The Beachy Amish Mennonites
The term Amish Mennonite describes a church or constituency within Anabaptist Christianity that has broken from the Old Order Amish, yet has resisted absorption into a Mennonite constituency. In addition, the Old Order Amish were earlier known as Amish Mennonites within the European context before "Old Order" became a more commonly used term. Most Amish Mennonite people today identify themselves as conservative Mennonites in name as the term "Amish Mennonite" is not well understood by general society. A few would identify themselves as Amish for the same reason, just not "Old Order" Amish.
Early Amish Mennonite Conferences
From 1862-1878, annual conferences were held among the Amish. The conferences produced a number of polarized groups, from which came two primary divisions: the Old Order Amish and the Amish Mennonites. The Amish Mennonites formed regional conferences in the late 1880s after the division. During the early 1900s, most of these original Amish Mennonite groups merged with regional Mennonite conferences, most of which later joined the General Conference Mennonites (Lehman 1998).
*The Indiana-Michigan Amish Mennonite Conference began in 1888 and merged with the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference in 1916.
*The Western District Amish Mennonite Conference merged with the western Mennonite conferences in 1920-1921.
*The Eastern Amish Mennonite Conference merged with the Ohio Conference in 1927; they became the Ohio and Eastern Amish Mennonite Conference.
*The Stuckey Amish (Central Conference) of Illinois & Indiana affiliated with the General Conference Mennonites in 1946.
*The Egli Amish (Mennonites) affiliated with the Evangelical Mennonites.
Conservative (Amish) Mennonite Conference
The Conservative Mennonite Conference was born several decades after the original Amish Mennonite movement. In 1910, leaders from three unaffiliated Amish Mennonite congregations met in Michigan to discuss the formation of a conference that allowed for congregational autonomy yet would be able to assist individual churches with problems. This conference was to be more conservative than the aforementioned Amish Mennonite conferences. During its 100-some year history, the church has moved closer to mainstream Mennonite groups. In 1954, a majority vote called for the removal of the “Amish” part of the Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference (CMC) name, which was implemented in the 1957 constitution revision. Proponents suggested that “Amish Mennonite” conferences were obsolete. During the 1960s, concern rose among some about the lax practice on issues such as the women’s head veiling and cut hair, television, and clothing items. Individual churches began to differ greatly in practice. Since the concerns in the 1960s, conference has abandoned a stand on the aforementioned practices (Miller 1985). Today, the conference has 113 churches with about 11,000 members (Map of CMC 2006).
Official website: Conservative Mennonite Conference– Rosedale, OH
Biblical Mennonite Alliance
The Biblical Mennonite Alliance, or BMA, resulted from a split with the Conservative Mennonite Conference (CMC). In a 1999 meeting, CMC took a vote that failed to uphold the required practice of the woman’s veiling. This was the final straw in a series of issues that increasingly alienated conservative congregations within the conference. These churches broke from CMC and formed BMA. In the 2005 BMA Directory, the membership was calculated to be at 1,669. BMA retains a governmental body similar to CMC and individual congregational practice still varies widely. While BMA has Amish Mennonite origins and roots, most members of BMA would not think of themselves as Amish Mennonite.
Official website: Biblical Mennonite Alliance
Beachy Amish Mennonites
The largest and most dominant contemporary Amish Mennonite group is the Beachy Amish Mennonites. The Beachy constituency received its name from Moses Beachy, an Old Order Amish bishop in Somerset County, PA. Beachy refused to administer the streng ordnung (strong ban) against members whose only offense was transferring membership to the nearby Conservative Amish Mennonite congregation. Half the congregation sided with Beachy, and the other half sided with co-ministers Yoder and Yoder. Beachy's congregation affiliated with a similar Amish Mennonite congregation in Lancaster County, today known as the Weavertown Amish Mennonite church. During the 1940s, a number of other factions emerged in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Virginia from Old Order Amish groups. The congregations sought affiliation with the Beachy constituency (Yoder 1987, Beachy 1955).
Today, the Beachys vary widely in practice, as the constituency is a fellowship with congregational autonomy separate of a governing conference. Most have retained conservative, plain practice, but this is becoming increasingly questioned, especially in more mainstream churches in predominantly Old Order Amish areas, though no exclusively confined to these regions. New standard allowances in the more mainstream congregations include instrumental music and movie watching on DVDs. Clothing is also less distinct in these congregations, especially among the men; however, women's dress has become less distinguishable and coverings have undergone abbreviation. However, the most conservative of Beachy congregations use German in services, refuse to have their photograph taken, and dress similar to the New Order Amish. Between these two points is a wide variety of practice.
Unofficial Website: Beachy Amish Mennonite Church
Amish Mennonite Sub-Groups from the Beachy Fellowship
Thirty-some congregations, almost have formally developed closer knit fellowships with specific direction, organization, and goals. These churches may still be connected to the Beachy constituency through informal ties and cooperation in some programs, such as mission work, but have become independent denominations with their own set of programs.
Maranatha Amish Mennonite Churches
Maranatha was birthed in July 1997. It was started out of a concern for the direction and changes within Beachy congregations. Of particular concern to Maranatha leaders was “the perceived lack of accountability to each other, including an inability to address and correct problems and in the casual way church divisions are handled.” Maranatha churches are more conservative than Beachy.
There are currently 15 churches that affiliate with Maranatha A.M., including:
Ebenezer Amish Mennonite, Ks.
Lyndon Amish Mennonite, Ks.
Locust Creek Amish Mennonite, Mo.
Salem County Mennonite, Nj.
Cedar Grove Amish Mennonite, On.
Whitechurch Amish Mennonite, On.
Summitview Christian Fellowship, Pa.
West Haven Amish Mennonite, Pa.
Bethel Fellowship, Tn.
Goodspring Mennonite, Tn.
Greene County Mennonite, Tn.
Lighthouse Mennonite, Tn.
Mt. Moriah Mennonite, Tn.
Whiteville Mennonite, Tn.
Maranatha Bible Fellowship, Va.
Maranatha holds a separate annual Ministers’ Fellowship Meeting. Several networks of Maranatha congregations hold annual Area-Wide Bible Schools each winter. These are to provide an alternative to the institutional Bible school of the Beachys. Area-wides are hosted by local congregations.
Click here to read the Maranatha Amish Mennonite Churches Constitution.
Berea Amish Mennonite
Berea Amish Mennonite churches began meeting in 1998 for annual ministers’ meetings. A constitution was drafted and approved in August of 2008. Like Maranatha, Berea churches share a concern for the direction of the nucleus Beachy churches and the way church divisions are handled. Berea is more conservative than Maranatha or Ambassadors, but not as conservative as Midwest Beachy.
There are currently 11 churches that affiliate with Berea A.M., including:
Belleville Amish Mennonite, Ar.
Rehoboth Amish Mennonite, Il.
Believer’s Fellowship, In.
Oak Grove Church, In.
Unionville Christian Brotherhood, Ia.
Pleasant Hill Mennonite, Ky.
Salem Christian Brotherhood, Mo.
Pleasant View Amish Mennonite, Mo.
Fryburg Beachy Fellowship, Oh.
Peniel Christian Fellowship, Oh.
Mt. Zion Amish Mennonite, Va.
Berea holds a separate annual Ministers’ Fellowship Meeting and holds an annual youth fellowship meeting with a host congregation.
Click here to read the Berea Amish Mennonite Fellowship Constitution.
Ambassadors Amish Mennonite
Ambassadors formed as a small network of churches, instigated by the Leitchfield and Summersville congregations of Kentucky. They had originally been with the Maranatha congregations, but desired a more intimate fellowship. Ambassadors have a strong emphasis on rapid successive church planting in areas with no Anabaptist witness.
There are currently 6 churches with Ambassadors A.M., including:
Living Waters Mennonite, In.
Cedar Springs Amish Mennonite, Ky.
Fredonia Mennonite, Ky.
Owenton Amish Mennonite, Ky.
Summersville Mennonite, Ky.
Crowley’s Ridge Mennonite, Mo.
Ambassadors holds a separate biannual Ministers’ Fellowship Meetings and holds an annual area-wide youth Bible school with a host congregation.
Click here to read the Ambassadors Amish Mennonite Fellowship Constitution.
This is the most conservative of the subgroups. There is no formal structure knitting the congregations together other than an annual school meeting and their branch of the Conservative Anabaptist Service Program. Midwest Beachy is the most conservative of the Amish Mennonite groups; for example, they would use the German language in their services, and this is a defining trait of their group.
There are currently 6 churches with Midwest Beachy, including:
Casey Amish, Ky.
Hickory Amish Mennonite, Ky.
Carrier Mills Amish Mennonite, Il.
Claremont Amish Mennonite, Il.
Siloam Springs Amish Mennonite, Il.
Mennonite Christian Fellowship
The Mennonite Christian Fellowship churches, or just Fellowship churches, originated from several congregations separating from the Old Order Amish in the 1950s and 1960s. The congregations resembled the more conservative end of the Beachy Amish Mennonite constituency at that time. The two groups shared fellowship to the extent that these churches were incorporated into the Beachy affiliation. Some of the ordained men in these churches expressed concern about perceived worldly trends among the Beachys. In 1978, these churches started holding their own annual Minister’s Meetings. In 2007, the Fellowship churches had 1,415 members in 31 congregations (Mennonite Church Directory 2008).
Tampico Amish Mennonite
The Tampico Amish Mennonite constituency, also known as the "Sleeping Preacher" churches, have distinct differences that separate them from the general Amish Mennonite experience and history. This group adheres to the teachings of John Kauffman, an Amish Mennonite minister from the late 1800s who was known for preaching while sleeping or in a trance. This peculiar practice gained a following, but was rejected by the broader Amish Mennonite body. He started his own congregation with his followers. In 2006, there were 16 congregations with 1,509 members. Most congregations are in the Midwest, including Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois. The churches use German in services and hold to many conservative practices embraced by the Amish, but allow some modern conveniences, such as electricity and motor vehicles. The church does not hold Kauffman’s teaching on the same level as Scripture, but would feel Kauffman was a prophet for his time and did not contradict Scripture in his teachings. The Tampico Amish Mennonites are descended from the original Amish Mennonite movement of the late 1800s, not the Beachy Amish Mennonite movement.
To learn more, please feel welcome to download (pdf) and read a copy of “The Life, Preaching, and Labors of John D. Kauffman” (1916) including a biographical sketch and testimonies of his teaching.
Other Amish Mennonite Congregations
A number of other Amish Mennonite congregations exist in an independent, unaffiliated setting. Most identify themselves in name as conservative Mennonite and may hold fellowship with various Beachy or conservative Mennonite congregations.
Click chart to download PDF.
This chart shows many of the groups within the “Amish Mennonite” movement. At one point, Old Order Amish and Amish Mennonites were one, but parted ways in the late 1800s. This chart does not show movements among the Old Order Amish or the Mennonites. Chart by C.A.
Eighty years in God’s service: June 26, 1927 — 2007
Click chart to view larger JPEG.
This hierarchical chart shows the present day grouping of different Anabaptist groups. While far from exhaustive, it gives the viewer an idea of how all the different Anabaptist constituencies are nested within the four main Anabaptist movements and sub-movements. Chart by C.A.