Anabaptists

Discussion in 'Faith & Religion' started by Ken Anderson, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    I've mentioned from time to time that the type of Christianity that I identify with are the Anabaptists. Since not a lot of people know who the Anabaptists are, I thought I'd say a few things about Anabaptism.

    As the Bible was being translated into languages that laymen could understand, people began to study the Bible for themselves. This began the Protestant Reformation, but it began another movement at the same time, known as the Radical Reformation, although there are those who consider the Anabaptist movement to have been part of the Protestant Reformation.

    The Anabaptists began in Switzerland in 1525 when a group of people, who came to believe that infant baptism, as practiced by the Catholic Church, was not biblical. Coming to believe in the baptism of believers, they began to baptize each other in private homes.

    Today, of course, that wouldn't be a problem, but at that time it was a dangerous act of defiance. The group became known as "anabaptists," which also meant "rebaptizers," because they were baptizing people who had already been baptized as infants.

    Although many of the Anabaptists initially studied with the Protestants, they became impatient with the Protestant group, who mostly wanted to reform the Catholic Church in fairly minor ways, while the Anabaptists wanted a cleaner break with the Catholic traditions. They refused to baptize their babies, they raised questions about the Catholic mass, criticized the use of images, and questioned the morality of the Catholic leadership. Of course, they also argued that only those who had made a voluntary decision to follow Christ should be baptized, declaring infant baptism invalid.

    Although adult baptism was the issue that most publicly separated the Anabaptists from the Catholics and from the newly emerging Protestant groups, which originally continued the practice of infant baptism, a more significant issue had to do with authority.

    The Anabaptists insisted that the Bible was the sole authority for the church, and strongly disagreed with Catholic and Protestant practices of intermingling the church and state. This was an issue they felt strongly enough about that they were willing to be martyred.

    The reason this was so important was that baptisms were used in pretty much the way that we record citizenship today since both the Catholic and the newly formed Protestant churches were inseparable from the governments. There were Catholic countries and Protestant countries.

    Baptism granted citizenship, and gave the authorities the power to tax and to conscript its citizens into military service. The Anabaptists refused to baptize infants, swear oaths of allegiance to a government, and obey the established traditions.

    Anabaptists were declared heretics, and banned from many areas. They were forced to meet in secret for worship, and thousands of them were branded, drowned, burned, dismembered, and imprisoned.

    Nevertheless, just as Christianity had prospered during persecution in its early days, the Anabaptists spread throughout Europe, with wave after wave of persecution sending Anabaptists to different parts of the continent. Some Anabaptists found refuge in Moravia, Alsace, the Palatinate, the Netherlands and, later Poland, and eventually the United States and Canada.

    While the Protestants maintained an elite clergy, much the same as the Catholics, Anabaptist leaders were a mixture of former Catholic clergy, scholars, and peasants.

    Before their beliefs were rounded out, the Anabaptists included some who were drawn to mysticism and spiritualism, while others anticipated the return of Christ and the end of the world. Some were pacifists, while others were violent anarchists. The majority sought to follow the teachings of Christ in their daily lives, and to build a church made up of committed believers.

    By 1550, a second generation of Anabaptists began to solidify their views, and Anabaptist doctrine began to take shape. For the most part, the Anabaptists accepted the creeds of the Christian church. Like the Protestant reformers, they emphasized the authority of the Bible, salvation by grace through faith, and the priesthood of all believers. They differed from the Protestants in other ways.

    Early statements of faith included the following:
    • The authority of the New Testament for daily living.
    • Adult or believer’s baptism.
    • The power of the Holy Spirit.
    • Obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
    • The practical fruits of conversion in daily life.
    • The church as a covenant community.
    • A refusal to swear oaths.
    • The rejection of violence.
    • Separation of church and state.
    • Social separation from evil in society.
    • Exclusion of wayward members from communion.
    Today, Anabaptism holds three meanings.
    1. It refers to those who were baptized twice in the 1500s;
    2. It refers to the theological heritage that evolved from this early movement; and
    3. It refers to the members of contemporary churches that emerged from the Radical Reformation.
    More later.
     
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  2. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Like the Protestants before them, the Anabaptists eventually formed churches under different names, depending on where they were.

    In North America, Anabaptists fit into four general categories, each with its own history and several subgroups.

    1. Hutterite
    2. Mennonite
    3. Amish
    4. Brethren

    The Hutterites

    The Hutterites were the first to branch off of the larger Anabaptist movement, forming as an independent body in 1528. Persecuted by Catholics and Protestant church-states, Anabaptists fled to safe havens of tolerance in Moravia, in present-day Austria. Many of the groups who arrived there began sharing their material goods, as described in Acts.

    In the 1530s, Jacob Hutter became the leader of one of the communal groups, who eventually became known as the Hutterites. Hutter was captured in 1535 and burned alive.

    The early years of Hutterite history was filled with persecution and frequent migrations. More than two thousand Hutterites were killed as heretics while others were taken as slaves. They faced all sorts of tortures, including burning, branding, the removal of body parts, drowning, and starvation in dungeon prisons.

    In 1770, the bulk of the Hutterite body moved to Russia, then to the United States a century later. Facing ostracism for their refusal to participate in World War I and II, some Hutterites communities moved from the Dakotas to Canada during the early to mid-1900s.

    The Mennonites

    There were Anabaptists in several parts of Europe in the 1520s, including Switzerland, Moravia, South Germany, and Austria, North Germany and the Netherlands. Menno Simons, a former Dutch Catholic priest, converted to Anabaptism in 1536, and became an Anabaptist leader in the Netherlands and elsewhere. By 1542, there was a bounty on his head, but he was never arrested.

    By 1545, his followers were known as Mennonites. Eventually, Anabaptists in other parts of Europe became known as Mennists, Mennonists, and eventually Mennonites. They carried that name as they migrated to Prussia, Russia, and to North America.

    The Amish

    The Amish formed as an independent body in 1693, taking their name from Jakob Ammann, a Swiss Anabaptist leader. He fled to the Alsace region of what is now France in order to escape persecution.

    Ammann called for change, renewal, and greater purity in the church. Other Anabaptist leaders rejected many of his ideas, and the disagreements formed a wedge between Anabaptist factions in Switzerland and the Alsace. One of the more contentious issues was Ammann’s practice of banning or shunning members who did not follow the dictates of the church

    Finally, in 1693, Ammann’s followers, known as the Amish, refused to fellowship with the other Anabaptist groups, although lines of communication have remained open to some degree.

    The Brethren

    Alexander Mack was the leader of the first Brethren group, who were known as the German Baptist Brethren, Dunkers, or Dunkards, so named for their practice of baptizing by immersion.

    The German Baptist Brethren were formed in central Germany in 1708, about fifteen years after the Amish were formed. Several Brethren groups trace their origins back to the German Baptist Brethren, including the Grace Brethren, of which I was a member.

    Some of the groups that split from the early Brethren movement now identify more strongly with the Baptist movement, and consider themselves to be Protestant rather than Anabaptist.

    More later.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    The Hutterites

    Of the Hutterites who emigrated to North America in the 1870s, many abandoned communal living and joined various Mennonite groups. However, the three Hutterite colonies that retained communal living have grown to nearly five hundred today, although most of them have moved to Canada.

    Persecuted for being conscientious objectors during World War I, many Hutterites moved to Canada, where they were more or less welcomed, and about three-fourths of the Hutterite colonies in North America today are in Canada, while the others are primarily in South Dakota and Montana.

    There are four subgroups of Hutterites:
    1. Dariusleut;
    2. Lehrerleut; and
    3. two groups of Schmiedeleut.
    Hutterite colonies are largely agricultural, and separated from the larger society. Colony buildings are usually clustered like a small village on from five thousand to ten thousand acres of land, and are frequently hidden from major highways. They use mechanized farm equipment, and you would typically see huge tractors pulling modern equipment. Many Hutterite colonies operate businesses as well, but they are generally in rural areas.

    A Hutterite colony lives like an extended family. They eat meals together in a common dining hall, and they share laundry facilities, although each family has an apartment or dwelling area that includes a coffee room, living room, bathroom, and bedrooms. In some colonies, long barracks-like buildings encircle a large dining hall and church building.

    Typically, a family will have from five to six children. Most Hutterites speak an Austrian dialect called Hutterisch, and some also use a form of High German in sermons and religious writings, although young people learn English and attend school in colony schools that are operated by public school districts.

    Not every Hutterite colony is the same, but they tend to share three core values:
    1. Sharing of material goods;
    2. Surrendering self-will for communal harmony; and
    3. Separation from the world, to one extent or another.
    Communal property is what sets them apart from other Anabaptist groups. Many people who are unfamiliar with the Amish assume that Amish colonies are communal in nature, but they are not. Hutterite colonies are. Private property is looked upon as selfishness, greed, and vanity. The Hutterites seek to pattern themselves after the first apostolic church, as in Acts 2:44-45: "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."

    Apart from a few personal items, such as clothes, some knickknacks, dishes and books, individual Hutterites or Hutterite families have no real property. Everyone works hard, and they do it without pay. A family might have some personal belongings, and a few pieces of furniture, but larger household items are colony property, and subject to be requisitioned if needed. At baptism, Hutterites relinquish all claim to personal property, and those who decide to leave colony life are allowed to take only a few clothes and family items with them.
     
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  4. Babs Hunt

    Babs Hunt Veteran Member
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    In all you have shared Ken I found the Hutterite colonies to be living the most like the New Testament Church described in Acts.

    And now I have a few questions.

    Do the Anabaptists study a certain version of the Bible? Do they believe in Bible Prophecy? And do they celebrate Christmas and the other Holidays? I also would like to know if they believe the gifts talked about in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 were just for the New Testament times or for today too?
     
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  5. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    There are differences. The Hutterites celebrate Ascension Day with special church services held about forty days after the Resurrection. They celebrate Pentecostal holidays, lasting three days beginning on Sunday, and they celebrate a 2nd Pentecostal Holiday, which continues from the first, commemorating the importance of the Holy Spirit having come upon the apostles at Pentecost. They celebrate Christmas on December 25, and what they call 2nd Christmas through through the 27th, and there is a communal giving of gifts involved in 2nd Christmas, while Christmas itself is devoted to God.

    Amish holidays differ from colony to colony. Most Amish colonies celebrate Christmas, Easter and Good Friday, as well as 2nd Christmas on December 26, Pentecost, and Ascension Day, although not all colonies celebrate Pentecost, Easter or 2nd Christmas.

    The Amish do not usually have a special church service on Easter Sunday or on Christmas, but will cover the appropriate parts of Scripture during the Sunday service closest to these days.

    The Amish exchange gifts on Christmas but they do not put up a tree or teach their children about Santa Claus. However, some Amish colonies do color eggs on Easter.

    Neither the Hutterites or the Amish generally celebrate public holidays, but some Amish recognize Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, and some Amish colonies go out to view fireworks on the 4th of July. They do not observe Halloween, although un-carved decorative pumpkins may be put out during the autumn months.

    Most of the mainstream Mennonite or Brethren groups will observe the same holidays that are observed by Catholics and Protestants, albeit perhaps with a greater emphasis on the spiritual aspects.

    Typically, the Amish use the German Martin Luther version of the Bible in church readings, although they use a King James Version for home readings. Some Amish colonies use other English versions, as well.

    Most people have the idea that the Amish speak High German, which his what they use during church services. This may be true in some of the older Pennsylvania colonies.

    However, the Amish speak English amongst themselves and, at least in the groups that I am familiar with, they do so without any particular accent.

    I'll speak more about the Amish later, as I am more familiar with them than I am the Hutterites.

    With many of the Mennonite and Brethren groups, particularly the assimilated Mennonites, a Baptist could probably attend several services before he realized that they were significantly different than their own denomination. Of course, they are more closely related to the Baptists than to any of the other Protestant denominations. When it comes to topics such as the assurance of salvation, and salvation by faith alone, you'll find some differences, at least in interpretation.
     
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  6. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    The Mennonites

    The Mennonites are the largest Anabaptist grouping. Some Amish consider themselves to be Mennonites, but most view themselves as being an Anabaptist, but not a Mennonite, denomination.

    There are more than sixty denominations in North America that fall under the Mennonite heading, and there are sharp differences between some of them.

    For one thing, some Mennonites have a Swiss/South German heritage, while others come from Dutch/North German stock, and many of the latter group came to North America from Prussia and Russia.

    Since many Mennonite denominations are evangelistic, there are Asian, Hispanic, and African-American Mennonite churches, some of which are worshipping in different languages.

    Generally speaking, the Mennonites fall under three clusters: Old Order, conservative, and assimilated, based largely on the degree in which they are separated from the larger society.

    Like the Amish and Hutterites, Old Order Mennonites reject higher education, are selective in their use of technology, and practice a rural, separatist lifestyle. Typically, they do not have Sunday Schools, evening services, revival meetings, or evangelistic programs. Also like the Amish, some Old Order Mennonite groups use High German for church services, but others speak only English. Old Order Mennonites can be sorted into two basic groups: those who drive automobiles and those who travel by horse and buggy. Some Old Order groups are very much like the Amish, except the they do not practice shunning. Old Order Mennonites account for only about ten percent of Mennonites.

    Conservative Mennonites are something between the Old Order and the assimilated Mennonites. They are largely rural, although many conservative Mennonites are no longer engaged in agriculture. They do tend to dress plainly, like the Amish, but probably not uniformly. They ordain lay ministers, and they emphasize separation from the world. They also tend to hold to traditional beliefs and practices, but have fewer restrictions on the use of technology, particularly for business or agricultural purposes. They homes usually have electricity and telephones, but they are not likely to have televisions or computers, although computers may be used in their business. Conservative Mennonites tend to avoid higher education, professional occupations, and participation in politics, and they will excommunicate wayward members who do not repent.

    Both Old Order and conservative Mennonites oppose divorce, as well as the ordination of women, practices that have become acceptable among some of the assimilated groups.

    The assimilated Mennonites make up about two-thirds of those who identify as Mennonites. They are likely to accept technology, in the home as well as in their work. Higher education is acceptable and, in fact, several assimilated Mennonite denominations operate colleges and universities. They are likely to have adopted contemporary values, as well, embracing mainstream cultural practices in dress, diversity, gender roles, theological education, and involvement in politics. The three largest assimilated Mennonite groups are the Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, and the Canadian Conference Mennonite Brethren Churches, although there are several smaller denominations as well.

    The Mennonite Brethren emigrated to North American from Russia, establishing congregations in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas in the 1870s. Many also settled in Canada, which now claims more than half of their body, particularly British Columbia. A higher percentage of Canadian Mennonites live in large cities than in the United States, where they still tend to be more rural, and they are more likely to be involved in politics.

    The Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada formed in 2002, after a realignment of several Mennonite groups.

    There is a large amount of diversity among Mennonite groups, in language as well as in practices. Some congregations have informal worship services, while others are more liturgical. Some are charismatic, while others are more traditional.
     
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  7. Babs Hunt

    Babs Hunt Veteran Member
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    Would you share with us @Ken Anderson what group you identify (I hope I'm using the right word here) yourself with and what beliefs you share with and differ in?
     
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  8. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    I haven't covered them in any detail yet, but the Grace Brethren Church was the one that I was a member of, and would be yet if we had any near me, However, there are probably several other Anabaptist churches that I could easily agree with. The Grace Brethren Church was perhaps a bit too liberal, and has probably gotten more so since I last attended a Grace Brethren Church. I know there was a split over the issue of gay marriage which I wouldn't have thought would have even come up for discussion in the Grace Brethren Church.
     
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  9. Babs Hunt

    Babs Hunt Veteran Member
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    Ken, your knowledge and gift of verbally expressing it....is a blessing to all of us. Looking forward to hearing the rest of your sharing here.
     
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  10. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    The Amish

    Contrary to common opinion, and unlike the Hutterites, the Amish do own private property. Because a good work ethic is a strong part of Amish life, and because they live frugally, many Amish families are quite wealthy. One Amish man that I was acquainted with left the Amish community for a while, and was surprised to find that he had well over a million dollars in the bank. He made furniture for a living and, because he owned his home, his land, and his workshop, grew or raised most of what his family ate, and had no need for a lot of things, he banked everything he sold.

    He has since rejoined the Amish community. He had left after a long period of being shunned. He was shunned because he had read a book that led to him questioning the doctrine of the Trinity. When a member of the Amish church is shunned, his own family is not allowed to speak to him or to eat at the same table. So they would set a second table up in line with the family dining table, with a space of a couple of inches between the two, and he would eat alone at one table, while the rest of his family ate at the other. He would sometimes have to remind his younger children of this. When he decided to leave the Amish church, his family did not follow him. Upon repenting, all is forgiven.

    The Amish live alongside non-Amish neighbors, usually in rural villages or on farms. There are Amish colonies in at least twenty-five states, mostly east of the Mississippi, and in Ontario, but nearly two-thirds of the Amish are in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Here in Maine, we have one Amish colony in Smyrna, not far from here. Another is developing further north, near Fort Fairfield, and some Amish families have bought land near Patten, which is even closer to Millinocket. I don't know if the Amish in Fort Fairfield or Patten have a church yet, as these colonies are still very small. There is also a colony of Beachy Amish west of here, but I don't know exactly where they are.

    Although there are great differences between Amish colonies, typically the Amish assemble together for church services only every other Sunday. During alternate Sundays, they meet in homes, usually with extended family participating together. Many, perhaps most, Amish colonies do not have an established church building, but meet solely in homes. Amish services are conducted in High German, with many colonies conducting one service a month in English for interested individuals from outside of the Amish community.

    Contrary to television programs to the contrary, the Amish have been steadily increasing in numbers, perhaps in large part due to their large families. My friend, for example, has ten children. While some children leave the Amish colony prior to becoming a member, most return after a period of time living outside of the community.

    There are four types of Amish:
    1. Old Order Amish
    2. New Order Amish
    3. Beachy Amish
    4. Amish Mennonites
    Each of these have their own subgroups. The Old Order Amish make up about 85% of the Amish. Both the Old Order Amish and New Order Amish use horse-and-buggy transportation, while the Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites drive cars, use public electricity, worship in meetinghouses, engage in evangelism, and wear less distinctive clothing, although the Beachy Amish near us dress much like the Old Order Amish, but they drive cars.

    Beards, bonnets, and buggies symbolize the differences between many of the Amish groups and the rest of society, but there are ten practices that are common to most New and Old Order Amish colonies:
    1. Horse-and-buggy transportation;
    2. Use of horses and mules for fieldwork;
    3. Plain dress in many variations;
    4. Beards, but not a mustache, for men;
    5. A prayer cap for women;
    6. German or Swiss dialect;
    7. Worship in homes;
    8. Formal education through the eighth grade only;
    9. Rejection of electricity through public utilities; and
    10. No use of televisions and computers.
    There are exceptions, however. Some Old Order Amish, including the Smyrna colony, use tractors for agriculture but leave them in the field when the work is done, the idea being that riding back to the house on a tractor is a luxury and a convenience. They use electricity to power tools in their work, but only that which is powered by a generator, and they do not use electricity in their home. Given the heavy concentrations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, the Old Order Amish there may well have retained a German or Swiss dialect, but the Amish that I have been familiar with, in Michigan and Maine, speak English primarily, and without a notable accent and, while they use High German during church services, their use of it is a bit like the Catholic Church using Latin despite the fact that most of their parishioners didn't understand it well, or at all.

    To a large part, the more conservative the group, the longer the beard, the wider the hat brim, the darker the color of clothing, the larger the head covering for women, the slower the singing, the longer the sermons, the greater use of a Swiss or German dialect, and the more traditional the use of technology.

    My friend joked once that, while the sole reason for Amish dress is to live simply, it's not always so simple. He said that his jacket was wearing out so if he continued wearing it to church services, people would say that he wasn't showing the proper respect, but if he bought a new one, they'd think he was putting on airs. He also mentioned that his wife and daughters will spend forty-five minutes ironing their bonnets before they go out anywhere.

    There are large differences between Amish colonies. One colony split over the use of orange reflective triangles on their buggies. One part of the colony wanted to use them after a buggy was struck by a car at night, while another large segment of the colony considered the bright color to be contrary to the ordinances of the church. Some have agreed to use milking machines after being required to do so in order to sell milk on the market, while others have refused. As I mentioned, some will use tractors while others use only horses. Even in the Smyrna colony, which allows the use of tractors, many of the Amish continue to use horses to pull agricultural equipment. Some groups prohibit indoor bathrooms, but others do not. Most Amish groups will have a prescribed color for clothing and buggy colors, although some allow individuals a few options. Many Amish groups do not allow zippers, using buttons instead, while other forbid the use of buttons. Gas refrigerators are used in some Amish colonies, but not others.

    These ordinances are not, as some people outside of the community believe, matters that the Amish consider to be salvational. The purpose is to live simply and to avoid vanity and commercialism. The idea is similar to arguments used for using uniforms in schools, so that the rich and the poor are on the same footing, and no families or individuals are struggling to be better than their neighbors. Local congregations set their own rules. Not everyone agrees, and some will laugh about some of the rules that they have, but usually they are not worth fighting over.

    In many colonies, most of the members work in Amish-owned shops and industries, with a large emphasis on entrepreneurship. Unlike the competitiveness that is seen in the larger society, the Amish do not appear to compete with one another, and I believe that to be genuine, and not a pretense. Two families might own separate furniture-making businesses for example, and if one gets a large order that he is having trouble meeting, it is not at all unusual for the other family to put some of his sons to work helping the other fulfill the order, and without any talk of compensation.

    Although the Amish own their own businesses and property, they elevate the welfare of their neighbors, and this often includes non-Amish neighbors, over their own interests. It is not at all unusual, when someone living near an Amish colony suffers a loss, for the Amish to come together and make them whole again, if that is needed.

    The Amish are also expected to yield to the wisdom of the church over individual choice. Humility, modesty, and obedience are central to their core. Pride is considered to be a major sin, as it is one that can disturb the harmony of the entire community. For this reason, most if not all, of the Amish do not have themselves photographed or keep photos in their home. They do not, however, believe that a camera will steal their soul. Generally, they would rather not be photographed by people outside of the community, but neither are they likely to raise that objection.

    The Amish emphasize separation from the world, and they take care to avoid the practices and values of modern society, this being the larger reason for their prohibition of technologies, particularly the Internet and television. While they are usually friendly with the people around them, and those they might come into contact with, they aren't likely to make close friends outside of the Amish community, or to visit with people who are not Amish.

    Old Order and New Order Amish are organized geographically into church districts, using geographical boundaries such as roads, streams, ridges, and other boundary markers. In areas where there are several Amish churches, Amish families are not allowed to choose which church to attend, as that would be considered putting themselves above the church. Most Amish limit the size of church districts to twenty or thirty families, after which they divide.

    As mentioned, worship services are every other Sunday. Some Amish colonies have defined buildings for the use of a church but, more commonly, they will meet in farmhouses, basements, shops, or barns. When they have buildings that are set aside for a church, they are not marked, and are seldom located along a well-traveled road. Services are about three hours long, and include congregational singing, prayer, and two sermons, usually followed by a modest meal and visitation. They do not use musical instruments.

    Ministers are chosen by election and while no one would ever campaign for the position, a nominating committee will submit a list of names, from which the congregation will elect a minister, who will then serve for life. There are no educational requirements involved, as the Amish don't attend formal school beyond the eighth grade, but ministers will learn on the job, for which there is no payment.

    While the Amish do not attend school beyond the eighth grade, this does not mean that they do not value education. Schools are taught by public school teachers. In some colonies, the Amish attend a regular public school. In most, a district-approved teacher is hired to teach in a building that has been set aside as a schoolhouse within the community. Correctly, I think, they view education beyond the eighth grade to be as much indoctrination as it is education, and it is indoctrination in many of the things that Amish life is designed to avoid. Plus, earning a degree would lead to vanity and pride.

    As within the general society, there are differences between individuals, but many of the Amish do read voraciously, although they have to careful about what they are reading, as my friend learned.

    The Amish tend to have a lot of children, typically between seven and twelve, so an Amish person is likely to have seventy-five to a hundred first cousins, and grandparents might have more than fifty grandchildren. Although the church does not dictate the disposition of an individual's home, typically a home business will be passed on to the oldest child, or split between the children, when someone grows old, and retired Amish will pass their home on to their oldest child, who will build an apartment for his parents, who will continue to help run the business and household as they are able. It is not unusual to have several generations living in the same proximity.

    Usually, the Amish are baptized between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two, later than in most Anabaptist churches. More than eighty-five percent of Amish children will join the church. Those who accept baptism, but later break their vows to the church, will face excommunication and shunning, but those who choose not to join the church are not shunned. Many of those who choose not to join when they might be expected to will join the church, and rejoin the community, at a later date. Those who are excommunicated or shunned will generally be gladly accepted back into the church if they repent.

    I don't know as much about the Beachy Amish as I do about the Old Order Amish. Unlike the Old Order or New Order Amish, they consider themselves to be Mennonites.

    They hold to religious beliefs that are similar to the Old Order Amish, including foot washing and non-resistance. Like the Amish, they are organized by congregations rather than by conference, giving more autonomy to the local church. Like the Old Order Amish, they wear plain clothing, including head coverings and plain dress for women and beards for men, although they may dress differently than the Old Order Amish. Although the Beachy Amish are more likely to complete high school, they tend to limit their formal education to either the eighth grade or to the high school level.

    The Beachy Amish accept a higher degree of technology than the New Order or Old Order Amish, including cars, electricity, and telephones, but they do tend to limit television, computer and Internet usage.

    The Beachy Amish are more likely to worship in church buildings than in homes. They are also more mission-minded and, unlike the Old Order Amish, they hold Sunday Schools and other forms of formal Bible study.

    The Beachy Amish split from the Old Order Amish in 1927 over the issue of strict shunning, then gradually made other changes to their dictates.

    Despite the names, which seem to imply positions on opposite ends of the scale, the differences between the Old Order and the New Order Amish are not great.

    Both require plain dress, although some New Order communities allow more use of color, although not by individual choice. The New Order Amish are more likely than Old Order Amish to allow the use of tractors and telephones but, for the most part, the New Order Amish hold to the same restrictions on the use of technology as the Old Order Amish.

    The New Order Amish are more mission-minded than the Old Order Amish, with some colonies doing outreach outside of their own community. They generally have shorter beards and hair.

    The New Order Amish hold to a belief in the assurance of salvation, while the Old Order Amish hold to the hope of salvation, to be worked out with fear and trembling.

    Interestingly, the New Order Amish are stricter than the Old Order Amish about prohibiting the use of tobacco or alcohol among their youth. While no families would encourage substance abuse in their children, the Old Order Amish believe that an individual cannot be held to the dictates of the church until they are baptized and become a member. So, while an Old Order family might hold to such prohibitions within the home, the church does not get involved unless the person is a baptized member of the church.

    New Order Amish may travel by plane, unlike the Old Order Amish.

    While the Old Order and New Order Amish do not drive or own cars, they do accept rides from people outside of the community, for which they will generally insists on paying. That's how I came to know several of the Amish in Smyrna. Typically, there are Mennonite families living in proximity to an Amish community, who will accept employment driving the Amish. They might also call cabs, but only if they need to go somewhere that is too far for them to reasonably walk or go to by bicycle or buggy. The New Order Amish are likely to have more elaborate buggies, with rubber tires, brighter colors, decorative molding, and safety illumination.

    The New Order Amish have Sunday Schools and formal Bible studies, while the Old Order Amish generally do not, although they may do so within families.

    Fewer New Order Amish choose to join the church than among Old Order Amish communities after becoming adults.

    The New Order Amish emerged from the Old Order Amish in the 1960s, largely over the practice of Rumpspringa, in which Old Order Amish youth are allowed a fling prior to joining the church. Some Old Order Amish even encourage young men and women to sleep together (but without sex) prior to a proposal of marriage.

    Those who objected to these practices and wanted stronger discipline among their youth broke away from the Old Order Amish to form the New Order Amish.
     
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  11. Babs Hunt

    Babs Hunt Veteran Member
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    I have read many books on the Amish and after reading what you posted I can see that most of the books I read were accurate in their portrayal of Amish life. In some of the books the young people were given a time to go out into the world and try it out before they made their decision to join the Church. I can't remember what word they used for this time period now but my question is this a part of Amish tradition and if it is what is it called? What are the courtship and marriage customs for the Amish?
     
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  12. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    The Brethren

    There are a couple of dozen Brethren groups, but the four largest are:
    • Church of the Brethren
    • Grace Brethren Churches
    • Brethren in Christ
    • Brethren Church
    Most Brethren groups baptize by immersion and celebrate what they refer to as the Love Feast, which is a worship service that includes foot washing, a liturgical meal, and the sharing of the bread and the cup of holy communion, which is intended to commemorate the elements of the Last Supper. Some Brethren groups have dropped the foot washing under the premise that it makes recruitment difficult, given that people from outside the church consider that to be weird. In reality, I have never known anyone to attend the Love Feast without ensuring that he or she was doing so with dirty feet, and it's mostly symbolic.

    I have been a member of three Grace Brethren Churches, and a youth pastor for one. The practice there was to avoid allowing the Love Feast to become as ritualistic as communion has become in most churches. Therefore, the meals varied greatly. Sometimes it would be a full elaborate meal, while at other times it would consist of light sandwiches, and the order of the service differed from time to time.

    Most Brethren Churches do not wear plain dress, but dress the same as everyone else in society, albeit with some attention to modesty. The largest plain-dressing Brethren Church group is the Old German Baptist Brethren, which preserves many of the historic Brethren worship practices, including beards for men in the congregation. There are only about fifty Old German Baptist Brethren congregations, and their members do own cars, use electricity, and are employed in any number of industries. An even smaller group, the Dunkard Brethren, also dresses plainly in order to set themselves apart from the world.

    The largest Brethren group is the Church of the Brethren, with congregations in thirty-nine states, but mostly in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. The doctrines are set by a denominational conference. The values of the Church of the Brethren include an emphasis on discipleship, simplicity in life, peacemaking, and the church as community. Members of the Church of the Brethren are encouraged to become conscientious objectors when it comes to war, but I do not believe that they excommunicate members who enlist in the armed services. Like other Anabaptist groups, they will also discourage members from occupations that may involve violence, such as law enforcement.

    The Grace Brethren Church has congregations in thirty-nine states, and British Columbia and Ontario, as well as in other countries, but alas, none in Maine. Looking at the Covenant and Statement of Faith for the Grace Brethren Church, it seems to have changed somewhat since I last attended a GBC church, but this may have to do with the autonomy of each congregation. I see nothing there to discourage service in the military or law enforcement yet, while I was a member, these were discouraged although not prohibited. Baptism in the Grace Brethren Church is by full immersion, three times, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and, although most GBC churches will have a baptistry for use during bad weather, baptisms are usually performed in public, at a river, lake or pond. The Grace Brethren Church holds to a three-fold communion, which includes the foot washing, meal, and the bread and cup, which is done as a part of the meal.

    The Brethren in Christ blends features from Mennonite and Anabaptist traditions, as well as a pietist heritage gained from an association with the Wesleyan holiness movement. First known as the River Brethren, they are concentrated in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, California, and Ontario. There is also a much smaller Old Order River Brethren, which continues the practice of plain clothing and beards for men.

    The Brethren Church is also known as the Ashland Brethren, as they are headquartered in Ashland, Ohio. They have congregations in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I don't know very much about them, but I don't see a lot of differences between them and the Grace Brethren Church. They do hold that salvation is a process rather than the result of a one-time decision that leads to an assurance of salvation, which is typical of all Anabaptist churches that I am aware of. Like the GBC, their communion services include the foot washing, a meal, and the bread and the cup.

    One significant difference between the Brethren Church and the Grace Brethren Church is that they have retained the principles of non-violence, non-conformity, and a refusal to swear oaths, which were once standard Anabaptist doctrine.

    I could easily fellowship with any of the Brethren churches and most of the Mennonite churches. While I don't feel the need to dress strangely, I can understand why many Anabaptist churches have chosen to do so, and find much to admire about the Amish.

    I don't know about foregoing the use of technology however, as administering this forum would prove difficult.
     
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  13. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    That is called Rumspringa. The idea behind it is that the Old Order Amish church does not believe that it has the authority to mandate rules for adults who are not members of the church, and they consider a person to be an adult at sixteen. Although much is made of it by the television media, largely for entertainment purposes, it is not that Amish people approve of its young people drinking or doing drugs. It is only that the church limits its authority to those who are members and someone growing up in the Amish community is not a member of the church until he or she has reached the age of sixteen and has been baptized.

    That doesn't mean that parents approve or even that most children growing up in the Amish community would defy their parents with such behavior. There is a belief among many that before someone can truly commit to a lifetime of authority by the church, they sometimes have to get an idea of what life is like outside of the church. Although some certainly do go to extremes, more typical would be for a young person to learn to drive, maybe try smoking a cigarette, go to the movies, or live outside of the church long enough to have an idea of what other people are like.

    Although someone can choose to live outside of the church for many years, and be welcome to be baptized later, while they are in their twenties or thirties, and some do, most are anxious to begin life as an Amish adult. I'm sure that there is also the fact that all the pretty girls and handsome guys will be taken if they stay away for long, or that their parents' home or business might be divided up among those children who have been baptized within the church.

    During Rumspringa, most Amish youth remain at home and attend church, where they are subject to community and parental influences. Parents do not encourage them to break the rules. Drinking and doing drugs are an exception to the rule, and would be frowned upon, the only difference being that it would not prevent them from later being baptized, at which time they would fall under the ordinances of the church.

    Typically, Rumspringa is a time when Amish teenagers form youth groups that generally meet during weekends, usually without adult supervision, for singing, games, and talking. Where there are more than one Amish colonies within buggy distance, this will often include young people from different colonies. This is the time when many Amish youth choose those who they will later marry. Raised in an Amish community, kids are kept busy from morning to night, six days a week, while Sundays are spent either in church or in fellowship with extended families. In church, the men and boys are on one side of the room, while the women and girls are on the other, so Amish kids aren't generally familiar with kids of the opposite sex, other than by sight and, although Amish families are large, there are only 20-30 families in a church district, so they may have to look to another church district for a mate. No one in the Amish community wants to grow up single.

    It is fairly common for Amish teens to get drivers licenses and even buy cars, which they are generally allowed to park at their parent's home, but parents are not required to allow that. They may outfit their buggies with stereo systems and play secular music, often very loudly, and I saw a couple of Amish kids racing their buggies down the road one day.

    An Amish kid who gets too wild during Rumspringa might not be considered a good choice when it came to choosing a mate.

    Some Old Order Amish allow those who are considering marriage to spend the night in the same bed, often wrapped up in clothing to prevent sexual occurrences, but I don't think this is a widespread practice. That too, is something that is made more of by those who are more interested in making light of the Amish.
     
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  14. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Lest you get the idea that it is an altogether stark existence, I should mention that Amish kids and adults get plenty of time to play, but it's often while they are at work, during lunch breaks, or after work. Play is certainly allowed on Sunday, but that day is usually spent with extended family. The idea I get is that a sense of humor is encouraged and they seem to be enjoying themselves even while they are working very hard. I've met with the acting bishop of the Amish church in Smyrna several times, at his house, and he has a very sharp sense of humor, although a subtle one. Sometimes, I wouldn't realize until later that he was telling a joke, as it might be told with a serious tone.

    He had children of all ages, and none of them appeared to be in the least bit afraid of him, although they surely respected him. At one point, he was laughing while watching his younger kids in the garden. "Look at her," he said, pointing to his five year-old daughter. "She's supposed to be weeding the garden, but she's spending more time watching the butterflies." After a pause, he said, "Well, I guess someone has to watch the butterflies. Who knows what they might get away with otherwise."
     
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  15. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Common Anabaptist Beliefs

    There are some things that most Anabaptists have in common, although many Protestant churches embrace them as well.

    The Authority of the New Testament -- Anabaptists believe that Jesus was the authoritative key to the interpretation of all Scripture. Like other Christians, Anabaptists do read the Old Testament as well, but they appeal to the words of Christ for revelation, and give greater relevance to the New Testament, and greater still to the words of Christ. While several Anabaptist groups use various confessions of faith, they grant them less authority than the New Testament, and some say that they have no creed other than the New Testament. That's not so different than many Protestant denominations.

    Discipleship -- Anabaptists believe that nothing here on earth is of greater importance than following Christ, including country, family, and personal interests. Anabaptists tend to focus more on practice than words, considering it more important to live a Christian life and to witness through example than to evangelize, although some Anabaptist groups are evangelistic. Rather than resting on the assurance of salvation as a result of one central born-again experience, they focus on obedience. It is one thing to experience a conviction to ask Christ into your life, but are you willing also to do what He says, and to follow Him in practical ways? Can you love your enemies? Can you forgive? Can you serve the needy regardless of the social consequences? Discipleship means following the teachings and example of Christ in daily life.

    Jesus is Lord -- Anabaptists place their allegiance to Jesus Christ over their loyalty to national governments and political bodies, emphasizing the global nature of living a Christian life here on earth, and focusing on the eternal life that is to come, believing that a Christian is a citizen of heaven, not of any government here on earth. For this reason, many Anabaptist groups are reluctant to swear allegiance to a government or promote a patriotic religion that mixes God and country. Anabaptist groups are often unwilling to fly national flags in their churches and private schools, and would never follow the federal code of flying the national flag above that of a Christian flag, if such were used, as the symbolism is contrary to Anabaptist conviction. Many Anabaptist groups discourage voting or holding public office.

    Believer's Baptism -- Genuine conversion for the Anabaptist means a voluntary, adult decision to follow Jesus with the full awareness that this includes doing what He says. Conversion is not to be imposed or coerced, but is the result of a voluntary decision by adults who have been touched by God's grace, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, repent of their sins and vow to live a life that is free from sin, through the fruits of the Spirit. Adult baptism opens the door to full participation as a member of the church. I should qualify that this does not imply that Anabaptists necessarily believe that following conversion, they will never again sin, but they do believe that this is possible, as Jesus wouldn't tell someone to go and sin no more, if this were an impossibility. For this reason, Anabaptists do not hold to an assurance of salvation on the basis of conversion, but that they should work out their salvation throughout their life, with the hope of salvation.

    Distinction of the Church -- To varying degrees, Anabaptists believe that their lives should set the Christian apart from the non-Christian in ways that are visible to the observer. For some Anabaptists, this is met by a partial withdrawal from society, with an emphasis on separation from the world through location, distinctive dress, and social restrictions. Others may seek to transform the larger society through missionary programs, community service, social justice, education, and the arts. Also to varying degrees, Anabaptists believe that the church should be accountable to one another every day, and not just for an hour or two on Sunday.

    Nonviolence -- Although this has been deemphasized in some Anabaptist congregations in recent years, traditional Anabaptist teachings involved practicing nonviolence in all aspects of human life. Traditionally, Mennonites, Brethren, and Friends (Quakers) were known as the the historic peace churches. Following Jesus' instructions to love your enemies and his example of not resisting evildoers, many Anabaptists rejected all use of force and violence in human relations, refusing to serve in the military and refusing to defend themselves against harm. Most Anabaptist groups agree with the value of peacemaking, in practice there are many differences. For some, this is central to their faith, while to others it is peripheral. For some, peacemaking is practiced through quiet nonresistance to evil, leading to social withdrawal. For others, it means actively challenging violence through peaceful means, such as taking part in protests against war or capital punishment, activities that other Anabaptist groups would reject as involvement in politics. Some Anabaptist groups will excommunicate members who serve in the military, while others discourage military service but do not discipline members who serve, and others consider it to be a matter of individual conscience, and a few Anabaptist churches rarely speak of it.

    Many Anabaptists will not take anyone to court, citing three reasons: 1) this would represent involvement in government; 2) the power of the court lies in the threat of violence; and 3) nothing in this world is worth taking anyone to court over.
     
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  16. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Bruderhof / Church Communities International

    Another Anabaptist group that I have some familiarity with are the Bruderhof, who currently go by the name of Church Communities International. Before they were known as the Bruderhof, they were called the Society of Brothers.

    Loosely affiliated with the Hutterites, the Bruderhof also live in community, sharing everything in common. There are Bruderhof communities in New York, Florida, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, as well as in the United Kingdom, Germany, Paraguay, and Australia.

    The Bruderhof were founded in Germany by Eberhard Arnold in 1920. Arnold had once studied with the Hutterites, but had not joined a Hutterite community until after he had formed the Bruderhof. He traveled from Germany to the United States in 1930, after learning that there were Hutterite communities still in existence in North America. While there, he was ordained as a Hutterite minister, and then moved back to his community in Germany, which were then considered to be Hutterite.

    When Hitler came to power in Germany, Arnold moved his group to Liechtenstein in 1934, largely due to their refusal to serve in the armed forces or accept Nazi teachers. There, they became the Alm Bruderhof. As Germany’s influence grew, continued pressure from the Nazis caused some of his group to move to England, forming the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1936.

    In 1937, the German secret police confiscated the property of the Bruderhof in Liechtenstein and gave the Bruderhof members forty-eight hours to leave the country.

    They reassembled in England, where the group grew to be over three hundred and fifty, many of them young English men who were seeking an alternative to serving in the armed forces.

    The German heritage of the Bruderhof and their resistance to join in a war against Germany unsurprisingly led to some problems with the English authorities. Faced with internment, the Bruderhof chose to move again, emigrating to Paraguay, where they still have a presence. This move was assisted by the Mennonite Central Committee.

    They were well received in Paraguay, in large part because they founded a hospital and medical clinics that served the larger community.

    In 1954, the Woodcrest Bruderhof was formed near Rifton, New York, and hundreds of new members joined, including people from other communal groups across the country. New communities were formed in Pennsylvania in 1957, and Connecticut in 1958. By 1962, most of the Bruderhof had moved from Paraguay to the United States and England, leaving a much smaller community behind in Paraguay.

    At that point, descendants of Eberhard Arnold took control over the group, abandoning its established leadership selection process, which created a rift among the membership, and several members left the Bruderhof, either voluntarily or were excommunicated, while the group left behind in Paraguay was abandoned with very few resources. There were also accusations of child molestation and other improprieties.

    The Forest River colony of Schmiedeleut Hutterites in North Dakota invited Bruderhof members to join them, and several of them did, resulting in turmoil among the Hutterites in that colony. In 1955, the Schmiedeleut excluded the Bruderhof and placed the Forest River colony under probation.

    In 1973, the Bruderhof leadership apologized for the problems among the Forest River colony and were reunited with the Hutterian Church. But, in 1990, the more conservative Dariusleut and Lehrerleut Hutterites excommunicated the Bruderhof, and refused to recognize them as Hutterites due to practices that did not conform to the Hutterite order, including sending their children to public schools, using musical instruments, and participating in peace protests.

    In 2002, the Bruderhof purchased a home in the part of Germany where the movement had started, and it is now one of two Bruderhof houses in Germany.

    That’s the history. The Bruderhof was founded on religious principles that were in line with Anabaptist beliefs and practices. Its faith was founded on a faith in Jesus Christ, especially His command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” the Sermon on the Mount, and New Testament teachings on nonviolence, faithfulness in marriage, and compassion for the poor. Like the Hutterites, one of the principles of the Bruderhof was to follow the practices of the first church in Jerusalem as recorded in the Acts, whose members were of one heart and mind, and shared all things in common.

    The Bruderhof is also a peace church, whose members do not serve in the armed forces of any country.

    Along with a small group of friends, including an acquaintance who had been raised in a Hutterite community in South Dakota, and an Amish friend who had been excommunicated from the Amish Church in Smyrna, my wife and I spent a few days at one of the Bruderhof communities in New York, which had purchased a former elementary school, which had been turned into apartments for Bruderhof members.

    Under the label of Community Playthings, the Bruderhof manufactures a line of school furniture, toys, and other products made of wood in a highly automated manufacturing facility. Other Bruderhof ventures include its Plough Publishing House, which publishes Christian literature, Rifton Equipment, which produce rehabilitation equipment for the disabled, and Clean Sheen Services, which is a property management and cleaning company.

    The Bruderhof is well respected in their communities, in large part because they do vote, and they represent a large voting block. Bruderhof members also serve on school boards and other elected offices.

    Being married, my wife and I stayed together during the few days that we were at the Bruderhof, but the rest of our group was split up, each assigned someone who would show them around. We would run into one another every now and then, and during communal meals, but we otherwise had little contact with one another.

    Nevertheless, when we compared notes later, we had all picked up on the same things.

    Everyone was very nice, and everyone appeared to be very happy, but that seemed to be on the surface, or for show. We all got the impression that something very different was going on below the surface; not necessarily horrific, but that things were not completely as they seemed.

    More importantly, Christ wasn’t there. During the time that we were there, we spoke to several members of the Bruderhof. Only one woman, who was in her eighties, spoke of the importance of having Christ in her life. She had left Germany with the group as a child during the Nazi era.

    No one else mentioned anything that was even vaguely Christian. Oh, everything was certainly family friendly. There was no cursing or objective language used but, for a supposedly Christian community, nothing was said about Christ, and the Bible wasn’t quoted even once.

    That includes their Sunday services. There was no pastor or minister, which didn’t bother me, but the meeting consisted of people getting up and giving testimonies, all of which had nothing to do with Christ. Instead, they spoke about projects they were involved in, and they read letters from family members who were now in different Bruderhof community. When children become adults, the general practice is to move them to another Bruderhof community, away from their parents and, although it wasn’t exactly stated, I didn’t get the feeling that it was voluntary.

    During the Sunday service, a group of young Bruderhof missionaries reported on their assignment in New York City, where they had passed out food in conjunction with Catholic Charities, participated in a protest, and met with various elected officials, but with no indication that they had spoken to anyone about Christ.

    The songs that were sung during the Sunday service were folk songs, and children’s songs like “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.” Not one Christian hymn was sung, and not a single Bible verse was quoted or even alluded to during the entire service. There were no prayers.

    I have read about the Bruderhof, including a few books written by Eberhard Arnold, and I have no doubt that the Bruderhof was founded as an Anabaptist community, not far removed from the Hutterites, but that Christ had been lost somewhere along the way.

    My guess is that many of the new members who they accepted were interested in joining the Bruderhof, not because any commitment to living a Christian life, but because they were a successful commune, and because of their vocal opposition to war and violence. Basically, I think they were infiltrated and taken over by a bunch of hippies in the 1960s, and that these were the people who are calling the shots today.
     
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  17. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    The common practice among many Anabaptist churches was to not claim tax exempt status when eligible to do so, but a quick search suggests that this is no longer as common a practice as it once was. Both of the Grace Brethren churches that I was a member of did not claim tax exempt status, choosing instead to pay the same taxes that anyone else would on purchases. Of course, we paid property taxes as well, although not as a business because the church was not a business, but property taxes were paid. The practice among Grace Brethren churches was that pastors held jobs outside of the church so that being a pastor was not viewed as an occupation. When there were projects that would take a lot of the pastor's time, he was reimbursed for his time, but otherwise the pastor held outside jobs. One of my pastors was a plumber while, at another church that I attended, the pastor was the principal of a private Christian school not affiliated with a specific church or denomination.
     
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