30 responses to 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung
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    Al in Ky
    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 05:39)

    Thanks so much for sharing this, and thanks to the speaker’s willingness to let you share it on Amish America. There is so much to think about in what he said; I’m going to have to read it a couple of more times. From his perspective, I like how he shares that Amish people’s Christian faith is an important part of the basis for decision making. As you stated, this is a personal exposition of one Amishman. As I was reading it, I was wondering how thoughts might be similar or different coming from an Amishman from a more conservative Amish affiliation such as Swartzentruber.

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    Rich Stevick
    Comment on IMHO (June 10th, 2013 at 07:08)


    Erik, et al,

    I was privileged to hear this presentation on Friday, and although I heard many fine and learned speakers in our three days, this was my favorite. It is such a clear, nuanced, and thoughtful presentation on a the subjects of ordnung and of change that we–or I,at least–often over or understate. I wish you could have all heard him. Thanks, Erik, for getting permission to share with AA.

    Rich P.S. This is another fine example of a person who has become self-educated far beyond his eight grades. I would have been proud (sorry,humbled)to have made such a presentation and done in such a graceful,low-key, and often humorous way.

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      Comment on Well said. (June 10th, 2013 at 12:56)

      Well said.

      “P.S. This is another fine example of a person who has become self-educated far beyond his eight grades”.

      As I was reading this I kept thinking; “These are the words of someone who is educated far beyond the eight grade”. I mean, I know that his “formal” education stopped at that point, but clearly he has continued his education well beyond that … if not in a formal sense, at least in an informal one.

      I know many, many people that have college degrees that could not have expressed those thoughts nearly so well, including yours truly if I am forced to admit it.

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    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 07:15)

    Thank you for this!

    I really like (and find more accurate) the description of Amish life as “marginal” rather than “separate.”

    Also, was this quoted? I find the grammatically/intellectually strong content and an eighth grade education to be a little incongruous. I don’t want to come across as offensive, I just find it remarkable.

    • Lattice just catching up on some comments here. I transcribed this to the post as it was written on the speaker’s paper. I inserted one line which was spoken as an aside during the talk at the speaker’s request. He’s a well(self)-educated man, though only 8 grades of that came in a formal school setting as Rich notes.

      During the actual talk/panel, I was told a second Amishman from Lancaster added some examples following this talk of the Ordnung in practice. Donald Kraybill and Brad Igou were also on the panel.

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        Comment on Hello (June 24th, 2013 at 20:58)


        Hi Erik,
        I have been browsing around this website and have noticed several comments you left that are so knowledgable and filled with such obvious respect. I am a born again Christian living life with Jesus as my foundation and example in all things I do. I have always felt an unexplainable connection/attraction to Amish plain life choices. Since I was 9, I have always wanted to join an Amish community. Now at age 29, I have made my peace with my English borm life but still have that weird pull to a more fulfilling life. Could becoming a Mennonite be the answer? I am not even sure that is possible but would love any feed back from you. I have lived in Connecticut my entire life but am currently making a permanent move toTennessee in July to start a slower life where I fit in a bit more and with high hopes of getting more familiar with the order in Ethridge. My apologies for unloading my thoughts and plans this way.

        God Bless

        • Ericalee I appreciate your comments and visiting the site. I don’t know how well I can advise you on your own situation. However I usually recommend to people to determine what they appreciate about what the Amish do spiritually or in terms of lifestyle and see what you may be able to adopt.

          I’d recommend learning more about Anabaptism and the different manifestations of it today if that is the direction you feel you are being drawn. That would probably be a first or second step. Some people do join Anabaptist churches such as Beachy Amish or Mennonite churches, though English-born people joining Old Order churches successfully is uncommon.

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    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 07:23)

    Well said!
    It’s too bad, in my opinion, that what this man understands about Ordnung and its use is not more widely articulated within the Plain communities. Too often there is a reaction against Ordnung, and it is seen as a set of restrictive, arbitrary rules made up by some hard-headed bishop who wants to control everybody else. And although that may actually be the case in some places, that is not what is intended by the use of an Ordnung.

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    Debbie H
    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 08:49)

    Thanks Eric for posting this presentation. Very enlightening. I praise the Amish for continuing to strive towards a more biblical understanding of living as a set apart people. I also applaud their efforts to keep the ordnung as intended. To many mainline churches have succumbed to live and let live instead of living a life that is in the world not of the world. To many churches have become of this world because it is easier than being different.

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    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 09:56)

    Thank you for posting this remarkably thoughtful and articulate speech. Would that the rest of the country could still assume that faith, community,family, church, and traditions are sources of wisdom rather than forces of oppression, as the speaker so beautifully put it.

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    Alice Mary
    Comment on Insightful (June 10th, 2013 at 11:57)


    Thoughtful, articulate, enlightening…I agree with others’ comments regarding this speech. Thanks for posting it,and thanks to the author/speaker for allowing it to be shared here.

    “…change slides in incrementally—a little at a time—and often by default.”

    The above quote stood out to me. Even as an Englisher, it seems that this was how change entered our lives in this country, years ago. It’s so different than now, with changes occurring before we have time to thoroughly consider their ramifications. And “others” (governments, industry, etc.) tend to force them on us without our say in the matter.

    If only we (English) could truly & thoughtfully consider the last paragraph, especially this: “…the process of change itself is changing. It is more complicated and more informal and more the result of pressure form the grassroots laity than before.”

    Would our own “pressure” be enough to “slow down” the changing world around us? For this reason alone, I hope the Amish continue to thrive and hold onto their traditions as they see fit.

    Alice Mary

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    Comment on Request for assistance (June 10th, 2013 at 13:41)

    Request for assistance

    Can anyone please provide a phonetic spelling of the word “Ordnung”? I’ve heard it pronounced a couple of different ways, but never by an Amish person. Therefore, I really don’t know how it actually should be pronounced.

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      Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 14:11)

      I’ve heard it pronounced in a way that sounds like “Ort-nung,” with equal emphasis on each syllable and a barely detectable “g,” but I guess there are probably variations in different parts of the country.

      Anyone hear otherwise?

      You know, the Amish don’t seem to be too interested in discussing their Ordnungs, at least as far I’ve observed. It almost seems like a private subject, sort of, like “for members only.”

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        Mark – Holmes Co.
        Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (October 10th, 2014 at 13:56)

        Around here it is pronounced like “AWD ning” It is always interesting to me when a non-Amish person says an Amish person sounds like he or she went to college or university instead of just 8th grade. I’ve heard non-Amish people who express themselves very poorly and Amish people who are very articulate AND the other way around.

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    Comment on ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 13:46)


    Why does it need to be unwritten? When changes are approved, it could be revised.

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      Comment on Unwritten Ordnung for Amish churches (June 12th, 2013 at 08:53)

      Unwritten Ordnung for Amish churches

      Good question Carol…I don’t know if I have a great answer offhand other than it is tradition, though there have been at least one or two written Ordnungs among Amish (Daviess County, IN was one example).

      There may very well be a deeper sociological or religious reason for it not being written…perhaps not writing it down and codifying it reflects the idea that it is fluid and can change. As a written text the Bible and the Ten Commandments have a primacy and permanence that the Ordnung does not necessarily have since though it is to be respected it is also adapted as pressures and other forces act upon Amish communities (as the Amishman noted eloquently above). I’m not sure to what degree this dynamic actually is at work here but am putting it out here for consideration.

      The Ordnung is something reviewed twice yearly and could be described as more caught than taught (that is, children and youth absorb what is permissible and prohibited just by living in their communities from those around them).

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    Christine McMahon-Chase
    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 14:01)

    I thank you for sharing and thank the gentleman for his permission. I am unable to make any additional comment as everyone so far has put my thoughts into words 🙂

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    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 16:46)

    Ahtnung is how we always said it. In our church the Bishop had a written copy. (Amish mennonite)

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    Eli S.
    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 10th, 2013 at 20:47)

    The “o” sound is like the “o” in odd. The “r” tends to be silent, and “nung” sounds like “ning” “odd-ning” I suspect there are variations, but that’s how it was in Holmes county.

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    Comment on Thanks for the replies (June 10th, 2013 at 21:45)

    Thanks for the replies

    Eli, I had heard only two or maybe three pronunciations. However, one of them had that “ning” ending, which I was just sure was not correct. Ooops!

    You are probably correct about variations in how it is pronounced. We have such variations in English words, no reason that German words wouldn’t have the same.

    Thanks to those that shared how they have heard it pronounced.

    • The way Eli describes it is just about how I hear it in Lancaster Co, except I’d probably write it “Ott-ning”. Maybe just how my ear hears it or maybe slightly different PA vs. OH.

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        Comment on Ordnung pronunciation (June 19th, 2013 at 14:01)

        Ordnung pronunciation

        If you would like to hear the word Ordnung spoken, here are two audio links:

        www.forvo.com/word/ordnung/ (From Germany and Austria)


        It is understood that “Ordnung” is mainly a German word. Do you think that the spellings given above are actually in Pennsylvania Dutch? Is it possible that in Pennsylvania Dutch it could be “Addning” (with an A as in what), “Ordning”, “Ardning”, “Adnung”, plus the spellings given above?

        Some synonyms and meanings of Ordnung are order, discipline, regulation, arrangement, precept, judgment, ordinance, standard, rule, organization, system, regular arrangement, behaviour code, and system of community norms.

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    Eli S.
    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 11th, 2013 at 08:33)

    There are many variations in pronouncing words in any given community. German pronunciation tends to be rather soft on the letter “t”, and frequently both ways are acceptable. We might, for example, hear someone call their son “Denny”, when in fact they are saying “Danny”.
    The locals would simply tell you that both ways are right. And I agree, because there is no way to change the way the language is used, nor is there proof of what is correct.

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    Don Curtis
    Comment on Mark's opinion (June 13th, 2013 at 12:45)

    Mark's opinion

    Well, Mark’s back from the conference. He told me that he enjoyed most of it. But somebody must have said something in one of the sessions he attended that really upset him. He didn’t tell me much about it but he was still upset about it after he got home. One thing he said is that it was strange to attend a conference on the Amish with almost the entire conference dominated by English people describing their perspectives on the Amish without hardly any Amish talking about their own people. It was like if you were Amish and disagreed with one of the “Amish experts” you had to be wrong, even it you were Amish, because you weren’t one of the “Amish Experts.” Mark said that it was plain to him that there is a whole other “world” out there of people who study the Amish. They have their own subculture and hierarchy. Anyway, Mark said it was interesting but strange to him.

    • Yes, I was sitting right next to Mark in the session when this happened.

      I think just about everyone would appreciate more firsthand Amish input in things like this. I suppose there are some barriers to that happening. I am glad for what there was though yes it was just a small % of the speakers involved.

      Don and I am glad to hear from you. I also enjoyed spending time with Mark over the conference, even though it was a little choppy and came in chunks since there was always something going on.

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    Sandra Kathleen
    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 13th, 2013 at 18:22)

    The Ordnung is in some ways similar to the Jewish Talmud, though it is not codified and written down for uniformity across all communities.

    Is there a form of Amish Midrash — moral stories that illustrate different facets of interpreting the Ordnung?

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    Comment on 2013 Amish Conference: An Amishman on the Ordnung (June 17th, 2013 at 19:34)

    I do not know many Amish that would attend a conference on “Amish” just for sociology’s sake. Just to inform the “English” more about their traditions? I have NEVER heard an Amish man speak like the one in this article. Most would find it pretentious and ariodite. Just my observation.

    • Stephanie I’m not surprised you say you don’t know anyone who would attend, because attending conferences is not something Amish typically do. However there are those that do and that appreciate venues for learning, and realize some good can come of it (and I say good for them).

      As I noted in a response to one of your previous comments I think the conference was more than just an academic/sociological exercise. http://amishamerica.com/2013-amish-conference-day-two/#comment-57536

      Also just because you have never heard an Amish person speak a certain way doesn’t mean they can’t be articulate when delivering prepared comments that have been carefully thought-out in advance for the benefit of listeners.

      The man who delivered these is not out for glory and is very conscious of being perceived that way. Rather I think he does realize the value of people (his people, and non-Amish as well) being thoughtful about why Amish do what they do and live the way they live.

      In a nutshell there is more than one “type” of Amish person and I don’t think we should pigeonhole them as a stereotype that would always do this and never do that. I don’t mean to sound harsh here and I say this with respect to you, and with the understanding that you are correct that this is not typical and may surprise some people.

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