Old Order Mennonites

Today there are about a dozen different groups across the U.S. and Canada which fill this general category. There is also a specific group known as Old Order Mennonites; people use the terms interchangeably even though they refer to different groups. In the 1860s there were serious liberal/conservative discussions among persons primarily in the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Virginia, and the province of Ontario.  Several conservative leaders separated themselves, each with supporters which, in some areas, amounted to a third of the original groups.  This withdrawal may have hastened the organizing of various regional groups which became the “Old” Mennonite Church in the 1890s and the Mennonite Church in the 1900’s.

During the first decade of the 1900’s, serious discussions on theology and life-style were terminated, the break was final, and the Old Order Mennonite Church was organized.  Some specific variant points of view were: placement of the pulpit level with the people or on a platform; use of telephones; forms of worship; Sunday schools, evening and evangelistic meetings, and general church activities; use of the English language for church services; four part singing; audible prayer versus silent individual prayer; marriage of couples only from within the church by church ministers; and the entanglement by government in settling estates.

The pioneer leaders who led the discussions and held to more conservative ways were Bishops George Weaver and Jonas Martin in Pennsylvania, Minister Simeon Heatwole in Virginia, Bishop Jacob Wisler in Ohio and Indiana, and Bishop Abraham Martin in Ontario.  There are more than 13,000 Old Order Mennonite members, with thousands more in related groups.