The Ordnungen comprise the rules and regulations of the church community. The word is used in Mennonite, Amish, and Hutterite tradition to cover both the written and oral compendia of modes of behavior and organizational structure which give form and meaning to daily life. The Ordnung may contain broad principles of faith, e.g., nonresistance and common ownership of goods (in the case of Hutterites), as well as very specific applications of principles, e.g., permissible styles of clothing, (dress) or home furnishings.
The purpose of the Ordnung is not only to provide a list of individually acceptable or proscribed ethical behaviors but to structure a whole way of life, lived according to God's will, as expressed in the gospels. The Ordnung reflects God's order as opposed to the order of the world.
The use of the Ordnung has significant implications for the way participating communities understand both the content and structure of God's order. The Ordnungen in the Anabaptist heritage reflect some common understandings of the content of God's order. These common themes come from commitment to Jesus as the suffering servant, redeemer of humankind. Through Jesus' life, teachings, and death on the cross believers receive God's saving love and the call to discipleship. Discipleship requires nonconformity to the self-centered, power-seeking values of the world.
Structurally, commitment to the Ordnung puts the disciplined church community, rather than individual religious experience, at the center of Christian faith. It is in daily life with one's religious brothers and sisters that Christ's redemptive work is manifested.
The Ordnung provides a path of discipleship by outlining a pattern of Christian ritual, i.e., a set of symbolic acts which expresses an obedient relationship with God. The symbolic acts of the Ordnung structure a life of yieldedness, suffering servanthood, humility, defenselessness, and nonconformity with the world. These ritual acts are a way for the community to participate in and embody the reality of Christ's redemptive work in the world. The Ordnung thus becomes an expression of faithful community life.
It is also an expression of the community's process of spiritual formation. For example, it is by living in and through a community that lives by defenselessness that one learns to love one's enemies and to trust in God's power for protection. Both the community and its individual members grow into the fullness of Christian life by living within this framework. On this level the Ordnung has close parallels with the use of the Benedictine Rule as a mode of communal spiritual formation within monasticism.
Implicit within the concept of the Ordnung is a strong prophetic and eschatological critique of the world (i.e., that part of the social order not obedient to God's will). This prophetic critique has taken the form of active mission work and confrontation with the world in some eras of history and silent separation and nonconformity in others. The Ordnung also reflects an eschatological belief in God's coming kingdom and a corporate decision to live in the end time of Christ's reign here and now.
The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, Vol. 1, trans. and ed. by the Hutterian Brethren. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing Co., 1987, see esp. the Ordnung of 1529 on pp. 77-79 and the articles of faith on pp. 235-38, 251-94, and 333-38.
Hostetler, John A Amish Society, 3rd. ed. Baltimore: John Hopkins, 1980: 75-92.
Hostetler, John A., Leonard Gross, and Elizabeth Bender, eds. Selected Hutterian Documents in Translation, 1542-1654. Philadelphia: Communal Studies Center of Temple U., 1975.
Johns, Ira S., J. S. Hartzler, and Amos O. Hostetler, comp. Minutes of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, 1864-1929. Scottdale, PA: n.d.
Mast, John B. Letters of the Amish Division, 1693-1711. Oregon City, OR: Christian J. Schlabach, 1950.
McGrath, William R.Christlicher Ordnung or Christian Discipline, Being a Collection and Translation of Anabaptist and Amish-Mennonite Church Discipline. Aylmer, ON: Pathway Publishing Corp., 1966.
Miller, Harvey J. "Proceedings of Amish Ministers' Conferences, 1826-1831." Mennonite Quarterly Review 33 (1959): 132-42.
Cite This Article
Cronk, Sandra. "Ordnung (Order)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 23 Nov 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ordnung_(Order)&oldid=102590.
Cronk, Sandra. (1989). Ordnung (Order). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 November 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ordnung_(Order)&oldid=102590.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 662-663. All rights reserved.
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