Orthodox Mennonite Church

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In 1954 twenty-five people from the extended Hoover and Sherk families (previously of the Rainham Old Order Mennonites), left the David Martin Mennonite Church in Waterloo County, Ontario. With others that joined them over the following decade they became the Orthodox Mennonite Church.

During the time of this group’s separation from the David Martin Church, the ministers Titus and Noah Hoover and Enoch Habegger of the merged Titus Hoover and Amish Christian Church in Snyder County, Pennsylvania were in Ontario, Canada. They had come to attempt another merger with the new group. Less than half of its members chose to unite with them and move to Pennsylvania.

The remainder of the group, under the lay leadership of Anson Hoover, sought unity with the Reidenbach Mennonites of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This led to a division within the Reidenbach Church, the minister Peter O. Nolt leaving with five supporting families.

In Canada the group under Anson Hoover’s leadership established fellowship with the Enoch Horst Group in Perth County, Ontario. When that group divided, some moving to Salmon Arm, British Columbia, some to Linwood and Wallenstein, Ontario, and some to Mammoth Springs, Arkansas this relationship ended.

When Plattdeutsch-speaking Old Colony Mennonites families from Durango and Chihuahua, Mexico began coming to Ontario, some families united with the Anson Hoover group—some becoming full members, others only living and worshiping among them. A number of these Plattdeutsch people, on moving to British Honduras (Belize) in the 1960s, became instrumental in establishing the Barton Creek Mennonite Community.

In 1956 a minister, Elam S. Martin, from the David Martin Church, joined the Hoovers and eventually took the responsibility of voller Diener (unordained bishop) among them. The year following, Peter O. Nolt and those with him in Pennsylvania joined the group. Early in 1958 a third group, consisting of 50 people, having left the David Martin Church under the leadership of deacon Samuel Horst, chose to enter this union as well.

After the first united communion meeting, held on 6 April 1958, the merged groups (the Hoovers, the Nolt Group, the Plattdeutsch families from Mexico, and the Samuel Horst group) chose to call themselves the Orthodox Mennonite Church. From its beginning the focus of this new church community was on radical discipleship and church purity as taught by Pieter Jansz Twisck (the Thirty-Three Articles of Faith), Menno Simons, Dirk Philips, and later Mennonite writers such as Peter Burkholder, Heinrich Funck, and Jacob S. Lehman.

The Orthodox Mennonites do not have a written standard and have been unusually flexible in making lifestyle changes—all of them tending to greater simplicity and nonconformity to the world.

Contact with the merged Titus Hoover and Amish Christian Church in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Kentucky continued on a sporadic basis, as well as contact with the group led by Jonas Nolt and Ben Lavy at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, and the one led by John W. Martin and Albert Stoll at St. Joe, Arkansas (see Pure Church Movement).

Minister Peter Nolt and his followers soon withdrew from the Orthodox Mennonites. But another small group under the leadership of minister Noah Brubacher, also previously affiliated with the Reidenbach Mennonites, joined them in 1967 (see Noah Brubacher Mennonite Church).

By this time Elam Martin had ordained both Henry Bowman and Anson Hoover to the ministry, and Edward Martin, a minister from the Ontario Old Order Mennonites joined later.

Noah Brubacher, also of Ontario Old Order Mennonite origin, had been ordained by bishop John Dan Wenger in Virginia. One member still with him from that affiliation brought the Orthodox Mennonites to conduct meetings at Dayton, Virginia, for years following.

This union, however, did not go as smoothly as the previous ones, and led to several divisions among the Orthodox Mennonites. In 1974, over half the members, under the leadership of minister Anson Hoover, withdrew to form a new church. (See Anson Hoover Mennonites). The remainder of the Orthodox Mennonites relocated, shortly thereafter, to the Gorrie-Wroxeter area in Huron County, Ontario.

In 1980 another two small groups left the Orthodox, one a communal venture near Linwood, Ontario, the other consisting of the extended Noah Brubacher family at Conestogo, Wallenstein and Linwood, Ontario.

The Noah Brubacher group was reunited with the Orthodox and moved to Huron County, Ontario in 1984. The communal group, led by David Hoover and Sidney Bauman, was reunited with the Orthodox in 1987. They also moved to Huron County. 

Two factions of the Anson Hoover Church returned to the Orthodox Mennonites as well, but only the first one, including the ministers Amos Sherk, Menno Brubacher and Jesse Bauman, had moved to Huron County by 2010. The second one, led by Paul Sherk and including the widow of Elam M. Martin and others, was reunited in 2009 but still lived in the Waterloo Region.

In Huron County the Orthodox Mennonites prospered, soon doubling, tripling and quadrupling in numbers, sustaining steady growth that has continued through 2010.

Numerous families from the Barton Creek and Reinland communities in Belize and Paraguay, along with over 150 people from the Ontario Old Order Mennonites joined the Orthodox throughout the late 1980s and continuing through the 1990s. By this time, with converts of non-Anabaptist background, Orthodox worship meetings had become bilingual, English and German. 

In 1999 a group of Old Order Mennonites at Kinloss, Ontario, merged with the Orthodox, followed by another group of the same background in Trigg County, Kentucky. In 2001 the Phares S. Stauffer Group of Snyder County, Pennsylvania united with the Orthodox as did the Henry Hoover Group (a branch of the Reidenbach Mennonites) living in Trigg and Christian Counties, Kentucky in 2005.

During the 1990s members of the Canadian Orthodox Mennonite communities began to move into the Algoma Region of northern Ontario, and in 2006 a group leaving their fellowship moved to Gladstone, Manitoba, Canada. All told, the Orthodox Mennonites met for worship in nine locations, not all of them with meetinghouses, in 2010. A respectful relationship continued with the Scottsville Mennonite Community in Kentucky, along with its branches in Missouri, Tennessee and Belize, (the main surviving body of the merged Titus Hoover and Amish Christian Church), as with the Barton Creek Mennonite Communities in Belize, Central America. 

See also Pure Church Movement


Martin, Donald. Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, Brotherhood. Kitchener, Ont: Pandora Press, 2003: 179-183.

Author(s) Peter Hoover
Date Published July 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hoover, Peter. "Orthodox Mennonite Church." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 27 May 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orthodox_Mennonite_Church&oldid=163740.

APA style

Hoover, Peter. (July 2010). Orthodox Mennonite Church. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 May 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orthodox_Mennonite_Church&oldid=163740.

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