Beachy Amish are more progressive than Old Order Amish in certain ways
The Beachy Amish are an Anabaptist church which formed in 1927 in Pennsylvania. The Beachy Amish church is also known as the Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship, reflecting Mennonite influences. Some argue that the Beachy Amish are more rightly described as a Mennonite group.
Beachy Amish are similar to Old Order Amish in various ways:
- Similar religious beliefs-Beachy Amish follow certain tenets of the Dordrecht Confession, including footwashing and non-resistance
- Congregational organization-Beachy churches are organized by congregation rather than by conference, as in the case of many Mennonite churches
- Plain dress-Beachy Amish wear plain clothing, including head coverings and plain dress for women and beards for men, though the appearance can differ from dress of Old Order Amish
- Education-Beachy Amish tend to have only limited formal education, though may be more likely to go to high school than Old Order Amish
Beachy Amish differ from Old Order Amish in key ways:
- Technology-Beachy Amish accept a higher degree of technology, including automobile ownership, electricity and telephones in the home, and limited computer usage
- Church Buildings-Beachy Amish worship in specially constructed buildings, rather than in the home
- Mission Work-Beachy Amish are more mission-oriented, founding congregations around the world
- Bible Study-Beachy Amish hold Sunday School and other venues of formal Bible Study
Beachy Amish Origins
In A History of the Amish, Amish historian Steven M. Nolt explains that the Beachy Amish movement emerged in the Old Order Amish community on the southern border of Somerset County, Pennsylvania over three decades. The Old Order community under the leadership of Bishop Moses D. Yoder maintained the position that social shunning should be upheld for members who switched to a more progressive Mennonite church.
After new bishop Moses M. Beachy took over leadership, the church’s stance on strict shunning slackened, and “Beachy let it be known that he would not excommunicate or shun Old Orders who became Amish Mennonites” (History, Nolt p280). The progressive segment, comprising most of the community, eventually separated from the Old Order Amish over the issue of strict shunning in 1927. The Beachy church soon accepted Sunday schooling and began to adopt electricity in the home, followed by lessening restrictions on technology, such as allowing car ownership.
Later, numerous others, including members of the “Peachey” church in Lancaster County, joined with the Beachy Amish contingent, which expanded across North America over the ensuing decades.
Beachy Amish beliefs
Theologically, Beachy Amish share similarities with Old Order Amish as an Anabaptist church. Beachy Amish generally adhere to the tenets of the Dordrecht Confession. Ministers are typically selected similarly to the Old Order method (ie, through use of the lot). A bishop, two ministers, and a deacon typically lead the Beachy congregation.
Steven Nolt notes that Beachy Amish retain a congregational aspect rather than organizing under centralized leadership, one way Beachy churches have kept with Old Order traditions. Beachy Amish women wear head coverings and Plain dresses, and men wear beards.
However, Beachy Amish differ spiritually from Old Order Amish in that they emphasize doctrines such as assurance of salvation. They are also typically more mission-oriented than Old Order Amish. Beachy Amish have founded a number of congregations around the world, including in Europe, Latin America, and Africa.
Beachy Amish also take a more organized approach to Bible study, including Sunday Schools and Bible study groups. Nearly all Beachy Amish use English rather than German as the language of worship.
Beachy Amish and technology
Beachy Amish allow a higher level of technology, including electricity in the home, automobiles, and limited use of computers, though they forgo television and radio. The telephone is also permitted in Beachy Amish homes.
For further information, see:
A History of the Amish, Steven M. Nolt
“The Rise and Development of the Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches”, Alvin J. Beachy, Mennonite Quarterly Review, April 1955
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