Gingerich, Orland S. (1920-2002)

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Agnes & Orland Gingerich. Family photo.

Orland Steinman Gingerich: Ontario minister and bishop, active in Mennonite historical research and interpretation, and in leadership in other Mennonite organizations; born on 12 November 1920 in Wilmot Township, Waterloo County, Ontario, the oldest child of four born to John Z. Gingerich (24 January 1887-9 December 1962) and Annie (Steinmann) Gingerich (7 January 1893–4 July 1973). Orland married Agnes Irene Roth (1924- ) on 3 July 1948; they had 10 children. Orland died 23 January 2002 in Kitchener, Ontario.

In 1950 Orland graduated from Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with a Bachelor of Arts in the Bible. He also studied at Goshen Biblical Seminary and later at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. Orland became the first theologically trained pastor in the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference (later called Western Ontario Mennonite Conference). He was ordained in 1951 and served as a minister at his home congregation, Steinmann Mennonite Church, from 1951 to 1972. In 1954 he was selected by lot for the office of bishop, the last bishop in the conference to be selected by this method.

In the early years of his ministry, Amish pastors and bishops did not receive a salary from their congregations, so Orland earned a living through farming and cheese making. He served as a pastor at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (1973-1974), Bloomingdale Mennonite Church (1974-1984), Wilmot Mennonite Church (1986), East Zorra Mennonite Church (1987-1988, 1994-1996,) Preston Mennonite Church (1988-1989), and Rainham Mennonite Church (1989-1991). Church administrative matters also interested Orland. In 1963, when the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference was re-structured and was renamed the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference, Orland became the ministerial superintendent (conference minister) for the conference. He also served on the conference’s mission board for 12 years.

Although the Amish tradition in which he grew up did not encourage education beyond elementary school, Orland was a strong proponent of learning. During the 1950s and 1960s he taught in the Winter Bible Schools of the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference and in the Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute. He was a founding board member of Conrad Grebel College, the Mennonite church college associated with the University of Waterloo. He served on that board from 1961 to 1979. 

Orland had a deep love of history and used his skills to promote knowledge of Mennonite history in particular. On 8 May 1965, at the first meeting of the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, he gave a presentation on the reasons to form a historical society. He went on to become a charter member of the Society, serving as the first vice-president of the board (1965-1977) and as president (1977 to 1980). Over the years, he conducted research, wrote and spoke on many historical topics of southwestern Ontario. For a period of time Orland held the title of “Conference Historian” for the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference. He also served on the committee which planned the events for the sesquicentennial commemoration of the arrival of the Amish to Canada, celebrated in 1973.

Orland was the author of The Amish of Canada (Conrad Press, 1972), the first major source on the Canadian Amish Mennonites. His writings appear in five-volume The Mennonite Encyclopedia, in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO), and in the publications of Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario. His profile of Christian Nafziger, who played a key role in the Amish settlement in Canada, appeared in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

As a representative of the West Ontario Mennonite Conference on the board of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, Orland contributed to inter-Mennonite efforts to teach and preserve the story of the larger Amish and Mennonite communities in Canada.

Orland was also engaged with various efforts of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, serving as vice-president of the board of directors from 1972 to 1981 and chairing the ad hoc Land Use Task Force. In the early 1990s he served as staff person for the Agricultural Concerns Committee, working with issues such as environmental concerns, producer/consumer relationships, free trade, farm women’s needs, and advocacy for Old Order farmers.

One of Orland’s last efforts was the Amish Mennonite Experience in Ontario Oral History Project, sponsored by the Institute of Anabaptist Mennonite Studies at Conrad Grebel University College. In 1999 and 2000 he conducted interviews with 67 people from the former Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference, in order to preserve their stories and experiences. He was interviewed as well.

Known for his soft-spoken and humble manner, Orland Gingerich has been described as a "risk taker," a "church statesman," and a "servant- leader" who had deep respect for others and who helped lead the church through times of much change.


Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Various Collections.

Gingerich, Sheena. "The Extraordinary Life of Orland Gingerich." Unpublished undergraduate paper, 2004. (Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Classification scheme: Hist. Mss. 13).

"Gingerich led church with 'Amish humility.'" Canadian Mennonite 6, no. 4 (25 February 2002). 

Hill, Valerie. "Lifetimes: Orland Gingerich." The Record (7 February 2002).

"Orland S. Gingerich (1920-2002)." Archival description, Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

"Tribute to Orland Gingerich, 1920-2002." Ontario Mennonite History 20, no. 1 (May 2002).

Archival Records

Archival records at Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Author(s) Virginia A Hostetler
Date Published June 2013

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hostetler, Virginia A. "Gingerich, Orland S. (1920-2002)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. June 2013. Web. 20 Mar 2019.,_Orland_S._(1920-2002)&oldid=162283.

APA style

Hostetler, Virginia A. (June 2013). Gingerich, Orland S. (1920-2002). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from,_Orland_S._(1920-2002)&oldid=162283.

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