Extinct Mennonite Churches in North America
The limited studies made show that a large number of Mennonite congregations in various conference groups in the United States and Canada have become extinct during the 19th and 20th centuries. Gordon Dyck's study reveals at least 90 such extinct General Conference Mennonite Church (GMC) congregations in its hundred years of history, 1847-1959. L. J. Burkholder reports at least 25 for the Mennonite Church (MC) group in Ontario. Other MC conference histories report like figures (e.g., Wenger's for Franconia, Weber's for Illinois, Wenger's for Indiana-Michigan). It is possible that the Mennonite Church has suffered at least 200 extinct congregations, the GCM 100, the Mennonite Brethren 50, the remaining groups another 50, making a total of at least 400 organized congregations that have died out.
The reasons for the extinction of these congregations have been varied. Some were poorly conceived colonization attempts on poor land or with few economic possibilities. Some never were large enough to support a healthy economic life or too far from sister congregations to furnish adequate social privileges for the youth, who married "out" and joined other churches. Economic depressions, droughts, crop failures contributed their share of congregational failures. Often poor ministerial leadership was the cause, or factionalism and disunity. Refusal to give up the German language or to adopt new methods of church work, such as the Sunday school, and persistence in traditionalism, closed more than one Mennonite church in the face of aggressive competition from more spiritually alive churches of other denominations. The majority of the extinct churches had a brief life span of not more than a generation, but others died out after 50-100 years of existence. A few were rightfully merged with near-by congregations.
Burkholder, L. J. History of the Mennonites of Ontario. Toronto, 1937.
Dyck, Gordon R. "The United States General Conference Extinct Churches (1847-1959)," manuscript in Goshen College Library (1959).
Umble, John. "Extinct Ohio Mennonite Churches." Mennonite Quarterly Review XVIII-XX (1944-46).
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1083-1084. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Bender, Harold S. "Extinct Mennonite Churches in North America." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/extinct_mennonite_churches_in_north_america.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. (1959). Extinct Mennonite Churches in North America. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/extinct_mennonite_churches_in_north_america.