The United Mennonites of Canada, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio was formed on 23 March 1875 in Bloomingdale, Ontario by a merger of the New Mennonite Church of Canada West and the Reforming Mennonite Society (Ontario, Canada & Indiana, USA). On 6 November 1879 at Upper Milford, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania the United Mennonites merged with the Evangelical Mennonites (Gehman Group) to form the Evangelical United Mennonites. After one more merger in 1883, the group became known as the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.
The United Mennonites were especially significant for the church polity and the new organizational tools they put into place. Although the 1875 affirmed the Dordrecht Confession of Faith as its doctrinal basis, the group also adopted what was essentially an Evangelical Association polity. Other resolutions asserted the importance of revival meetings, personal conversion experiences, Sunday schools, prayer and fellowship meetings, family worship, and mission outreach. Members were not allowed to belong to secret societies or to manufacture or sell alcohol. Use of tobacco was discouraged. The mode of baptism (pouring or immersion) was to be left up to the candidate. The “bishop” now became elected, and was called “Presiding Elder,” in conformity with Evangelical Association language. One additional change from traditional Mennonite practice was allowing laypersons to express a sense of call to pastoral ministry. They would then be identified as "probationary ministers" until their call was confirmed. By 1876 there was also extensive discussion on the doctrine of sanctification.
Almost immediately English became the dominant language of the United Mennonites. Some ministers still preached in German, but subscribers to the new Gospel Banner periodical took the English edition by a 2-1 ratio over the German Evangeliums Panier. Indeed the German-language paper only survived until 1896. In 1879 the General Conference of the United Mennonites agreed to 700 copies of the church discipline in English and 300 in German. Ministers also began to work more aggressively in communities that were not of particularly Mennonite background. This of course sped up the transition to English. The membership of the United Mennonites in 1879 likely approached 1000; the membership in Ontario alone in 1878 was 664.
Solomon Eby continued to be the primary leader of the group, serving as Presiding Elder in Ontario, and chairing the the 1875 union meeting as well as the only General Conference meeting held in 1879. William Gehman chaired the union meeting with the Evangelical Mennonites, and Solomon Eby served as vice-chair.
Huffman, Jasper A. History of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church. New Carlisle, O.: The Bethel Pub. Co, 1920.
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.
|Date Published||February 2010|
Cite This Article
Steiner, Sam. "United Mennonites of Canada, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2010. Web. 5 May 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=United_Mennonites_of_Canada,_Michigan,_Indiana_and_Ohio&oldid=101255.
Steiner, Sam. (February 2010). United Mennonites of Canada, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 May 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=United_Mennonites_of_Canada,_Michigan,_Indiana_and_Ohio&oldid=101255.
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