The Reforming Mennonite Society with congregations in Ontario, Canada, Indiana and Michigan USA, existed under this name for less than one year, from 15 May 1874 to 23 March 1875. At that time it merged with the New Mennonite Church of Canada West to form the United Mennonites of Canada, Indiana and Michigan. After several subsequent mergers, this body was part of the denomination known as the Mennonite Brethren in Christ from 1883 to 1947. This group is not to be confused with the Reformed Mennonite Church, which has an earlier and different theological history.
Despite its nominally short life, the Reforming Mennonite Society represented a deep rift that had been growing in the Mennonite Church for almost a decade. German-speaking renewal groups like the Evangelical Association and the United Brethren in Christ, as well as English-speaking Methodists, had a profound influence on a significant segment of the Mennonite leadership in Ontario and Indiana. Solomon Eby, in Port Elgin, Ontario, was "converted" in an 1869 Evangelical Association camp meeting, and gradually served as a conduit for this strand of theology into the Canada Conference of the Mennonite Church. He began regular prayer meetings and brought almost his entire congregation to experience emotional conversion experiences. Some converts were young teenagers. Although Bishop Joseph Hagey of Waterloo baptized the 1869 converts, he refused to baptize subsequent classes, and Eby took this responsibility on himself. He also began to serve communion without the participation or approval of the conference bishops.
In 1872 Solomon Eby visited Indiana where he met Daniel Brenneman, who was in the midst of a conflict with Bishop Jacob Wisler, who did not approve of Brenneman's four-part singing, frequent English-language preaching, support of Sunday schools, and the increasing number of evening prayer meetings which included persons from a variety of denominations, and often had a high emotional content associated with "holiness" teaching. In 1873 Brenneman visited Ontario and created his own stir when he held similar preaching and prayer meetings in the heart of the Mennonite community. At the end of 1873, Brenneman's like-minded colleague, John Krupp, in Burr Oak, Michigan, was silenced for his "holiness" meetings in which even women testified. Brenneman refused to recognize Krupp's silencing and was himself was silenced by the bishops in April 1874. That same month in Ontario Solomon Eby promised to again direct baptismal candidates to the bishops if they would acknowledge errors in the manner in which they had refused to baptize some earlier candidates because of their participation in the evening meetings. No compromise was achieved, and Eby's sympathizers declined to take communion as scheduled in the following week, and rather took communion separately at the Bloomingdale, Ontario meetinghouse several weeks later.
On 15 May 1874 the Reforming Mennonite Society, with districts in Indiana and Ontario, was established in a meeting at the Christian Eby meetinghouse in Berlin, Ontario. The new conference only three or four meetinghouses in Ontario, other services were held in homes or schoolhouses. Initially there were only five ministers (Solomon Eby, Daniel Brenneman, John Krupp, Daniel Wismer and John Bear) and three deacons, though new ministers began to be ordained within the year. The membership of the new group was significant, beginning with over 400 members. There had already been some cooperation with the New Mennonites, and it did not take long for interest in merger to take place.
See also United Mennonites of Canada, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio
Schlabach, Theron. Peace, Faith, Nation: Mennonites and Amish in Nineteenth-Century America. The Mennonite Experience in America, 2. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1988.
Steiner, Samuel. "Assurance of Salvation or Faithful Living: Ontario Mennonites Disagree About Renewal." Unpublished paper, 2010.
Storms, Everek R. History of the United Missionary Church. Elkhart, Ind: Bethel Pub. Co, 1958.
Wenger, J. C. The Mennonites in Indiana and Michigan. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite history, 10. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1961.
|Date Published||February 2010|
Cite This Article
Steiner, Sam. "Reforming Mennonite Society (Ontario, Canada & Indiana, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2010. Web. 4 May 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Reforming_Mennonite_Society_(Ontario,_Canada_%26_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=84374.
Steiner, Sam. (February 2010). Reforming Mennonite Society (Ontario, Canada & Indiana, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 May 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Reforming_Mennonite_Society_(Ontario,_Canada_%26_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=84374.
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