World Mennonite Membership Distribution
The now widely distributed Mennonite Church began in central Europe and Holland in the 16th century. By the early 18th century the Mennonite Church was becoming truly worldwide with the arrival of Mennonite settlers in North America. In 1700 the distribution of baptized members was probably as follows: Holland 80,000, Switzerland 500, Palatinate 500, Northwest Germany with Holstein 1,000, West Prussia and associated areas 7,500, Hungary and Slovakia 500, making a total of 90,000 in Europe, plus a small handful of 25 in the newly established Germantown settlement in Pennsylvania.
By 1850 world membership had declined 25% due exclusively to the formidable decline in Holland. The distribution of baptized members can be calculated roughly as follows: Holland 25,000, Switzerland 500, France 500, South Germany 1,000, Northwest Germany 1,500, West Prussia etc. 7,500, South Russia 10,000, Eastern United States 20,000, Ontario 1,500; total 67,500.
Fifty years later, by 1900, the total Mennonite Membership more than doubled to 150,000 with the strong expansion in Russia to 40,000, the United States to 50,000, and Canada to 25,000, though the rest of Europe remained largely static. By this time the North American continent had become the home of half of the Mennonite population.
In 1925 Christian Hege provided the numbers of baptized members and their children for the first Mennonite World Conference, and in 1943, the Warte Jahrbuch published similar numbers1:
1Cornelius Krahn has noted that the 1925 estimate for the United States seems rather high. He also notes that the 1943 number for Canada is based on the 1941 Canadian census figure of 111,376 Mennonites.
By 1958 Mennonite migration had expanded into the South and Central American countries of Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Honduras (total 25,000 members). By missionary outreach it expanded into three continents: Asia, including Java (Indonesia) in 1851, India in 1899, China in 1905, and Japan (Taiwan and Vietnam later) in 1949; Africa beginning with Belgian Congo in 1910 (Dem. Rep. Congo), and Tanganyika (Tanzania) in 1934; and South America with missionaries to Argentina in 1917, and to Colombia in 1945. In 1958 the total membership in these younger churches was 65,000, distributed by continents as follows: Africa 28,000, Asia 36,000, and South America 1,000. Meanwhile the Mennonite Church had been wiped out in West Prussia in 1945, and decimated in Russia 1917-1930 and 1940-1955, but had grown substantially again in Holland, and very substantially in North America by emigration from Russia (1922-1930, 1947-1950), in addition to the natural growth. The total world membership had again more than doubled in the base countries, in 1958 reaching 325,000, and together with the young churches in Asia and Africa had approached 400,000, of which total half was in the United States-Canada block.
By 2009 the Mennonite world membership distribution, at 1,616,126, shows a substantial increase from the 1958 total. This is due in large part to the ongoing success of missionary work around the world, especially to the flourishing of the Mennonite Church in Africa, totaling 592,106 members.
The following world membership distribution between 1948 and 2012 by continents and countries represents the best available information concerning Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. Some numbers are estimates.
2The numbers for 1948 do not include any members in Africa, where Mennonite missions work existed in several countries including Congo and Tanzania. The numbers also do not include any members in China, India, and Russia.
3The number for China and Hong Kong in 1958 is an estimate, and is probably an accurate estimate for 1948.
4Between 1990 and 2000 the number for Antigua and Barbados includes Barbados, Barbuda, Dominica, French St. Martin, Grenada, Guyana, St. Vincent, and the US Virgin Islands.
Krahn, Cornelius. "Mennonites - Numerically Speaking." In Mennonite World Conference 1948: Souvenir. N. p.: n. p., [1948?]: 22-24.
Lichdi, Diether Götz and Loretta Kreider, eds. Mennonite World Handbook: Mennonites in Global Witness. Carol Stream, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1990: 326-327.
Mennonite World Conference. "World Directory." 2010. Web. 2 April 2010. http://www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=16.
Mennonite and Brethren in Christ World Directory 1998. Strasbourg: Mennonite World Conference, 1998.
Mennonite Yearbook and Directory (1959).
World Directory: Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and Related Churches 2012 = Directorio mundial: Iglesias Menonitas, de los Hermanos en Cristo y afines 2012 = Répertoire mondial: Églises Mennonites, Frères en Christ et Apparentées. N.p.: Mennonite World Conference, 2012.
For the most recent statistics see the Mennonite World Conference site.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 980-981. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Bender, Harold S., Sam Steiner and Richard D. Thiessen. "World Mennonite Membership Distribution." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2013. Web. 26 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W6763ME.htm.
APA style: Bender, Harold S., Sam Steiner and Richard D. Thiessen. (January 2013). World Mennonite Membership Distribution. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W6763ME.htm.