Saturday, May 24, 2008
As a child I remember watching Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? One of the questions was something like "Which group did Mennonites come from?" The options included Quakers and Amish. The answer was the Amish, but the show had it wrong. Mennonites didn't come from the Amish, it is the other way around. The Amish broke from the Mennonites in 1693. Perhaps the producers assumed that liberals would break from conservatives, but in many cases conservatives decide they no longer want contact with the more liberal elements.
There is a lot of information and misinformation out there about Mennonites and Amish. I grew up in a Mennonite home and today am a Mennonite pastor. Three of my grandparents grew up in Old Order Amish homes, but all of them left the Amish for the Mennonites when they were baptized as young adults.
I have wondered about the Amish background in my family. What difference, if any, does it make in the way I express my Christian faith today as a Mennonite? Many Mennonites are aware that the Amish divided from us centuries ago. Much fewer realize that about a century ago there was a significant merger of Amish and Mennonites. These more liberal Amish started calling themselves Amish Mennonites, began to meet in meeting houses rather homes, and formed area conferences like the Mennonites. Eventually most of these Amish Mennonite conferences merged with Mennonite ones, and they dropped the word Amish from their name, so Clinton Frame Amish Mennonite Church became Clinton Frame Mennonite Church. The awareness of this Amish heritage disappeared along with the name. My mother was baptized at Clinton Frame, but had no idea it was once Amish.
In this blog I explore the ways Amish and Mennonites have connected and disconnected through the centuries. That is why I have called this blog Amish Mennonite, not because I claim to be Amish Mennonite. Some groups still use that name, but I am not a part of them. I am a Mennonite interested in the Amish.
On the one hand the Amish are the most conservative part of the family tree. But on the other you have Amish like the Stuckey Amish (now merged with the Central District Conference of the Mennonite Church USA) who were very lenient about discipline, especially not wanting conference to ever tell congregations what they should do. Or there is Oak Grove (Amish) Mennonite Church, where the preeminent Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder was raised. So I am curious about whether there is something that binds the Old Order with the progressives. What part of the Amish heritage might still be at work among these more progressive elements?
This mostly going to be a travelogue. I will include personal details but also history, geography, theology, and genealogy. I may eventually include an annotated bibliography, but at the moment I will say that the book to read on the Amish is A History of the Amish (Intercourse, Pennsylvania: Good Books, 2003 (revised)), by Steve Nolt, a history classmate of mine at Goshen College years ago.
Thanks for stopping by my blog and reading what I have to say. This is my first attempt at this so I hope technical issues are not a problem. Peace.