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Monday, December 6, 2010

Being Mennonite - The Groups

I started researching this over a week ago and was somewhat amazed at the number different groups that call themselves "Mennonite"! I am one and have studied their history in church and in school and I thought I knew quite a bit. I was a little surprised at the amount of diversity under one name, there happens to be over twenty different groupings.
Since I didn't want to write a book I grouped them into major categories and did my best to provide accurate descriptions. I recognize that within these groups are sub groups and not all believe and live the exactly the same. If you have questions please don't hesitate to ask.

1.Old Order Mennonites: They formed as a rebellion to modern radical changes and chose to maintain an extremely conservative style of living. Technology is not viewed as evil but their concern lies in how it might affect the nature of their communities. "Community is important to a Mennonite, and a technology or practice is rejected if it will adversely affect it." (Wikipedia) They live in colonies, often don't have electricity and drive horse and buggy as opposed to automobiles. There is a huge emphasis on plainness, especially in appearance, hence their "old-fashioned", non-showy attire. They school their children separately and refuse involvement in politics and other "sins of the world". Church is based on a set of standards, not an individual experience.

2.Holdeman (The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite): They branched off from the Mennonites in the mid 1800's under the leadership of a man named John Holdeman. They parted on disagreements over doctrine.
The families live a plain and simple lifestyle. They do not have TV, radios or CD players but do have telephones. Only plain and non-sporty vehicles are driven with all radio systems removed. Their dress is of similar uniform design with allowances of different patterns and fabric (women do no wear pants). For everyday, women wear a small black cap that is placed over a bun of hair on the back of the head. For church the women wear a veil that is placed over a good portion of their head, hangs down their back and ties under their chin. Courtship and dating are not practiced. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, divorce is not allowed. Modesty in clothing and material possessions are strongly encouraged. The men wear a beard and may or may not have a mustache. Photographs are prohibited. CGCM has parochial schools and they educate to the eighth grade, leaving the remaining years to vocational training. They do not have any musical instruments, instead they sing Acapella

Much of this is taken directly from

3. Conservative Mennonites: (there is a specific conference or group of churches, that call the themselves "Conservative Mennonites" but here I use the term generally)
Encompass a variety groups that aren't nearly as strict as Old Order or Holdeman Mennonites. Not a unified group, per se, there are many different churches that retain a core of traditional beliefs. The woman often wear plain, old-fashioned style dresses, small head coverings, have long hair and refrain from the use of makeup or wearing jewelery. The men can be seen wearing jeans and button down shirts. Far less strict on their view of technology they drive automobiles and use telephones. Some allow limited computer and internet and TV.

4. Modern/Progressive: In most forms of worship and practice they differ very little from other protestant congregations. Within themselves one will find a variety of worship styles. There may be hymns and/or contemporary choruses, choirs, readings and a variety of instruments. The ministers don't necessarily have to be "Mennonite" or from the Mennonite faith, although they do have to agree with their statement of faith (an outline of their faith). Peace and community are emphasized but they do no live in their own communities. Military service is not permitted. For the most part their faith is distinguished from other Mennonites by being one of emphasis rather than rule. The main elements of Menno Simons' doctrine are retained but in modern form. Outreach and help in the wider community both at home and abroad is very evident. There is no special dress or technology restrictions. The main two groups that I know of are the Mennonite Church Canada/USA - MC ( formerly General Conference Mennonites) and Mennonite Brethren-MB. The only discernible major difference between the two groups today (that I know of) is their form of baptism, MC's will only pour water on the person's head while MB's practice full immersion in a "tank".

I will get into the culture and then the faith, both as I know and live, next. Hopefully those posts won't take me as long!

1 comment:

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