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.

Amish_children_2_2Awkward situations can arise, to say the least, with only part of the family ‘Amish’, part buggying to church on Sundays with father remaining home, for example.

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.

photo: illinoisfamily.org

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.

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    1. karlakamper

      Is there a distinction between the lifestyle and the church? Can a person leave the church and still live in the lifestyle?

    2. Nothing would stop them living the lifestyle to a certain degree, but if they left the church or were kicked out, then in most Amish churches it would likely impair their relationships with full members (ie shunning). So they could still dress, drive a carriage, etc, but may no longer be accepted to the same degree, and would not be able to receive Communion, for example.

    3. Hmmm

      If a wife is left behind, what becomes of her? Does she remain single the rest of her days? That would be a lonely life 🙁

      1. Amish are pretty strict on this point–they do not accept divorce and definitely not divorce then remarriage…when a spouse dies, often Amish do remarry, but if the former spouse is still alive, the traditional way of looking at it is that that would be, essentially, adultery.

    4. Megan

      Transition Assistance?

      Is there any sort of outside help or assistance for any members of the Amish community looking to leave? Any particular city the Amish feel they can go and find other ex-Amish or perhaps a “Mainstream-Buddy” who can help navigate them on their journey?

    5. Tina Kegley

      also interested in assisting

      I also am interested in helping, and in finding out if there is a particular city where ex Amish can get help. Louisville, KY, for instance, has become home to many displaced by hurricane Katrina, and also to many foreigners seeking legal citizenship. Do you Erik, or does anyone have any information on this question? I recently finished reading, ” Letting go of the Reins,” and “Why I left the Amish.” Both very informative and giving the other side of our view of the idealized life of the Amish. The epilogue in. “Why I left the Amish” gives some very thought-provoking questions.

    6. Annie S


      I am willing to provide assistance to those that are wanting to leave the Amish community.