You may have heard the term “Old Order Amish,” but had not known what it is. In this article, we are going to explore Old Order Amish in greater detail. You’ll find that this is an interesting topic not just for those interested in the Amish way of life, but also for those with an appreciation of history.
The Amish people are complex people with a diverse history and unique belief system and tradition that continues to this day. The notion that there is “one kind of Amish” is a wrong notion. The complexities of the Amish community are well represented by the Old Order Amish.
The Ethno-Religious Roots of Old Order Amish
The Old Order Amish are what is often referred to as an ethno-religious group. This term “ethno-religious” refers to the fact that the group has both a genetic and religious component. More famous examples of an ethno-religious group would be the Jews or French Protestant group the Huguenots who were inspired by the work of John Calvin. Individuals who consider themselves to be part of an ethno-religious group associate their identity with both their religion and their ancestral heritage. The Old Order Amish identification is thus a reference to both a religious identity and an ancestral one.
The Old Order Amish and the Separation from the Mennonites
When many outsiders think of the term “Amish,” they are thinking of the Old Order Amish. The Old Order Amish separated from the Mennonites in 1693. It is important to note that the Old Order Amish are the single largest group of the Amish. By 1990, there were Old Order Amish settlements in 20 states across the U.S. as well as one Canadian province.
Exploring the Complex History of Old Order Amish
The creation of the Old Order Amish is an interesting one with a complex and interesting history. In general, the Old Order Amish are viewed as being more conservative than other Amish groups. There were a series of conferences held between 1862 and 1878. These conferences served to create clearer guidelines between the more conservative Old Order Amish and other Amish groups.
Today, there are other Amish groups including the Bachy Amish, New Order Amish and Swartzentruber Amish. The uses of technology can differ considerably between these groups. For example the Swartzentruber group typically refrain from using virtually all technology. In general, the Old Order Amish refrain from most forms of technology and do not use indoor plumbing or any kind of machinery that has a motor.
In terms of doctrine, the Old Order Amish follow the Dutch Mennonite Confession of Faith, which was adopted in 1623. This doctrine involves the shunning of excommunicated members and a belief that salvation can only be hoped for and not guaranteed. Additionally, the majority of Old Order Amish do not build churches but instead worship in private homes. In terms of dress, Old Order Amish opt for very conservative clothing.
The Amish-A Large and Growing Membership
In terms of numbers, the Old Order Amish are growing quickly. 1990 membership numbers put Old Amish Order members at over 80,000 with close to 900 church districts. Old Order Amish can be found in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other locations throughout the United States and Canada. Many would assess the Nebraska Amish as being the most conservative group within Old Order Amish; this group lives mostly in Pennsylvania.
Like the Nebraska Amish, the Swartzentruber Amish are also very conservative. The Swartzentruber Amish speak Pennsylvanian German and often do not associate with or marry into other Old Amish groups.
The Old Order Amish differ considerably from the New Order Amish in several key ways. Some New Order Amish may use a limited amount of technology such as telephones or even electricity, which would never be condoned within the Old Order Amish. Additionally, the New Order Amish are often less strict in their implementation of the use of shunning.
The Amish Consist of Many Groups Spread Across the United States and Canada
Ultimately, there is much more variety within the Amish than many outsiders would initially believe. The idea that there is one kind of “Amish” is not supported by the facts in the end. Within the Amish community there is a great deal of variety in belief systems, actions and lifestyles. Moreover, of great surprise to many outsiders, is the fact that not all Amish groups associate with one another. Quite to the contrary, many Amish groups will avoid others. The idea that the Amish are easy to define and categorize is, in the end, actually quite false.
The complex history of the Amish and the way that the different groups have developed over the centuries serves to underscore just how diverse the Amish are both in belief systems and in ways of life. In the end, the commonalities that the Amish share, such as their restricted use of technology, are matched or even surpassed by their differences. The Old Order Amish take a highly conservative approach to Amish teachings, beliefs and the Amish way of life. Understanding the Amish entails understanding the Amish as not one group but many who have diverse beliefs that stretch across a complex belief spectrum.