Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Silent History of the Amish

 By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

The Amish came to America around 1720 along with the Mennonites, to escape severe persecution in the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, much like our forefathers did. 

The Amish way of life continues to this day and follows a strict code of ethics from their Ordung.

The definition of Ordung is 
the unwritten set of rules and regulations that guide everyday Amish life. Ordung is a German word that means discipline and order.

There is no head deity as in the Roman Catholic Church, nor like the Lutheran, Methodist, and other religions.

An Ordung is practiced for every community with their own set of rules that they follow. That is why shunning, which could mean banishment from the community, might be drastically different from Amish community to community.

Most Amish I know are Old Order, which means they live, work, and worship as their ancestors did during the 1700s and 1800s. 

What led to the falling away from the Catholic and traditional protestant religions and formed the Mennonites and Amish faith?

It all began with the Bible.

After Jesus’s death, the disciples led by the Holy Spirit, carefully wrote down the Scriptures and Jesus’s teachings. This was later passed onto the Catholic Church, where the monks would labor arduously to copy down these scrolls into a book call the Word of God—The Bible. 

As far back as AD 350, the monks and priests labored to spread the salvation message of Jesus Christ. Bishop Ulfilas ardently translated the Greek Bible into the Gothic language and eagerly spread the Good News. Here you see Ulfilas explaining the gospel to the Goths.

It wasn’t until AD 405 that the Bible was translated into Latin. The next great breakthrough came in AD 1380 when John Wycliffe translated the complete Bible into English.  

In 1500 the Roman Catholic Church grew in power across western Europe and turned from serving Christ to seeking only to gain power and wealth for themselves. Anyone who went against the Catholic Church was labeled a heretic and burnt at the stake!

Then in 1517 along came a young monk named Martin Luther afire to do the Lord’s work. As he translated what the apostles had written through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures fairly jumped off the page! It was as if a light had gone on inside his head. Luther realized that no one could buy or work their way into heaven—it was a gift from God. The only way to salvation was by their faith, not by their deeds. The more he studied the Scriptures, the more he realized how far the Catholic Church had strayed from the true teachings of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg and began the German Reformation, which led to the protestant religions. 

Luther insisted that the Sacred Scripture needed to be available to commoners. He translated the Bible into German, composed hymns, and advocated the establishment of schools.

The Roman Catholic Church did not accept change easily, nor the thought of relinquishing their control over their patrons. Luther was called a heretic, excommunicated from the church, and forced into hiding. But the fire had been lit.

Aflame with the Holy Spirit, the Reformation spread throughout the countries. In AD 1519 Ulrich Zwingli, a Catholic priest and pastor of the Grossmunster church in Zurich began the Reformation in Switzerland. As Martin Luther had, Ulrich accepted the supreme authority of the Scriptures and applied it rigorously to his doctrines and practices.

The Anabaptists developed in Zurich after 1523. Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz are considered the early leaders of the movement and by the year of 1525, adults in Zurich were being baptized in rivers.

Amidst the summer heat of 1524, peasants in southwestern Germany started an uprising partly inspired by Luther’s reform proposals and their economic and political grievances. Into the spring of 1525 the rebellion continued and became known as the Peasants’ War as it spread across to central Germany.

Roman Catholic priest Menno Simons, ministering to his flock and  observing the conflict, became involved and decided in AD 1536 that he would convert to Anabaptist. He was promptly excommunicated from the church.  

Tempers were at their breaking point and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was furious. He offered 100 gold guilders for Menno Simons’ arrest. Tortuous techniques were used to break this new religious sect. One Dutch man had his bones broken on the wheel, then he was executed just because he allowed Menno to stay with him.

Simons was a pacifist. His only weapons were his ideas. Simons was never caught, and he bravely continued to lead the Anabaptists from their violent ways into becoming pacifists like himself. His followers later became known as Mennonites.

Then in AD 1693 Jakob Ammann, a third-generation Swiss tailor, converted to Anabaptist. He became an elder and leader of the church. But as the years progressed, he noticed subdued changes of slackness practiced by the Mennonite religion that worried him. For instance, the practice of regular social avoidance, shunnings, and communion. This eventually led to a branching off from the Mennonites that founded the Amish faith.

Next month, we shall learn more on how the Anabaptists were the predecessors to the Amish, Mennonites, and a number of other Christian religions, and that there are diverse Amish dialects and the reason why they are kept alive to this day.

And those monks who tirelessly hand-wrote the Bible, their work was not in vain! Today, we have complete Bible translations in 636 languages and parts of the Bible have been translated into 3,223 languages! The missionaries of yesterday and today continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world!

Spinster Rachael Rothburn is eager to leave her life of luxury in Boston to share the gospel with Native Americans in the west. The only problem is the missionary alliance won’t let her go unless she’s married. When Dr. Jonathan Wheaton, another missionary hopeful learns about the restrictions. He offers Rachael a marriage of convenience. The pair sets off for Oregon to share Jesus with the natives, but in the process, they discover God doesn’t create coincidences—He designs possibilities.

“…one gripping, compelling read. Wilted Dandelions by Ms. Brakefield had me eagerly turning pages and sighing over the love story premise as well as taking comfort in the spiritual message…” ES


Catherine is an ardent lover of Christ, as well as a hopeless romantic and patriot. She is the award-winning author of Wilted Dandelions, Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, Waltz with Destiny, and Love's Final Sunrise. Catherine and her husband of fifty years have two adult children, four grandchildren, four Arabian horses, two dogs, five cats, seven chickens, and five bunnies.


The Amish and the Reformation Breaking the Silence Special Feature


  1. Thank you for your post! I'm glad to read the history of the Amish faith and look forward to next month.

  2. Connie R. Thank you! I appreciate your comments very much! Can't wait for you to read it. God Bless!