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The Old Order Amish

by Royce Williamson

The Mennonites and the Amish rose up out of the Protestant Reformation and find their roots in a man named Conrad Grebel who left Romanism and established the first congregation in January of 1525, in Zurich, Switzerland. They did not hold to the doctrine of infant baptism, and re-baptized their members. Thus they were known as "Anabaptists" (Rebaptizers). In 1534, Obbe Philips organized the first Anabaptist congregation in Holland. Shortly thereafter a Catholic priest, Menno Simmons, was converted and quickly became a major leader in the church, and changed its name in about 1550. However, in Holland, to this day, they are called "Doopers" (equivalent to our English word "Baptists"). The Baptist church of today owes, at least in part, its own existence to the Anabaptists.

It was not until 1693, in a division over the meaning of I Corinthians 5:11 that the Amish church was born. Jacob Amman was Swiss born and believed that when a brother sinned he was to be put out of the fellowship and absolutely abstained from in every area of life until he repented. The Mennonites did not believe in the "absolute shunning" of the fallen brother.

This brings us to some of the teachings of The Old Order Amish.

First, let us deal with the Amish belief that we can have absolutely no contact with an erring brother. While church discipline is clearly taught in the Scriptures, the doctrine of absolute shunning is in sharp contradiction to other Bible teachings. Galatians 6:1 tells us, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." If I Corinthians 5:11 teaches absolute shunning, how can we restore the erring member? If the trespass committed by a brother is personal, we are told to first go to him, then if necessary take two or three with us, and if that does not work, take it before the church (Matthew 18:15-17). James 5:20 tells us that the personal contact with the sinner is what will convert him from the error of his ways.

Second, the Amish are "separationists." They believe that passages like Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 6:17 restricts their participation with the world in such a way as to not allow permanent ties to the outside world. They can have no electrical lines, telephone lines, water lines or natural gas lines leading into their homes, farms, or businesses. They are not allowed to own a motorized vehicle. But in recent years they have relaxed some of these restrictions. For example, a businessman can now have a telephone, but it must not be placed in the house. It must be put in a booth far enough away from the house so that it cannot be heard in the house when it rings. They establish specified times that someone calls pertinent to their business dealings. Additionally, they are allowed to have a non-Amish neighbor transport them in a car or truck in the case of an emergency. This is quite inconsistent with their separationist views. They cannot be tied to the world with modern conveniences, but they can use them when it suits their needs.

Nowhere are we told to adopt such a doctrine. In fact, we are told to go into all the world and teach the Gospel of Christ to lost souls. The mode of transportation is optional. Furthermore, in the Lord's prayer of John 17 we learn that Jesus realized that His people must live in the world, not out of it.

Third, their assemblies, leadership, and how they "ordain" their ministers do not meet scriptural standards. A congregation will have two preachers (nothing wrong with that), but only one deacon, and only one bishop (elder) who will direct two congregations. The Bible teaches of a plurality of elders, never one elder over a congregation. Add to this the fact that elders were to be appointed over only one congregation, not two (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). They also use Acts 1:26 and the casting of lots to decide who is to be appointed as their preachers. This was a divinely guided method used by the apostles to select Judas' replacement to the apostles number, not a local preacher.

Finally, we see a problem in their worship services. They only meet every other Sunday. The (one) bishop must attend the services. Since he is responsible for two congregations, he can-not be in two communities at once. However, as we know, the New Testament teaches that the disciples met on the first day of the week. Brethren, every week has a first day thus they also forgo the weekly participation in the Lord's Supper and contribution (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1-2).

While much of their lifestyle and many of their moral principles are to be admired, it is clear that the Amish are not what the Lord would have His church to be. Like many of the religious bodies, their values are good, but they do not pattern their worship of God after the New Testament. As with other man-made churches, their worship is vain because they teach the doctrines of men (Matthew 15:9).