Old Order Mennonites of Virginia
The "Middle District Trouble," involving questions of leadership and methods in church work, resulted in a schism in the Virginia Mennonite (Mennonite Church) church in 1900. About that time 69 members out of approximately 500 total, including the three preachers Simeon, Emanuel, and Gabriel Heatwole, all living near the Bank church, refused to identify themselves with the church and were "published off," i.e., were declared out of fellowship or excommunicated. In 1902 Bishop Jonas Martin of the Old Order Mennonite group in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was called in by this group. The Wisler Discipline was read and accepted. A new congregation was organized, and in 1902 the Pleasant View meetinghouse was built 2 miles northwest of Dayton in Rockingham County. The division may be thought of as primarily occurring in the Bank church.
On 15 November 1902, Simeon Heatwole was ordained bishop, and at the same time John Dan Wenger was named preacher. Bishop Heatwole, due to the infirmities of old age, was replaced as bishop by John Dan Wenger in 1912. Wenger was the most important leader since that time. Another meetinghouse, the Oak Grove church 1.5 miles south of Dayton, was built in 1921.
In the mid-20th century Bishop John Dan Wenger called into question the preaching and leadership of one of his ministers, Russell Cline. Those who sympathized with Cline sought and acquired recognition for him on the part of the Old Order Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and Cline was ordained bishop for the new group. Warren Showalter and Justus Showalter were ordained to serve as ministers. The membership of this group in 1957 was 200.
In the mid-1950s, John Dan Wenger, the aged Old Order Mennonite bishop in Virginia, believed that he was the rightful leader of the Old Order Mennonites of Virginia. He ordained his son Paul Wenger as bishop, and Oscar Martin served as minister. The membership of this group in 1957 was 125. About 25 of the Old Order Mennonites of Virginia joined with the "Horning People" (Weaverland Conference) in Pennsylvania. They purchased an old Baptist church several miles southeast of Mt. Crawford, Virginia, where they were served occasionally by ministers from Pennsylvania.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 49. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Brunk, Harry A. "Old Order Mennonites of Virginia." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O546.html.
APA style: Brunk, Harry A. (1959). Old Order Mennonites of Virginia. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O546.html.