Funkites, the name given the followers of Bishop Christian Funk (1731-1811), who withdrew from the Franconia Conference (Mennonite Church) in 1778 because of his sympathies with the seceding American colonies, while the Conference favored continued loyalty to the British Crown in view of their previous promise (oath) of loyalty. Funk was the son of Bishop Henry Funk (d. 1760) and father of a large Funk family in America. He was ordained as a minister in 1756 and as a bishop in 1769.
All went well between Funk and his fellow ministers and bishops until the issue of American independence arose. At first he also was of one mind with them on that issue: nonresistants ought not support a rebellion. But when he read the Pennsylvania constitution, and saw to his great joy that it gave full religious liberty, and even promised not to compel nonresistants to take up arms or to swear an oath, Funk began to look at the matter differently. There were, said he, "already four republics, and perhaps America would be another." He also favored paying a (war) tax to the American government which the other ministers opposed. The climax came in 1778, when Funk was deposed from office by the other bishops of the conference. Funk's relatives and some other supporters persuaded him to become their minister. At first the schismatic "Funkites" held their services in the Franconia meetinghouse on alternate Sundays when it had not been used, but soon they were locked out. In the course of time Funk ordained his brother John as a minister, and his son-in-law, John Detweiler, as a deacon. His older brother Henry, a minister from 1768, also stood with him.
Between 1804 and 1806 the leaders of the Franconia Conference sought to restore Funk to full fellowship in the church, but they refused to recognize the offices of John Funk and John Detweiler. The bishops also wanted to receive Christian Funk as a transgressor, a demand which he was unwilling to comply with. After Funk's death in 1811, the "Funkites" erected four or five church buildings in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania between 1812 and 1815. But lacking a real leader, the group became progressively weaker and smaller. Funk's brother Henry moved to Virginia, and another Funkite minister, Jacob Detweiler, settled in Ontario, where he served in his office in the Ontario Conference. (The congregation most associated with Detweiler was the Detweiler Mennonite congregation near Roseville, Ontario.) Two of the Funk meetinghouses were torn down, one was rebuilt and is now used for occasional funerals in the community, and one or two came into the possession of the Church of the Brethren. By the middle of the 19th century the group had disintegrated. Some of the Funkites eventually united with the Church of the Brethren, some with the "Herrites" (Reformed Mennonites), and a few families found their way back into the Franconia Conference. Apparently some members of these families joined the Oberholtzer group in his secession of 1847 from the Franconia Conference.
From the incomplete records of the Funkite division it appears that Funk was a vigorous and intelligent leader with foresight and ability, but somewhat lacking in humility and patience. On the other hand, history has vindicated Funk's judgment that the American colonies might well become "one more republic"; i.e., that they would win the war with Great Britain for their independence. Between 1778 and 1806 ten Franconia Conference bishops died, and six new ones were ordained; the young bishops who had not been involved in excommunicating Funk were unable to win him back into their fellowship, perhaps partly because of Funk's tendency toward self-justification.
Funk, Christian. Spiegel far alle Menschen. Reading, 1811; English edition, A Mirror For All Mankind. Norristown, 1814.
Wenger, J. C. History of the Mennonites of the Franconia Conference. Telford, 1937: 260, 261, 345-51.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 424. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Wenger, John C. "Funkites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/F874ME.html.
APA style: Wenger, John C. (1956). Funkites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/F874ME.html.