Orthodox Mennonite Church, Huron County

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The Orthodox Mennonite Church, Huron County or "Gorries", as they are nicknamed, originated as a division from the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites in 1974.[1] After some changes, including men beginning to wear beards, the former divided from their church to form their own group. In 1979, this new group moved to the Gorrie-Wroxeter area of Huron County, and became known as the "Orthodox Mennonite Church, Huron County". In practice, the Gorries are almost identical to their parent group in Wellesley Township.[2]However, their different interpretation of the ban keeps the two groups of Orthodox Old Orders separate. The Gorries have grown over the years to a much larger church than the Wellesley Orthodox, specifically in that they have taken in several of the more traditional members of the Old Order Mennonite Church in Ontario. Because of this, they have expanded into other rural Ontario communities. In addition, they have come into full fellowship with small Old Order groups in the United States. The Gorries have a close relationship also with the Kinloss Old Order Mennonites, a small but growing conservative sub-division within the Old Order Mennonite Church in Ontario.

Genesis of the Huron Orthodox Mennonites

Regarding March 2, 1974, Amos Sherk (1947-), future Bishop of the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites wrote, "A meeting was held at the home of Emanuel Sherks...Although heart broken it was agreed by the following to continue services and communion was held on April 14th."[3]

According to the current leader of the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites, in the years previous to 1974, the church had contact and visits with the Noah Hoover Mennonites and a traditional group from Tennessee, discussing potential union.[4]One result of these discussions led to the convincing of the men in the church to begin wearing beards. While this was an option, there was peace. However, when beard wearing came to be viewed as a biblical neccessity for all men, disagreements in the church arose. By late February of 1974, differences among the members of the church became divisive to the point of splitting the church almost down the middle. [5] Thus a new group of Orthodox Mennonites, viewing beards as necessary, was formed; a division which to this day (2016), has not been fully healed.

Move to Huron County

Desiring to be further from the urban centre of the Waterloo Region, in 1979 the group relocated to the Gorrie-Wroxeter area (Howick Township) in Huron County, Ontario.[6]Unfortunately, the move did not go as smoothly as they had hoped, and communion was cancelled in the Autumn of 1978, as well as in the Spring and Autumn seasons of 1979. [7]

In spite of the internal problems, or perhaps because of them, on 14 October, 1980, John Sherk (1939-), who was ordained as a Minister in 1978, was ordained as the second bishop of the Huron Orthodox.[8] This was significant, in that his brother Amos Sherk had become bishop of their parent group, the Wellesley Orthodox, in 1976.[9]This inter-relationship was to become very important for the future of both Orthodox groups.

Partial Reunification

As the1980s progressed, it became the earnest desire of the two brothers, Amos and John Sherk to reunite the Orthodox Mennonite churches which they led. Unfortuntely for them, the more traditional members of the 1974 division in the Wellesley Orthodox church were unhappy with any suggestion of reunification, and in 1986 they, led by their deacon, excommunicated their bishop Amos Sherk. After the deacon put Sherk in the ban, the resulting confusion caused the almost total disintegration of the Wellesley Orthodox group. In fact, 70 percent of the members, along with the deacon, decided to leave the Orthodox Mennonites altogether, and reunite with the David Martin Mennonites, which they had left 30 years earlier, in the late 1950s.[10]

Ultimately, all of the ordained ministry of the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites left their church. Under Sherk's infuence, ministers Menno Brubacher (ordained in 1978) and Jesse Bauman (ordained in 1981)[11] went along with the bishop and some other members to the Huron Orthodox church, and were taken in as members on April 25, 1987. [12]This reunion with the other part of the 1974 division prompted Amos Sherk, who "laid aside his bishop office", to joyously proclaim in capital letters in his church history, "There is now again only one Orthodox Mennonite Church in Ontario."[13]Having left the few remaining families of their Wellesley Orthodox parent group, the now much larger Huron Orthodox church celebrated a special communion service of reunification on April 26th.[14]

Church Growth

After the Old Order Mennonite Church in Ontario allowed the use of telephones in thier homes in 1989, several of the more traditional families of the church began leaving to join with the Orthodox Mennonites. Over the course of the 1990s, this number increased.[15] Through this and internal growth, the Huron Orthodox expanded into new communities in Bruce County and Algoma, Ontario.

In addition, in 1999 an Old Order Mennonite group from Trigg County, Kentucky merged with the Gorries, making them an international orthodox Mennonite church. Also, "in 2001 the Phares S. Stauffer Group of Snyder County, Pennsylvania united with the Orthodox as did the Henry Hoover Group (a branch of the Reidenbach Mennonites) living in Trigg and Christian Counties, Kentucky in 2005."[16]

Conclusion

Orthodox Mennonites have been living in Huron County, Ontario now for over 35 years. It appears that it was wise of them to relocate from the more urban region of Waterloo in 1979, as they have not only been able to better maintain their more traditional ways in rural areas, but they have also grown numerically. Indeed, they have in the 21st century become an international church, with members also in the American states of Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Notes on the Ban

Orthodox Mennonites confess the Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632) among their primary beliefs, along with the King James Version of the Bible, and the contents of the Martyrs Mirror. Although the belief in the ban among Anabaptists has been well explained elsewhere,[17]it is important to understand that Orthodox Mennonites take Articles 16 and 17 (regarding the ban and shunning) as seriously as their traditional lifestyles. That said, however, the two groups of Orthodox Mennonites (Huron and Wellesley) remain separate primarily over their interpretation of the ban, which played heavily in the Wellesley Orthodox divisions of 1974 and 1986.

On May 24, 1982, Minister Edward Martin was put in the ban (excommunicated) by the Huron Orthodox church.[18]Martin, formerly a minister of the Old Order Mennonite Church in Ontario, was accepted as a member and minister among the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites on June 14, 1970.[19]In 1974 Martin chose to affiliate with what became the Huron Orthodox church. Martin and his wife, before her death in June 1981, decided to once again affiliate with their original Old Order Mennonite Church.[20]As a result, Martin was excommunicated from the Huron Orthodox.

Donald Martin writes in his book about the Old Order Mennonites of Ontario that, "he (Edward Martin) was later released from the ban by the (Huron) Orthodox Mennonites but not accepted as a member". [21]Thus the Huron Orthodox then, as is still practised by them, may release a former member from the ban without their automatic reception back into the church. This is one of the primary reasons why the Huron Orthodox and the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites are not united today.

In 2013, the leader of the Wellesley Orthodox church, Minister David E. M. Martin (1965-) wrote about the ban in a 48 page "Confession" regarding his views.[22] In his detailed explanation, he states, "When the church puts an evangelical ban on a member then that ban separates church and member, every time. When the church revokes a ban in an evangelical way, then that revoking of the ban has to reunite church and member again, every time."[23]Speaking for his church then, he bases his view on their belief that, "there isn't more than one (church) in any given geographical area that is truly the bride of Christ in visible form."[24]The Wellesley Orthodox then, are of the strong opinion that their church is the only true "visible church of God"[25](to their knowledge) in southwestern Ontario. It then follows that in their opinion one is either in or out of the orthodox church, and all other "churches" are heterodox in their area. Martin's reasoning then assumes the ban to be the only way to define who is a member of the one church, and that the Huron Orthodox are incorrect to release someone from the ban without their becoming a member of that church again.

Bishop Brubacher of the Huron Orthodox disagrees with the above assessment of his church. However, it is important to realize that he does not view his church to be the one and only true church in his area. [26]For the leader of his parent church, the Wellesley Orthodox, the correct usage of the ban rises and falls on his "true church" view, which he finds support in his understanding of the history of the "True Church of God" as presented in Van Braght's Martyrs Mirror. [27]

See Also

Old Order Mennonite Groups in Ontario
Traditional Old Order Mennonite Groups
Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites
David B. Martin: Pioneer of Mennonite Orthodoxy
Elam S. Martin: Father of the Orthodox Mennonite Church
Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)
Martyrs Mirror

References

  1. Note: In author Peter Hoover's 2010 online article entitled "Orthodox Mennonite Church" he states, " In 1974, over half the members, under the leadership of minister Anson Hoover, withdrew to form a new church." We have in this present article of 2016 provided adequate proof to show that the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites (see also that article, esp. Ref. Note 37), which Hoover calls the "Anson Hoover Mennonites", were the original and legal Orthodox Mennonites to that date, and that the "new church" was indeed what became the "Huron Orthodox" or "Gorries". His article does, however, provide a detailed analysis of the various groups that formed the original Orthodox Mennonite Church. See: http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orthodox_Mennonite_Church
  2. See the Intro to the related article regarding the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites.
  3. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history of the Orthodox and David Martin Mennonites (Primary Source), no date, Addendum.
  4. Conversation with Minister David E.M. Martin, 2016.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, Brotherhood, Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario, 2003, page 180.
  7. Amos Sherk: Unpublished History, Addendum
  8. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites in Ontario, page 343.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid, page 183. Note: Donald Martin erroneously states in his book that Deacon Hoover released Sherk from the ban. Minister David E. M. Martin, who was at the service when Bishop Sherk was excommunicated, says that Sherk was actually put into the ban by the deacon (Private conversation with Minister David E. M. Martin, 2016).
  11. Ibid., page 342.
  12. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history, page 33. Menno Brubacher went on to become a Bishop of the group in 2002.
  13. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history, page 33.
  14. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites of Ontario, page 184.
  15. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthodox_Mennonites#Influx_from_other_groups
  16. Peter Hoover: "Orthodox Mennonite Church." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. Retreived19 Dec 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orthodox_Mennonite_Church&oldid=115142.
  17. Christian Neff: "Ban." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. Retrieved 17 Dec 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ban&oldid=131389.
  18. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history, Addendum.
  19. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites of Ontario, page 343.
  20. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history, Addendum.
  21. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites of Ontario, page 183
  22. David E.M. Martin: A Confession and Explanation of the Primary Reason why I am in Unity with the Orthodox Mennonite Church and why I am not in Unity with the Other Churches (Primary Source, unpublished), January 20, 2013, 48 pages.
  23. Ibid., page 33.
  24. Ibid., page 10.
  25. See Article 8 of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632).
  26. Private letter from Bishop Brubacher in 2009.
  27. See: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/martyrs003.htm