Can a New Layer of Leadership Save Sectarian Practice? A Decentralized Denomination’s Experiment with a Central Committee

Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies

Anderson, Cory. 2019.


Research Points
  • This in-depth case study of Beachy Amish-Mennonites—the Amish who from c. 1910-1965 chose evangelical theology and more convenience technologies such as automobiles—shows how competing factions within a sect advance claims to legitimacy and authority during organizational conflict. It traces the complex interplay of formal structures, informal power hierarchies, rhetorical strategies, symbols, and individual agency in attempts to codify group
    identity standards.

  • By the early 1990s, socio-religious changes among were alarming some leaders. At the annual Beachy ministers’ meeting in 1991, several rousing sermons prompted the hosts and moderators to guide development of a committee of bishops charged with identifying areas of concern and developing a denomination-wide standard of practice.

  • Across the next several years, the committee faced passive resistance from Beachy churches less concerned about changes and fearing loss of autonomy

  • Eventually, the committee stopped pursuing a single holistic statement, started rotating members, and focused on addressing issues one by one, eventually passing rules against radio/TV (1999) and remarriage after divorce

  • The passive resistance to a unified standard prompted some leaders to start new Amish- Mennonite denominations (Maranatha & Ambassadors) with separate ministers’ meetings and stricter standards. Meanwhile, the 2000s-era Beachy bishop committees focused more on advising than enforcing standards, with mixed success

© 2024 Cory Anderson • All Rights Reserved