Evangelical Mennonite Society
The Evangelical Mennonite Society (known as the Gehman group), 1858-1879, were one of the constituent groups which entered into the formation of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ. It arose as a schism in the Eastern Pennsylvania Oberholtzer group, beginning initially in the Upper Milford congregation and centering in the person of Preacher William Gehman (1827-1918), who became the leader of the New Evangelical group. Gehman, ordained in 1849, began holding private prayer meetings in 1853 (with conference approval), which in 1856 were forbidden by the bishop of the conference. In the 1857 spring conference a vote was taken on the question and all those voting against the bishop's decision were expelled, 24 persons in number.
The expelled group built a new meetinghouse at Upper Milford and on 24 September 1858, organized the Evangelical Mennonite Society (Evangelische Mennoniten Gemeinschaft von Ost Pennsylvanien) with two elders, William N. Schelly and William Gehman, two preachers, David Henning and Henry Diehl, and three deacons. In 1876, when the conference first published its confession of faith and discipline, there were four elders, David Henning and Eusebius Hershey having been added, six preachers, Abel Strawn, J. L. Romig, John Musselman, and Abraham Kauffman having been added, and three deacons. In 1879 at the time of the merger there were nine congregations, nine ministers, and six deacons. After Upper Milford the next organized congregations were Coopersburg and Quakertown.
The Evangelical Mennonites were strictly evangelistic and practiced a warmer, more emotional type of piety than the other Mennonites of that time. They definitely represent the entrance of a Methodist type of piety, activity, and church organization into the Mennonite brotherhood in America. As early as 1876 they had an official missionary society, whose constitution was published in the book of discipline. This was essentially a home mission society, and did not operate foreign missions even though the constitution included foreign missions in its name. Eusebius Hershey of this group, the first American Mennonite foreign missionary, waited long to be sent by the church, but finally, in 1890, went out independently to Nigeria at the age of 67, dying there a year later.
These Pennsylvania-based Evangelical Mennonites merged with the Indiana and Ontario-based United Mennonites in 1879 to form the Evangelical United Mennonites which four years later helped to form the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.
Huffman, J. A. History of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church. New Carlisle, 1920.
Doctrine of Faith and Church Discipline of the Evangelical Mennonite Society of East Pennsylvania. Skippackville, 1867.
Smith, C. Henry. The Story of the Mennonites. 3rd ed. Newton, KS, 1950.
Storms, Everek Richard. History of the United Missionary Church. Elkhart, IN: Bethel Pub. Co., 1958.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 266. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Bender, Harold S. "Evangelical Mennonite Society." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/E9367ME.html.
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