Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship
- 1 Overview
- 2 Historical Origins: 1900-1955
- 3 Evangelical Transformation: 1946-1977
- 4 Growth and Trials: 1960s-1990s
- 5 Specialization Within the Denomination
- 6 Theology and Change
- 7 Church Life and Structure
- 8 Culture
- 9 2014 Update
- 10 Congregations
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 Additional Information
- 13 Cite This Article
The Beachy Amish Mennonites are a conservative Anabaptist denomination with Old Order Amish origins. They have supported the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith and also maintained a set of distinctive practices and limits on lifestyle choices. However, they are not as strict in their practices as the Old Order Amish and have been evangelically oriented, prompting them to engage in outreach and mission programs. The Beachy denomination has been congregational but with many service programs stitching the individual churches together. While the formal Beachy denomination is the largest Amish Mennonite constituency, several other constituencies have their roots in the Beachy movement, including Maranatha Amish Mennonite, Ambassadors Amish Mennonite, Berea Amish Mennonite, Midwest Beachy Amish Mennonite, and Mennonite Christian Fellowship.
Historical Origins: 1900-1955
The Amish division of the 1860s produced two parallel expressions of Amishness: the Old Order Amish, most readily recognized today by their non-ownership of motorized vehicles, and the progressive Amish Mennonites, who have more readily accepted theological and technological innovations. While the Old Order stream has grown and diversified into multiple sects, the Amish Mennonite congregations have typically discarded an Amish identity for a Mennonite one, including the regional Amish Mennonite conferences of the late 1800s and the Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference of the early to mid 1900s.
The Beachy Amish Mennonites represent a third major wave of Amish Mennonites. As technological innovations appeared in rural North America in the early decades of the 1900s, some Amish more readily accepted such advancements than others. These included telephones and farm tractors. Those most disposed to innovation adoption also tended to oppose shunning members whose only offense was transferring membership to another plain Anabaptist denomination. When innovation adoption and/or shunning became an irreconcilable contention, divisions occurred. Factions of permissive Amish appeared in Ontario (1903), Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (1909-10); Somerset County, Pennsylvania (1927); Plain City, Ohio (1938); Virginia Beach, Virginia (1940); Nappanee, Indiana (1940); Holmes County, Ohio (1941); Kalona, Iowa (1946); and Belleville, Pennsylvania (1954), among other locations. While these Amish factions may have shared fellowship in early years, adoption of the automobile brought about a severance of fellowship. Yet, as each faction allowed automobiles, they again associated with this network of technologically permissive Amish.
These congregations were known by several names in the early years, but the Beachy Amish Mennonite title prevailed. Moses Beachy was a junior bishop in the Somerset County, Pennsylvania, Amish settlement. His was one of the earlier congregations to adopt automobiles, after dividing with the Old Order on 26 June 1927. From then until his death in 1946, he was instrumental in assisting technologically permissive Amish factions. Thus, the group became the Beachy type of Amish Mennonite. However, the Beachy movement took shape independent of any single personality. John Stoltzfus of Weavertown Amish Mennonite in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, assisted two congregations that sought to disfellowship from the Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference. David Burkholder of Maple Lawn Amish Mennonite, like Moses Beachy, assisted several Amish factions. The isolated decision of leaders in other Amish communities—including Belleville, Pennsylvania and Milverton, Ontario—to permit automobiles and associate with the Beachy network further contributed to the movement’s numbers.
Early on, most cultural and religious practices of the Old Order Amish were retained among the Beachys. Beachy churches tended to reflect the patterns of local Amish. Settlement-wide trends of tobacco usage, courtship practices, and personal religious devotion were mirrored in both the Amish and the Beachy churches. Across the affiliation, services were conducted in German and included off-Sundays for visiting. Families were large and most households relied on agriculture for income and subsistence. In thought and deeds, the Beachys were basically liberal Old Order Amish.
Evangelical Transformation: 1946-1977
The Beachy denomination was transformed at mid-20th century by both the incorporation of revivalist Amish who had defected from their churches and by revivalist influences growing within the Beachys. The religious revivalism had several sources. First, those Amish young men who spent time in alternative service (Civilian Public Service) during World War II came into contact with other Christians and were drawn to greater religious piety. The message they carried back to their communities was the need to engage in proselytizing and to reform lifeless and even sinful church practices. Second, in the 1950s, a wave of evangelical Protestant revivals swept America, such as the tent crusades of Billy Graham. The fervor trickled down to the Anabaptist setting, where several Mennonite evangelists started their own tent meetings. Some Amish attended these meetings. The spirit of revival meetings were kept at a distance until the itinerant Amish evangelist David A. Miller of Thomas, Oklahoma adopted the style and gave it an Amish face. Many Amish were stirred by the preaching of the Mennonites and David Miller. Finally, Amish subscribed to Mennonite periodicals reinforcing revivalist theology and programs.
Amongst the Amish, the revivalists established annual mission conferences, a missions board, Mission Interests Committee (M.I.C.), and several mission outposts; at the local level, they met for Bible study and prayer meeting. At first, the reforms were not uniformly and soundly condemned by Amish leaders, but as the movement persisted outside of the jurisdiction of the existing religious structure, leaders confronted the movement, prompting an exodus. By the end of the 1950s, the revivalists had largely withdrawn from the Amish, taking their programs with them. They tended to have more lenient views towards technological innovations and thus permitted automobiles and other contraband from the start.
At the time they withdrew, the Beachy movement was more theologically Old Order than evangelical. However, a nucleus of Beachy churches was shifting towards the revivalist movement. These churches succeeded in establishing Amish Mennonite Aid (A.M.A.) in 1955, a relief program for West Germany, later extended to hurricane relief work in Belize. The bulk of Beachy leaders accepted A.M.A. with ambivalence, and on the condition that the work was relief and not proselytizing. However, both projects had evolved towards the latter by the mid-1960s. It was this nucleus of Beachys that attracted the Amish revivalists to affiliate with the redefined Beachy Amish Mennonite denomination. A.M.A. and M.I.C. became the flagship organizations for the revivalists. They were amongst the first churches to switch from German to English in services, to import Mennonite expressions of revivalism like protracted meetings and tract distribution, to write a statement of faith and standard of practice for the local church, and to reconfigure local dress patterns to a universal dress, blending Mennonite and Amish elements of styles.
While centralized through mission programs, the Beachy churches remained autonomous. Each church ordained its own leaders, wrote its own standards, maintained its own church property, and accepted and dismissed members on its own terms. Nevertheless, during the 1960s and the 1970s, local churches invited bishops and ministers to investigate unresolved church conflicts. The interventions typically resulted in a two- or three-way division. The blending of different sources of influences gave rise to several expressions of "Beachy."
Some accepted the moral reforms of the revivalist movement (such as forbidding tobacco and restricting courtship practices) but desired to maintain Amish patterns of church and theology (such as German in services and patterns of dress). These became the Old Beachy and are today organized as either the Berea Amish Mennonites or the Midwest Beachy Amish Mennonites. Another set of Beachys rejected the moral reforms, desiring to retain an identity as liberal Amish, not revivalist Amish Mennonite. These churches, also referred to as Old Beachy, remained unorganized, but the network could be referred to as the "highest Amish." A final group arrived late on the revivalist scene. These ex-Amish, ex-River Brethren, and ex-Old Beachys received assistance from the Amish revivalist churches in Holmes County. As the Holmes County-based churches associated more closely with the increasingly permissive Beachys in the years sandwiching 1970, these latecomers grew distressed over compromises in distinctive practice. In 1977, they discontinued associations and established the Mennonite Christian Fellowship denomination.
Growth and Trials: 1960s-1990s
Despite the divisions, the nucleus of revivalist Beachy churches continued to grow, and the religious programs were increasingly copied from Mennonites: evening church services, choirs, Sunday schools, revival meetings, church offices, and tract distribution, amongst others. In 1970, the Beachys established and sponsored Calvary Bible School in Arkansas, as their youth were inundating Mennonite schools. That same year, Calvary Messenger debuted as the official denomination-sponsored periodical. Mission work expanded form the 1960s to the early 1980s. A.M.A. moved into El Salvador and Paraguay, while M.I.C. moved into Belgium and Washington, D.C. Individual congregations initiated church plantings, whereby several families moved to a region without a conservative Anabaptist congregation. Popular destinations included the U. S. southeast and Costa Rica. Voluntary service units for young people—either a home for elderly or mentally handicapped—sprung up, especially in response to the need for alternative service opportunities during the Vietnam War. Six Beachy-sponsored homes were established, of which three exist today, Faith Mission Home, Mountain View Nursing Home, and Hillcrest Home.
The Beachys sympathized with the plight of Mennonite factions withdrawing from larger conferences in order to maintain distinctive practices like dress and limitations on technology, such as the Conservative Mennonite Fellowship, Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church, Southeastern Mennonite Conference, and Midwest Mennonite Fellowship. However, the origin of the Beachys was a liberal division with a conservative group, unlike the new Mennonite denominations. With a hybrid of Amish, Mennonite, and evangelical Protestant thought and practice, the Beachys began a perpetual course of identity formulation and reformulation. This included boundary concessions, standard revisions, and disciplinary relaxation, a path similar to the two preceding Amish Mennonite movements. The rapid changes alarmed many of the leaders, who discussed the possibility of establishing a constituency board to address the problem. This vision was implemented at the 1991 ministers’ meetings in Ontario.
The Beachy Bishop Committee was charged with taking 18 voiced areas of concern and addressing them in a denominational-level statement of practice. However, the private opposition of several leaders derailed the project, and it was never implemented. Generally from more liberal churches, they opposed the restrictiveness of the statement and its centralizing effect. By the end of the decade, of the 18 issues, the ministerial body only accepted a prohibition against radio and television ownership in 1999. The original document, A Charge to Keep, I Have, was ultimately abandoned. When committee members began rotating in 1997, the newly elected generally expressed concerns about drift, but preferred to address it through statements of recommendation rather than binding agreements. Several churches sought an independent course when it was clear that A Charge to Keep, I Have would not be implemented. They established the Maranatha Amish Mennonites, and then later the Ambassadors Amish Mennonites.
Specialization Within the Denomination
As the Beachy population grew, segments of the denomination pursued niche projects, especially from the 1980s on. These were not constituency-wide projects like A.M.A. or M.I.C., but missions that garnered strongest support from a cluster of churches whose values and practice resonated closely with those of the mission program. These have included, but were not limited to:
- Christian Printing Mission (C.P.M.), a literature distribution and church planting program active in the 1990s.
- Church planting work in Australia
- Literature distribution programs like Mt. Zion Literature and Still Waters Ministries
- Master’s International Ministries, church planting and material relief mission to Ukraine
- A.M.A.’s expansion into Kenya in the early 1990s
- Dunmore East Christian Fellowship (Ireland), a church planting first sponsored by C.P.M., then M.I.C.
- Mexico Mennonite Aid, offering financial assistance to Old Colony Mennonites
- Nathanael Christian Orphanage in Romania (discontinued)
- Penn Valley Christian Retreat, offering nurture programs and topical seminars
Beachys have also supported and directed unaffiliated conservative Anabaptist programs, including:
- Christian Aid Ministries, a material and spiritual relief organization focusing on both domestic and international relief
- Post-secondary, unaccredited Mennonite schools, such as Faith Builders Educational Programs & Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute
- Wilderness Boys’ Camps for deviant boys, such as Bald Eagle
- Several spiritual and relief missions to Haiti, such as Blue Ridge International
- Counseling centers like LIFE Ministries and Door of Hope
- Domestic outreach like Lancaster Bible School, Gospel Express, and prison crusades
- Routine nurture programs like the Anabaptist Identity Conference, the Kingdom Fellowship Weekend, the Christians in Business Seminar, Shenandoah Valley Music Camp, and the Christian Hymnary Publishers Conference.
The extent varies to which Beachys agreed to support any of the above organizations and programs. Missions and programs that have a strongly defined ideology—like Bible schools, counseling centers, or nurture programs—were more controversial than ones that focused purely on material aid—like Christian Aid Ministries or Mexico Mennonite Aid. Constituency-sponsored programs received more uniform support than unaffiliated programs, which drew support from those with particular interests.
Theology and Change
Beachys have ascribed to the tenants of the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith and would feel their core beliefs are adequately summarized in Daniel Kauffman’s Doctrines of the Bible. In addition, they believed in nonresistance, the women’s head covering, the need for church membership, and the sinfulness of remarriage following divorce. However, theological attention is given most heavily to manifest expressions of religiosity. Beachys are fundamentalist, in that they seek to justify practices based on Biblical texts. Therefore, the frequent goal of participants in religiously-focused conversation is to validate or invalidate the legitimacy of detailed symbols, such as dress, technology, possessions, courtship and marriage propriety, and amusement.
Several major themes were prevalent in religious discussion in the early 21st century. First, many of the specific, carried-over Amish practices did not have a specific defense from a Bible text, so it was common for Beachys to frame Bible teaching as principle, concepts that do not change, and practice, the outworking that can change. Second, the burden of proof rested more on the old practice than the new, whereas the burden was reverse among the Old Order. Third, Beachys believed that good teaching was needed to develop conviction, and that this was more powerful in guiding behavior and choices than rules and prohibitions, though not to the complete exclusion of the latter. Finally, Beachys called for "balance" as a way to dull the effect of a strict religious emphasis that caused dissonance in the community. These, and other minor themes, have facilitated a path of ever-lessening strictness and symbolic distinctiveness. Beachys have been ambivalent about this path, though, fearing eventual assimilation in a path similar to previous Amish Mennonite denominations, yet championing the changes as religious progress.
Several forces have slowed and restrained assimilation. Among these was the primacy of community life and the boundaries this erected against mainstream society. Members interacted in a dense social network where social ties overlapped in the work environment, private church school, the church service, kin, home life and visitation patterns, recreation, and community service/outreach programs. This dense network reinforced collective behavior and provided informal checks on members’ lives. A second force was the teaching of submission and obedience to the church. Insubordination was equivalent to sin and could serve as a catch-all charge against deviant members. Finally, the lifestyle had appeal for its members, who derived a level of satisfaction from it. Frequent shifts in meaningful symbols might unsettle this contentment, so rapid change was generally guarded against.
Church Life and Structure
In 2012 Beachy congregations held services every Sunday morning, which included a cappella singing (often four part harmony), Sunday school, and a sermon. Members sat in silence before the service began; informal visiting after services was an important way to reinforce bonds among members. Most churches also had routine Sunday evening services and Wednesday evening prayer meetings. The Sunday midday meal was extensive and an opportunity to host guests or to be hosted. The youth group met once or twice a week for a scheduled activity. The youth consisted of singles 16 and older.
A full plural ministry included one bishop, one deacon, and one or more ministers per church. The ordained were chosen through the lot. Each church had a locally composed written statement of beliefs and practices by which members agreed to abide. Those desiring to join a church would be put on "proving," usually for six months. It was a time of adjustment for the church and the proving member to become acclimated to and familiar with one another.
Beachys believed that outreach and proselytizing were Biblical commands. They had several ways of meeting these commands. First, Beachy churches engaged in local outreach through community service projects, visitation with institutionalized populations at nursing homes and prisons, singing at hospitals, and distributing gospel literature. Second, Beachy churches might decide to send several families to a new location without a conservative Anabaptist presence. Finally, Beachys have developed various foreign mission programs in which a family committed several years to living at the mission base. The intention of these programs was not necessarily to convert people to their church but to be a Christian witness. Some seekers have attended and then joined the Beachy church, but retention rates were generally low.
Families have been large by American standards. Couples typically have had between four and seven children. The peak age bracket for marriage has been around the early to mid 20s. Courtship periods were for around one year. Young men initiated the process by inquiring about courtship with the young lady, often with her father’s permission to seek courtship secured first. To begin courting was more serious in many respects than engagement, as most couples that started courting married. Weddings occured on Friday or Saturday. The service resembled a Sunday morning service, but might include special singing, mixed gender seating, coordinated dress colors and styles, and, of course, the vows. A reception followed. Attendance ranged from 350 to 500, which included many kin. Wedding ceremonies and receptions might have both traditional and stylish elements, to the extent the couple wished to express their affirmation of either intergenerational continuity or peer culture, respectively. Finally, while marriage was the expectation, there was a minority of adult women beyond youth age who remained single. There were few single middle-aged men.
In the early 21st century farming and construction/craft-related work were the primary occupations for men, with the former on the decline and the latter on the rise. Minor occupations included teacher/principal, missionary, publishing, retail store owner, and factory work. There were a few Beachys who held professional occupations, and these were diverse. Men were either self-employed or else worked for a conservative Anabaptist business. Adolescents turned a portion of their income over to their parents until they reached a certain age. Single women might be employed as teachers, receptionists, cashiers, house cleaners, nurses, waitresses, babysitters, or office jobs. They might also work at home or on the family farm. Married women with children did not work outside the home in formal occupations. Socioeconomic class differences were not evident among Beachys, who were generally financially secure if not well to do.
Primary and secondary education was provided through church- and patron-sponsored private schools. Teachers were hired from within the religious community. Women taught lower grades and men taught upper grades. Some schools offered eight grades while others offered high school. Several churches required or permitted homeschooling, but all churches prohibited public school attendance. The Beachy-sponsored Calvary Bible School (C.B.S.) offered twelve weeks of courses each winter at its campus in Arkansas. Young adults might also attend a similar Mennonite-sponsored Bible school, but neither C.B.S. nor the other Bible schools were similar in curriculum to colleges. A handful of Beachys pursued post-secondary degrees, but the field was commonly service-oriented, like health or education.
Because of the intimate social networks in which Beachys lived, several hobbies dominated Beachys’ interest. For young people, volleyball and softball have been the sports of choice; these games accommodated large groups and varying abilities. Saturday day-long tournaments—usually in major Anabaptist settlements—attracted the players who were looking for something more intense than church youth group games. A cappella choirs also commanded the interest of many, mostly young adults but also the middle aged. Church choirs might practice for several months before giving a handful of programs, while special touring choirs provided a slant towards professionalism for the devote hobbyist. These emerged out of networks of friends or a formal program like Bible school. Boys and men enjoyed hunting and fishing, and like sports and choir, was pursued as a form of recreation to varying intensities. Electronic media like the Internet and DVD viewing was a hobby confined to churches that made accommodations for such technology. In addition to the above, women enjoyed walking, gardening, or cooking as a hobby.
Beachy Amish Mennonite ministers adopted the group's first statement of faith at their national meetings on 9-11 April 2014.
In 2017 there were 154 Beachy Amish congregations throughout the world with a total membership of 9,310.
Amish Mennonite Directory. [Various editions since 1993.] Edited by Devon Miller. Millersburg, OH: Abana Books.
Anderson, Cory. "Retracing the blurred boundaries of the twentieth-century 'Amish Mennonite' identity." Mennonite Quarterly Review 85 (2011): 361-412.
Anderson, Cory. "Congregation or conference? The development of Beachy Amish polity and identity." Mennonite Historical Bulletin 72 (January 2011):12-15.
Beachy, Alvin J. "The Rise and Development of the Beachy Amish." Mennonite Quarterly Review 29 (1955): 118-140.
Huber, Tim. "Beachy Amish Define Beliefs: Ministers Approve First Statement of Faith at National Meeting." Mennonite World Review 92, no. 9 (28 April 2014): 1-2.
Mennonite Church Directory 2010. Harrisonburg, VA: Christian Light Publications, Inc., 2010: 35-48.
Nolt, Steve M. "The Amish 'mission movement' and the reformulation of Amish identity in the twentieth century." Mennonite Quarterly Review 75 (2001):7-36.
Yoder, Elmer S. The Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship Churches. Hartville, Ohio: Diakonia Ministries, 1987.
Topic- or Settlement-Specific Sources
Bringing in the Sheaves: The First 50 Years of Amish Mennonite Aid, edited by H. Petersheim. Free Union, VA: Amish Mennonite Aid, 2005.
Camden, Laura L., and Susan Gaetz Duarte. Mennonites in Texas: The Quiet in the Land. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006.
The Children of Moses: The Descendents of Moses and Lucy Miller, Beachy, edited by M. E. Yoder and P. Wiley. Grantsville, MD: Henry and Mary Yoder, 1997.
Lapp, Aaron. Weavertown Church History: Memoirs of an Amish Mennonite Church. Kinzers, PA: Aaron Lapp Jr., 2003.
Matthews, Samuel Eakes. The Development of Missional Vision in a Midwestern Amish Mennonite Congregation. School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, 2001.
Oak Grove Mennonite Church: 1957-2007, 50th Anniversary, edited by J. L. Miller, E. N. Schrock and D. M. R. Kipps. Aroda, VA: Oak Grove Mennonite, 2007.
Schwieder, Dorothy, and Elmer Schwieder. "The Beachy Amish in Iowa: a case study." Mennonite Quarterly Review 51 (1977):41-51.
Van Kampen, Marianne. Beachy Amish Mennonites- Organizing Mission Work in Belize. In Between Horse & Buggy and Four-Wheel Drive: Change and Diversity among Mennonite Settlements in Belize, Central America. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2009.
Yoder, Elmer S. The Amish Mennonites of Macon County, Georgia. Hartville, OH: Diakonia Ministries, 1980.
Unofficial Beachy Amish website
Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia, v. 1
Vol. 1, p. 254 by Alvin J. Beachy
The Beachy Amish churches received their name from Moses M. Beachy of Salisbury, Pennsylvania, who was a bishop of the Old Order Amish settlement known as the Casselman River district from 1916 until his death in 1946. The Beachy Amish churches had their origin in his refusal to pronounce the ban and avoidance upon all who left his congregation to unite with the Conservative Amish Mennonite congregation near Grantsville, Maryland. Disagreement began as early as 1923, but by 1927 such matters as Sunday school and the use of electricity and automobiles had also become issues. In June 1927 the conservative element of Beachy’s congregation withdrew in order to maintain full fellowship with other Old Order Amish congregations.
The Beachy Amish differed from the Old Order Amish in that they allowed the use of electrical conveniences, tractors, automobiles, and meetinghouses. They also instituted Sunday school on alternate Sundays and in a few instances had Sunday evening services. In the 1950s they retained the use of the German language in their worship, except at funerals, the practice of unison singing, and most of the traditional Amish garb.
There were in 1951, 12 Beachy Amish congregations located as follows: three in Pennsylvania, one near Salisbury in Somerset County, one near Bird-in-Hand in Lancaster County, and one near Hadley in Mercer County; three in Ohio, one near Plain City in Madison County, one at Bunker Hill near Berlin in Holmes County, and one near North Canton in Stark County; four in Indiana, one in Montgomery County, one in Howard and Miami counties near Amboy, and two in Elkhart County, one near Nappanee and one several miles east of Goshen; and two others, one congregation near Norfolk, Virginia, and one near Kalona, Iowa.
Actually the Beachy Amish were a widespread schism among the Old Order Amish, which in the 1950s was still spreading, and which was called by different names after the leaders in various regions. In Indiana, for instance, they are called the Burkholder Amish after the leader of the Nappanee group. In practice they are between the Old Order Amish and the Conservative Amish, but had no organized conference. In 1953 the group had over 2,000 baptized members.
Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia, v. 5
Vol. 5, pp. 60-61 by Elmer S. Yoder
The Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship was composed in 1989 of about 140 congregations located in 23 states and six countries in the Americas. Its name is taken from that of Bishop Moses M. Beachy (1874-1946) of Salisbury, Pennsylvania (Somerset County). Beachy served as the Old Order Amish bishop from 1916 until 1927, and maintained a moderate position on the application of the Meidung (avoidance), especially in regard to those transferring to the neighboring Conservative (Amish) Mennonite congregation, which had been Old Order Amish until 1895. About one-half of the congregation, which favored application of the Streng-Meidung (strict banning), withdrew from Beachy's bishop district in June 1927. Also in the mid-1920s, Bishop John A. Stoltzfus of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was leading what came to be known as the Weavertown Amish Mennonite Church. The roots of this congregation grew out of disagreements over the use of the Streng-Meidung as applied to Moses Hartz, Sr., in the 1890s. These two congregations were the leaders of the emerging Beachy Amish Fellowship for nearly three decades.
Growth prior to 1947 was slow, but the tempo increased during the 1950s. By 1959 the three-decade period of consolidation was completed with the inclusion of several key congregations, including Oak Grove of Virginia, Woodlawn of Indiana, Center in Kansas, and Bethel in Ohio. These were pivotal and influential congregations within the fellowship in regard to missions, language, and spiritual vitality and expression. By 1959 the 27 congregations were located in 11 states and Ontario and included a membership of 2,446. Growth of these churches during the second 30-year period has been far greater than the first 20 years. Membership in 1997 stood at 8,400, and in 2007 at 9,600.
The Beachy Amish were influenced by the spiritual awakening in the larger Mennonite Church that followed World War II as it filtered into Beachy and Old Order Amish circles. Out of this awakening developed the Amish Mission Interests Committee (MIC). Russell Maniaci, a former Roman Catholic of Detroit, had initiated several national meetings of Amish in the interest of missions. The emerging Mission Interests Committee came under the control of the Beachy Amish by 1959. The committee has concentrated on projects within the United States and Ontario. These included Indian schools and missions in Ontario, and supervision of Hillcrest Home in Arkansas, Faith Mission Home in Virginia, and Fellowship Haven in Washington, D.C. The latter two are joint projects with Amish Mennonite Aid.
Amish Mennonite Aid (AMA) resulted from interest in relief work, especially to refugees in West Berlin. Minister Joseph Roth had served in Europe under Mennonite Central Committee and the Conservative Mennonite Board of Missions. Roth urged the formation of an organization by which Beachy Amish young people could serve under Beachy Amish supervision. Bishops John A. Stoltzfus and Eli D. Tice were instrumental in calling the historic meeting in 1955 at the Weavertown Amish Mennonite church, during which AMA was organized. Jacob J. Hershberger was the first secretary-treasurer, Norman Beachy was chairman, and Elam Kauffman was the board's third member.
Simon Schrock, who succeeded Roth, led in the dedication of Friedensheim, a refugee center in Berlin. Lewis Overholt was the first minister ordained (1963) by the Amish for work on a foreign field, which was Friedensheim. The Berlin Wall (1961) sealed off the flight of refugees and changed the emphasis from relief to church planting. The Fellowship at Friedensheim became autonomous in 1977, thus closing AMA work in Berlin.
Hurricane Hattie devastated the coastal region of Belize in 1961. The initial Beachy Amish response to the cleanup and assistance of the homeless led to continued involvement in rebuilding. In addition, it led to a gradual shift from relief work to mission work. Six Beachy Amish congregations remained in the countryside of Belize in 1997.
The Beachy Amish were also interested in putting to use the agricultural skills of their young people. This led to involvement in El Salvador in 1962. The agricultural projects gave way to more direct mission and community work. The congregations and the out-stations suffered during the internal strife in the country, but there were Beachy workers in the country during the troubled years, notably the Eli Glick family. There were seven congregations in El Salvador in 1997.
An Old Order Amish colony in Honduras, located in Guaimaca, has been affiliated with Beachy Amish and Fellowship Churches since the late 1970s (Honduras).
The Paul Eichorn family pioneered the Luz y Esperanza Colony (Light and Hope) in Paraguay in 1967. The location was a tract of land of 5,300 acres (2,147 hectares), which they hoped could be divided among 25 families. Plans were for the church and colony to be one. Two congregations have resulted: Light and Hope and Florida. In 1970 the Light and Hope Clinic was constructed and is operated by AMA. Land transfer in the colony has proven a problem, since if not handled properly it might lead to the loss of military exemption for the Beachy Amish who came to Paraguay from the United States. Christians born in Paraguay who join the Beachy Church are not granted such privileges. In 1997 there were two congregations in Paraguay.
Another effort at evangelization by colonization was led by minister Sanford Yoder and several families who pioneered the settlement in Costa Rica in 1968. There were nine Beachy Amish congregations in Costa Rica by 1997.
Motorized vehicles, electricity, telephones, and use of meetinghouses have characterized Beachy Amish Mennonite churches since 1930. The names Amish and Mennonite deserve to be part of the full name, since both influences are visible. Amish influence is reflected in organizational structure, the strong congregationalism, the small size of the congregations, the Ordnung (discipline), and the sharing of ministry leadership by several men (plural ministry). Mennonite influence is evident in Sunday schools, preaching in each Sunday morning service, midweek Bible studies, summer Bible schools, revival meetings, and winter Bible schools (Bible conferences). All except about six of the congregations have made the transition from German to English as the language used during public worship services.
The Beachy Amish subscribe to and use the Dordrecht Confession. Except in rare cases, ministers are selected by use of the lot. The ideal "bench" (ministerial team) is composed of a bishop, one or two ministers, and a deacon in each congregation. The educational level of ministers is the same as that of the congregations they lead, with very few ministers pursuing higher education. Beachy Amish publishing falls into two periods. The first, from 1955-1969, involved theHerold der Wahrheit, an independent Amish publication. Ervin N. Hershberger, Beachy Amish, served as editor of the English part which was devoted to Beachy Amish interests. In 1970 Calvary Messenger appeared, designed to meet more adequately the needs of the Beachy constituency including youth and children. Ervin N. Hershberger has served as editor since 1970. It is a monthly publication of about 25 pages and is under the supervision of Calvary Publications, Inc., incorporated in the state of Ohio.
Calvary Bible School at Calico Rock, Arkansas, opened for the first term in 1970 with two three-week terms. By 1975 a pattern of four three-week terms was introduced and has been continued. The Bethel Springs property was purchased in 1973 and considerable new construction and renovation has taken place. Hundreds of students each year drive thousands of miles to study under a wide range of Beachy Amish ministers who serve as faculty members. Principals have been Lester Hershberger (1970), William Wagler (1971-80), and Ervin N. Hersbberger (1981-). The school was an attempt by Beachy leaders to provide Bible school training for their own young people, rather than have them attend other schools.
Ministers' meetings have been held annually since 1964. The annual youth meetings have continued since 1953. In 1962 the youth meetings were divided into an eastern and a western section because of the large numbers of young people attending. Among the groups on the Amish Mennonite spectrum, the Beachy Amish rank among the strongest supporters of Christian elementary schools, with a 90 percent participation. They have been discouraging higher education.
Amish Mennonite Aid and Mission Interests Committee are the official Beachy mission and service organizations. In the late 1970s and early 1980s a growing number of parachurch organizations drew off increasing amounts of funds and personnel from the Beachy churches. A number of these organizations are operated or headed by Beachy Amish persons.
The Beachy Amish churches are appropriately called a fellowship. They have deliberately avoided the degree of centralization that they associate with a conference. They are organized well enough to function, and yet at the same time, preserve the congregationalism they value so highly.
|Date Published||May 2014|
Cite This Article
Anderson, Cory. "Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2014. Web. 21 Feb 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Beachy_Amish_Mennonite_Fellowship&oldid=162460.
Anderson, Cory. (May 2014). Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 February 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Beachy_Amish_Mennonite_Fellowship&oldid=162460.
©1996-2019 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.