 1873 and 1874.  The Conference was founded in 1889 in order to emphasize the evangelical doctrines of repentance, conversion, baptism on confession of faith, and living lives which are committed to Jesus Christ.  This group also adheres to belief in the inerrant, inspired Word of God and to a dispensational interpretation of history and the Bible which emphasizes the imminent return of Christ.

General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches

This body of Mennonite believers is Dutch and German in background but was organized in the Ukraine.  This group seeks a greater attention to prayer and Bible study than are found in the usual Mennonite church.  Its founders were heavily influenced by German Pietism, but they retained the congregational polity common to the Mennonite church.  There are small bodies which were originally located in Kansas and then which spread to the Pacific Coast and Canada.

There is a radio ministry which broadcasts worldwide in English, German, and Russian, and also a French-language Bible Institute which was established in Quebec, Canada.

Missionary Church

The Missionary Church is conservative and evangelical in theology and practice.  The churches are free to manage their own affairs but recognize and adhere to the authority of a general conference made up of clergy, missionaries, and laity.  The president, vice president, and secretary of this church are elected for a period of four years.

The church is affiliated with one educational institution in the United States - the Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Old Order Amish Churches

The Amish hold to the old traditions of the Amish movement more strictly than the so-called Church Amish. Their "plain dress" requires the use of hooks and eyes instead of buttons or zippers, and members do not use automobiles.

The Old Order Amish do not use church buildings but rather meet in each other's houses.  There are no conference and members do not believe in missions or benevolent institutions or centralized schools.  Some do contribute to the missions and charities of the Mennonite Church.

Old Order (Wisler) Mennonite Church

The church was named for Jacob Wisler, the first Mennonite bishop in Indiana who separated from the church in 1872 to protest the use of English in the services and the introduction of Sunday schools.  Similar to the Old Order Amish Churches, these believers maintain the old style of clothing and make only very limited use of modern technology while keeping separate from the outside world.

Each section of the church has its own district conference and there are conferences twice each year in each community.  Each church takes part in relief work, especially for the needy at home and in foreign countries, and they also contribute to the work of the Mennonite Church.