The English Man
The English Man
To truly appreciate the irony of a murder investigation in an Amish district, (district being the term for an Amish community rather than a city or township), one should be familiar with the Amish faith and their secretive culture. Having been a closed society for hundreds of years, insight into Amish life has only recently been revealed by the writings and testimonials of people who have been unable to accept the strict doctrine and harsh discipline of the faith, and have left the faith, either by choice or excommunication, to live with the English. English is the Amish term for anyone who does not believe as they do. To understand Amish culture, a brief history of the Amish faith is helpful.
There is no consensus on exactly where the Amish fit within Christianity. Some consider them conservative Protestants. Most Amish would probably consider themselves to be Anabaptists ( a member of a sect which arose in Germany in 1521 which believes that baptism should be withheld until a person is old enough to understand the meanings of sin repentance, salvation and the Gospel, and that baptism should be accompanied by a confession of faith. They further believe that infants baptized, as is the case in the Catholic Church, cannot understand any of the ramifications of baptism and should be rebaptized when they are old enough to understand the Gospel and willingly make the accompanying public confession of faith. ) J. Gordon Melton, head of the Institute for the Study of American Religion , classifies them as part of the European Free-Church Family along with Mennonites, Brethren Quakers and other reformation denominations.
The Amish movement was founded in Europe by Jacob Amman (1644 to 1720 CE ), from whom their name is derived. In many ways it started as a reform group within the Mennonite movement, an attempt to restore some of the early practices of the Mennonites.
The beliefs and practices of the Amish were based on the writings of the founder of the Mennonite faith, Menno Simons (1496-1561), and on the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith .
The Amish who split from Mennonites generally lived in Switzerland and in the southern Rhine river region. During the late 17th century, they separated because of doctrinal differences and what they perceived as a lack of discipline among the Mennonites.
Some Amish migrated to the United States starting in the early 18th century. They initially settled in Pennsylvania. Other waves of Amish immigrants established districts in New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and other states.
The faith group has attempted to preserve the elements of late 17th century European rural culture. They try to avoid many of the features of modern society by developing practices and behaviors which isolate them from American culture.
James Hoorman writes about the current status of the Amish movement:
" In America, the Amish hold major doctrines in common, but as the years went by, their practices differed. Today there are a number of different groups of Amish, with the majority affiliated with four orders: Swartzengruber, Old Order, Andy Weaver, and New Order Amish. Old Order Amish are the most common. All the groups operate independently from each other with variations in how they practice their religion, and religion dictates how they conduct their daily lives. The Swartzengruber Amish are the most conservative, followed by the Old Order Amish. The Andy Weaver are more progressive, and the New Order Amish are the most progressive ."
Membership in the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church and other Amish denominations is not freely available. They may total about 180,000 adults spread across 22 states, including about 45,000 in Ohio and smaller numbers in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. A