Illinois Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA)

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1957 Article

The Illinois Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church), was organized in 1921 by the merger of the earlier Mennonite Conference (MC) of the State of Illinois (formed in 1871) and Amish Mennonite congregations in the state which had been members of the Western District Amish Mennonite Conference. In 1955 it was the only Mennonite (MC) district conference limited exclusively to one state, including all Mennonite (MC) congregations within and no congregations outside the state. Conference met annually, usually during the third week in August. There was a ministers' fellowship meeting during the winter months. Regularly ordained or licensed bishops, ministers, and deacons were considered members of conference and transacted the business of conference under the leadership of a five-man executive committee. Auxiliary organizations were the Christian Education Cabinet (six members), District Mission Board, State Sewing Circle, and State Mennonite Youth Fellowship. The Christian Education Cabinet sponsored a Christian Workers' Normal—a one-week training course held annually during the Christmas holiday season. A certificate was awarded upon the completion of a three-year course of six units. The District Mission Board published The Missionary Guide bimonthly. It included inspirational articles as well as reports of congregational and missionary activities.

The constitution of the Illinois Mennonite Conference did not declare the Dordrecht Confession of 1632 its official confession, but this was the confession commonly used in the congregations. Conference taught nonresistance to evil, nonconformity to the world, and simplicity in worship, home, and attire, but it did not require a particular costume. It protested against the use of tobacco and alcoholic beverages, forbade members to hold public office requiring the use of the force of the law and administration of the oath, and forbade membership in secret societies and the swearing of oaths. It taught the ordinances of baptism, communion, feetwashing, women's prayer veil, anointing with oil, salutation of the holy kiss, and marriage. A minister could not move from one congregation to another without the consent of both congregations. There was a strong trend toward a trained ministry, although sentiment was still quite strong for the ordination of men from within the conference district. The lot was seldom used in connection with ordinations.

Mennonites began to move to Illinois from eastern states in 1833. Illinois Mennonite congregations, originally a part of the Indiana conference, received the permission of that conference to form a separate conference in 1871 and met in their own first conference 24 May 1872. There were seven congregations in 1921, with a combined membership of 516. Two of these seven congregations were mission congregations in Chicago. The others were Freeport, Morrison, Sterling, Cullom, and Union (Washington).

Amish Mennonite settlers arrived in Illinois in 1829. Within a decade four congregations had been formed in central Illinois along the Illinois River and its tributaries. Many of the families had come directly from Europe. Others had stopped for a few years in eastern states or Ontario. A few came from older Amish Mennonite settlements in America. In 1921 there were nine Amish Mennonite congregations in Illinois with a combined membership of 1,428, all in the central part of the state. They were at Metamora, Roanoke, Hopedale, Fisher, Flanagan, Tiskilwa, Tremont, Goodfield, and Ohio Station. By 1955 there was no longer a distinction between Amish Mennonite and Mennonite congregations within the state. Amish Mennonite congregations, particularly, lost heavily to the Egly and Stuckey factions which resulted in the Defenseless Mennonite and Central Conference Mennonite Churches. They lost also to the Apostolic Christians and the "Sleeping Preacher" group near Roanoke. One might cite John Alexander Dowie as an example of non-Mennonites who have proselyted members from Mennonite congregations.

Since the merger in 1921 the following seven new congregations have been formed: Arthur, Peoria, Pleasant Hill, Dillon, Bethel (Chicago), Spanish (Chicago), Lombard.

Men such as Henry Albrecht, J. C. Birky, Samuel Gerber, Chancy A. Hartzler, Henry Nice, Daniel Orendorff, Andrew Schrock, J. S. Shoemaker, John Smith, and H. R. Schertz are remembered for their ministry throughout the church, as well as within the conference district. Other more recent leaders have also served in offices on major churchwide boards. In 1955 the conference included 22 organized congregations and 10 mission outposts, with a total membership of 3,250.

1990 Update

After the organization of the Illinois Mennonite Conference (1920-21) by the merger of the (Old) Mennonites (MC) and the Illinois Amish Mennonite congregations that had been members of the Western District Amish Mennonite Conference, conservatism continued to dominate the new organization. But later constitutions, especially from the 1940s on, show a moderating trend toward a less rigid belief in the Mennonite Church (MC) policy of nonconformity to the world. Though basically still emphasizing simplicity and the simple life, the Mennonite Church (MC) has become less restrictive in patterns of dress, wearing of jewelry, use of musical instruments in worship, and the use of the prayer veil. While never emphasizing "plain clothes" to the extent that the eastern conferences did, the Illinois Conference (MC) urged and at times required its ministers to wear what was often called the "plain coat." Giving up this requirement was a churchwide trend, but from the 1950s on Illinois led the way having dropped the requirement in 1949.

Since 1949 the conference has also dropped the prohibition on the use of musical instruments in worship, though still continuing to emphasize unaccompanied congregational singing. Since there has also been a shift in recent decades from conference to congregational control, the amount of change varied from congregation to congregation. Use of the prayer covering, for example, while decreasing in general, was still more widespread in some congregations than in others. This was also the case with the wearing of jewelry, and other practices. Included here would be the use of more ornate architecture in the building of homes and meetinghouses.

Handling the divorce problem also became more flexible than formerly. Instead of having a rigid conference position that no divorced person under any circumstances, except when the cause of divorce was adultery, could be a Mennonite, in 1987 the major bodies had statements that continued to emphasize the high view and permanency of marriage, but which under carefully restricted guidelines permitted membership for divorced people.

Since there also has been a shifting in recent decades from conference to congregational control, the amount of change on the above practices varies from congregation to congregation. As to the ordination of women to the ministry, the conference reached a milestone in 1973 when it permitted the Lombard congregation to ordain Emma Richards to serve with her husband. The conference operates Camp Menno Haven. Its publication is The Missionary Guide.

2024 Update

In 2024 the following congregations were members of the Illinois Mennonite Conference:

Congregation City State
Asian Mennonite Community Church  Montgomery Illinois
Berhane Wongel Ethiopian Church  Chicago Illinois
Bethel Mennonite Community Church  Chicago Illinois
Bethesda Mennonite Church  Saint Louis Missouri
Carlock Mennonite Church  Carlock Illinois
Cazenovia Mennonite Church  Roanoke Illinois
Centro Cristiano Vida Abundante Aurora  Aurora Illinois
Centro Cristiano Vida Abundante Holland  Holland Michigan
Christ Community Mennonite Church  Schaumburg Illinois
Community Mennonite Church  Markham Illinois
Comunidad Cristiana Vida Abundante  Cicero Illinois
East Peoria Mennonite Church  East Peoria Illinois
Evanston Mennonite Church  Evanston Illinois
First Mennonite Church of Champaign-Urbana  Urbana Illinois
First Norwood Mennonite Church  Peoria Illinois
Freeport Mennonite Church  Freeport Illinois
Hopedale Mennonite Church  Hopedale Illinois
Iglesia Amor Viviente East Peoria Illinois
Iglesia Cristiana Roca de Esperanza  Chicago Illinois
Iglesia Evangelica de Lawndale Chicago Illinois
Iglesia Evangelica Hispana  Burbank Illinois
Joy Fellowship Mennonite Church  Peoria Illinois
Lawndale Mennonite Church  Chicago Illinois
Living Love Ministries  East Peoria Illinois
Living Water Community Church  Chicago Illinois
Lombard Mennonite Church  Lombard Illinois
Maple Lawn Fellowship Eureka Illinois
Mennonite Church of Dillon  Tremont Illinois
Mennonite Church of Normal  Normal Illinois
Metamora Mennonite Church  Metamora Illinois
North Suburban Mennonite Church  Libertyville Illinois
Prairieview Mennonite Church  Gridley Illinois
Reba Place Church  Evanston Illinois
Rehoboth Mennonite Church  Pembroke Township Illinois
Roanoke Mennonite Church  Eureka Illinois
Science Ridge Mennonite Church  Sterling Illinois
Sonido de Alabanza  Cicero Illinois
St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship  Saint Louis Missouri
Willow Springs Mennonite Church  Tiskilwa Illinois


Horsch, James E., ed. Mennonite Yearbook and Directory. Scottdale: Mennonite Publishing House (1988-89): 58-60.

Illinois Mennonite Conference Directory (1947).

Mennonite Yearbook and Directory (1905-)

Smith, Willard H. Mennonites in Illinois. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1983.

Weber, Harry F. Centennial History of the Mennonites of Illinois, 1829-1929. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Societyk 1931.

Additional Information

Illinois Mennonite Conference website 

Author(s) Nelson P. Springer
Willard H. Smith
Date Published July 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Springer, Nelson P. and Willard H. Smith. "Illinois Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 19 Jul 2024.

APA style

Springer, Nelson P. and Willard H. Smith. (July 2010). Illinois Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 July 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 910; vol. 5, p. 421. All rights reserved.

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