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

Anderson, Cory. 2019.

7(2):101-08.

Research Points
  • This introduction to a special issue—which includes translations of Amish German documents—provides context for the history and divisions of the “Old Amish Church” from around 1865-1955. These documents represent hopes to preserve the “Old Amish Church project,” which aimed to maintain Old Amish unity. Ultimately, several schisms occurred, ending the project.

  • In Holmes County, Ohio, stricter groups—namely Sam Yoder (“Swartzentruber”) / Stutzman- Troyer and Andy Weaver (“Dan”)—broke with the larger “South churches”—which maintained institutional continuity—after failed attempts to maintain a unified Old Amish Church through Ordnungs Briefen statements [i.e. shared church rules].

  • This article’s centerpiece is a flowchart diagram developed from this issue’s historical documents. It illustrates varied ritualized recourses Amish employ to achieve unity which, when fully exhausted, result in schism.

  • The flowchart demonstrates how individuals can engage decision-making processes and contest agreements in the Amish system. Prior research incorrectly treats “the Amish” as a collective entity when explaining schisms, when this issue’s documents demonstrate contestation by individual members and coalitions of members.

  • The issues’ historic documents showcase how Amish schisms unfold gradually, not as momentous events. Terminology evolves as members discuss the other sides of a schism, from “disobedient members” to eventually recognizing a full denominational schism.

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