Berea Amish Mennonite Fellowship
The Berea Amish Mennonite denomination was the most conservative, constitution-based Amish Mennonite denomination in the early 21st century. Berea supported the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith and also maintained a set of distinctive practices and limits on lifestyle choices. They were more permissive than Old Beachys—the Midwest Beachy denomination— yet are more conservative than the two Beachy separatist denominations, the Ambassadors and Maranatha Amish Mennonites. While Berea congregations were autonomous, they come under the precepts detailed in a constitution.
In 1998, a group of like-minded ministers met for a fellowship meeting at the invitation of Believers’ Fellowship, just north of Daviess County, Indiana. They represented churches that were not in full fellowship with any other Amish Mennonite denomination at the time. From this meeting, the ministers agreed to continue meeting every year. The evolution of the network into a denomination was gradual. In early 2008 they adopted the name Berea Amish Mennonite and developed a constitution soon after, modeled closely after Maranatha Amish Mennonite’s constitution.
The churches that originally constituted Berea came from diverse backgrounds. One group emerged from the Old Beachys. During the 1960s, the Old Beachys and the revivalist Beachys vied for influence in many Beachy congregations. As the revivalists came to dominate, the Old Beachys gradually withdrew from participation in the denomination. Old Beachy congregations held to German in church services while mainstream Beachys switched to English. However, from the late 1980s and on, some Old Beachy churches wanted to switch to English to accommodate non-Anabaptists who were interested in attending and joining. When the Old Beachys were emigrating out of Paris, Tennessee, in the early 1990s (see Midwest Beachy Amish Mennonite article), two of the congregations established used the migration as a chance to permit English, one in Illinois and one in Kentucky. Simultaneously, Old Beachy churches in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, and Holmes County, Ohio, also permitted English. A second source of Berea churches were those who had once affiliated with the mainstream Beachy Amish Mennonite or Mennonite Christian Fellowship denominations, but because of their conservatism, did not feel in harmony with the larger body. Thus, Berea was composed of liberal Old Beachys and conservative mainstream Beachys/Fellowship people.
Theology, Structure and Culture
In the early 21st century the Berea Amish Mennonites thought of themselves as Beachy in the sense of the broader Amish Mennonite movement, but not as part of the organized denomination. Their standards of practice resembled that of the Beachys at the beginning of the 1950s-1960s revivalist movement. Men wore suspenders, broadfall pants, and hats, while women wore full cape dresses, aprons, and cap-style coverings that come onto the ear. However, unlike some early Beachys, they did not tolerate tobacco and they maintained a close guard on adolescent and courtship behavior. Automobiles were required to be black.
The majority of Berea churches have been located outside of historic Anabaptist settlements, with the exceptions of Holmes County, Ohio, and Daviess County, Indiana. The primary occupations have been farming, carpentry, and construction, and the church schools employed men and women from the community. Schooling was through eighth grade; members did not seek higher education. Family sizes were large by American standards. For the young adults, Berea sponsored an annual weekend youth fellowship meeting.
In 2010 the following 11 congregations, comprising 509 members, were part of the Berea Amish Mennonite Fellowship:
|Believers Fellowship Amish Mennonite Church||Worthington||Indiana||22||2000|
|Belleville Amish Mennonite Church||Belleville||Arkansas||58||2001|
|Fryburg Beachy Fellowship||Fryburg||Ohio||28||1940|
|Grace Haven Fellowship||Millersburg||Ohio||86||1996|
|Mount Olive Christian Fellowship||Berlin||Ohio||8||2005|
|Mount Zion Amish Mennonite Church||Stuarts Draft||Virginia||11||1954|
|Peniel Christian Fellowship||Holmesville||Ohio||60||1969|
|Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church||Cynthiana||Kentucky||67||2001|
|Rehoboth Amish Mennonite Church||Roodhouse||Illinois||69||1995|
|Salem Christian Brotherhood||Salem||Missouri||51||2004|
|Unionville Christian Brotherhood||Cincinnati||Iowa||49||2002|
Amish Mennonite Directory. [Various editions since 1993.] Edited by Devon Miller. Millersburg, OH: Abana Books.
Anderson, Cory. "Retracing the blurred boundaries of the twentieth-century 'Amish Mennonite' identity." Mennonite Quarterly Review 85 (2011): 361-412.
Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches. "Amish Mennonite Sects and Movements." Web. 28 September 2010..
Mennonite Church Directory 2010. Harrisonburg, VA: Christian Light Publications, Inc., 2010: 49-50.
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MLA style: Anderson, Cory. "Berea Amish Mennonite Fellowship." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2012. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/berea_amish_mennonite_fellowship.
APA style: Anderson, Cory. (January 2012). Berea Amish Mennonite Fellowship. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/berea_amish_mennonite_fellowship.