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The Amish Mennonite movement descends from the 16th century fellowship known as the Swiss Brethren. The Swiss Brethren were Anabaptists, and are often viewed as having been a part of the Radical Reformation. “Anabaptist” means “one who baptizes again”—a reference to those who had been baptized as infants, but later adopted a belief in “believer’s baptism”, and then let themselves again be baptized as adults. These Swiss Brethren trace their origins to Felix Manz (c. 1498–1527) and Conrad Grebel (c. 1498–1526), who had broken from reformer Huldrych Zwingli.

The Amish movement takes its name from Jakob Ammann (c. 1656–1730), a Swiss Mennonite leader. Ammann believed Mennonites, the peaceful Anabaptists of the Low Countries and Germany, were drifting away from the teachings of Menno Simons and the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith. Ammann favored stronger church discipline, including a more rigid application of shunning, the social exclusion of excommunicated members. Swiss Anabaptists, who were scattered by persecution throughout the Alsace and the Electorate of the Palatinate, never practiced strict shunning as had some lowland Anabaptists.[citation needed] Ammann insisted upon this practice, even to the point of expecting spouses to refuse to eat with each other, until the banned spouse repented. This type of strict literalism, on this issue, as well as others, brought about a division among the Mennonites of Southern Germany, the Alsace and Switzerland in 1693, and led to withdrawal of those who sided with Ammann.

Swiss Anabaptism developed, from this point, in two parallel streams. Those following Ammann became known as Amish or Amish Mennonite. The others eventually formed the basis of the Swiss Mennonite Conference. Because of this common heritage, Amish and Mennonites retain many similarities. Those who leave the Amish fold tend to join various congregations of Conservative Mennonites.

Amish Mennonites began migrating to Pennsylvania in the 18th century as part of a larger migration from the Palatinate and neighboring areas. This migration was a reaction to religious wars, poverty, and religious persecution on the Continent.[citation needed] The first Amish immigrants went to Berks County, Pennsylvania, but later moved, motivated by land issues and by security concerns tied to the French and Indian War.[citation needed] Many eventually settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Other groups later settled in, or spread to Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maine, and Ontario.

The Amish congregations remaining in Europe slowly merged with the Mennonites. The last Amish congregation to merge was the Ixheim Amish congregation, which merged with the neighboring Mennonite Church in 1937. Some Mennonite congregations, including most in Alsace, are descended directly from former Amish congregations.

Most Amish communities that were established in North America did not ultimately retain their Amish identity. The original major split that resulted in the loss of identity occurred in the 1860s. During that decade Dienerversammlungen (ministerial conferences) were held in Wayne County, Ohio, concerning how the Amish should deal with the pressures of modern society. The meetings themselves were a progressive idea; for bishops to assemble to discuss uniformity was an unprecedented notion in the Amish church.[citation needed] By the first several meetings, the more traditionally minded bishops agreed to boycott the conferences. The more progressive members, comprising approximately two thirds of the group, retained the name Amish Mennonite. Many of these eventually united with the Mennonite Church, and other Mennonite denominations, especially in the early 20th century. The more traditionally minded groups became known as the Old Order Amish.

Source: Wikipedia

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