When a baptized Amish person leaves the community for another church, it can be a jarring experience, both for the family involved and for others in the church.
And especially so, in the very rare occurrence when one party stays behind.
Most cases I have come across of Amish leaving have involved the full family; one or two peculiar situations have not–with the wife remaining Amish.
It can be traumatic for kids who wonder why they can’t have church service at their homes, and for the mother who has to answer their questions, perhaps forced to face a seeping social stigma from within her own community.
An excerpt from Brad Igou’s The Amish In Their Own Words reveals the struggle:
We never discussed his leaving the church; he just went. What a shock it was! I was so ashamed to say that I did as Satan wanted me to do: I quit praying. There were no arguments between my husband and myself, but I was drifting right along with him, although I still went to our church. Then God held me back from taking that step [of leaving the Amish]…
The mere discomfort of awkward family gatherings would pale in comparison to what many Amish would consider a far more important matter: the well-being of the self-exiled person’s soul.
Amish vary in opinion on those who leave and join other churches; one solution, acceptable to some, has it that an Amish person who leaves but joins a similarly-minded (ie Mennonite) church, and makes a confession, will avoid being shunned.
Others may simply refuse to shun family members who have left.