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Gerhard Wieler: an early lay leader in the Mennonite Brethren (MB) Church in Russia; born in Chortitza Mennonite settlement, South Russia on 5 October 1833, the eldest of five children of Johann Wieler (29 June 1809 – 29 March 1894) and Anganeta (Braun) Wieler (14 September 1808 – 14 February 1864), and an older brother of Johann Wieler. Gerhard married Aganetha Harms (22 July 1840, Blumstein, Molotschna, South Russia – 11 April 1911, California, USA) on 12 August 1859.  She was the daughter of Jakob Harms (15 February 1816 – 1876) and Katharina (Hamm) Harms (1818 – January 1892). Gerhard and Aganetha had six children: Jacob, Katherina, Gerhard, Aganetha, John, and Frank. Gerhard died in 1911 in Newton, Kansas, USA.

Gerhard and his brother Johann had the best formal training of the early Mennonite Brethren and mastered the Russian language as well as German (Friesen, 236). He was baptized into the Mennonite Brethren church in the Molotschna Mennonite settlement on 15 October 1861 and was active in St. Petersburg for some time, seeking to obtain recognition of the newly founded MB Church. For a while he was a teacher in Liebenau, Molotschna, but lost his posi­tion in 1861 because of his views. Because he bap­tized some native Russians he was imprisoned.

After his release he returned to the Einlage MB Church and baptized both Abraham Unger and Heinrich Neufeld, leaders of the MB church in Einlage.  Upon his arrival in Einlage, Wieler promoted extreme views. He and others promoted the expression of joy in the newly found faith and peace by means of shouting, jumping, and the use of various musical instruments. He was opposed to the use of pictures and the printed de­votional aids in use at that time by the Mennonites, written by Hofacker, Arndt, and others. Benjamin Bekker of the Molotschna settlement sup­ported these views for a while. Wieler and Bekker as "apostles" used the ban arbitrarily, excommuni­cating even Wieler's father and brothers Johann and Franz. Gradually, as the more disciplined and saner element gained the upper hand, Wieler's and Bekker's influence waned. In 1867 Gerhard Wieler is supposed to have returned to the Mennonite Church of Chortitza and later immigrated to North America in 1876, where he became a member of the United Brethren in Christ. Unfortunately all reports about him have come from his opponents and he has left no records to justify his actions.

Bibliography

Epp, Heinrich.  "Documents in Mennonite Brethren History: The Founding of the Einlage Mennonite Brethren Congregation".  Direction 19, no. 2 (Fall 1990): 127-139.

Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911: 209, 233, 236, 245 f., 267 f., 280, 315, 320, 332, 337, 344, 349 f., 355, 360 f., 368, 371, 375, 378.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.00 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2006: #25046.


Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published December 2007


Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Richard D. Thiessen. "Wieler, Gerhard (1833-1911)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2007. Web. 23 Aug 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wieler,_Gerhard_(1833-1911)&oldid=101594.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Richard D. Thiessen. (December 2007). Wieler, Gerhard (1833-1911). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 August 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wieler,_Gerhard_(1833-1911)&oldid=101594.




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Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 947-948. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.


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