The Amish: history, beliefs,
practices, conflicts, etc.
There is no consensus on exactly where the Amish fit within Christianity:
Some consider them conservative Protestants.
Most Amish would probably consider themselves to be Anabaptists
J Gordon Melton, head of the Institute for the Study of American
Religion, classifies them as part of the European Free-Church Family
along with Mennonites, Brethren Quakers and other denominations.
The Amish movement was
founded in Europe by Jacob Amman (~1644 to ~1720 CE), from
whom their name is derived. In many ways, it started as a reform group within
the Mennonite movement -- an attempt to restore some of the early practices of
The beliefs and practices
of the Amish were based on the
writings of the founder of the Mennonite faith, Menno Simons (1496-1561), and on the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith.
The Amish who split from Mennonites generally lived in Switzerland and in the southern Rhine river
region. During the late
17th century, they separated because of what they perceived as a lack of discipline among the Mennonites.
Some Amish migrated to the United States, starting in the early 18th century.
They initially settled in Pennsylvania. Other waves of immigrants became
established in New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri Ohio, and other
The faith group has attempted to
preserve the elements of late 17th century European rural culture. They try to avoid
many of the features of modern society, by developing practices and behaviors
which isolate themselves from
James Hoorman writes about the current status of the Amish movement:
"In America, the Amish hold major doctrines in common, but as the years
went by, their practices differed. Today, there are a number of different
groups of Amish with the majority affiliated with four orders:
Swartzengruber, Old Order, Andy Weaver, and New Order Amish. Old Order Amish
are the most common. All the groups operate independently from each other
with variations in how they practice their religion and religion dictates
how they conduct their daily lives. The Swartzengruber Amish are the most
conservative followed by the Old Order Amish. The Andy Weaver are more
progressive and the New Order Amish are the most progressive."
Membership in the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church and other Amish
denominations is not
freely available. They may total about 180,000 adults spread across 22 states, including about 45,000 in Ohio and
smaller numbers in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. About 1,500
live in south-western Ontario,
Almost all members are born into and raised in the faith. Converts from outside of the
Amish communities are rare. Some Amish groups have a very
restricted gene pool and are experiencing several inherited disorders.
Some books available from the Amazon.com online book store:
Mackall's book is titled "Plain Secrets: An outsider among the Amish."
Publisher's Weekly states: "Mackall breathes life into a complex
group often idealized or caricatured . . . it is a deeply respectful account
that never veers toward sensationalism." In a starred review, Booklist,
ALA, comments: "Wonderful and enlightening . . . This is a loving
portrait, warts and all, of an often-misunderstood people." Beacon
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store