Ambassadors Amish Mennonite Churches
The Ambassadors Amish Mennonites were a separatist movement from the Beachy Amish Mennonites. Like the Beachys, they have supported the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith and also maintained a set of distinctive practices and limits on lifestyle choices. However, their limitations were more strict and their practices more uniform. While congregations were autonomous, they came under the precepts detailed in a constitution. Their outreach focus was apparent in the bi-monthly periodical Beside the Still Waters and their rapid successive church planting.
The catalyst of the Ambassadors denomination was the Cedar Springs Amish Mennonite congregation of Leitchfield, Kentucky. In 1993, several families migrated from the Plainview Mennonite church in the Auburn-Franklin, Kentucky region to establish Cedar Springs as an outreach-oriented church planting. At the time of the emigration, the Auburn-Franklin area had three sizeable Beachy churches. The migrants felt it was better to move to where there was no conservative Anabaptist witness than to amass in a single settlement. There was also a restlessness among the churches that later resulted in several divisions. Plainview Mennonite provided oversight until Melvin Troyer was ordained bishop of Cedar Springs in 1997.
From Cedar Springs’ conception, the church had the vision of planting new churches when the home congregation became too full. In 1999 Cedar Springs moved several families to Greensburg, Kentucky, to establish Summersville Mennonite; James Hershberger was ordained bishop in 2004. That same year, Cedar Springs planted a second outreach in Advance, Missouri: Crowley’s Ridge Mennonite. Bishop Melvin Troyer moved with the outreach, and Jim Yoder was ordained bishop at Cedar Springs. In 2010, Cedar Springs initiated a third outreach: Owenton Mennonite in Owen County, Kentucky. Meanwhile, Summersville Mennonite established Living Waters Mennonite near Lexington, Indiana in 2007, and a Beachy faction from Belvidere, Tennessee, relocated to Fredonia, Kentucky, in 2009 and associated with the network.
The leadership of this network had a conservative bent and tight discipline from the beginning, and this attracted people from other states who were disillusioned by the ambiguities of Beachy church structure brought by rapid change. The network also attracted members from some of Kentucky’s and Tennessee’s more conservative Anabaptist denominations. This influx, as well as natural growth and local proselytes, enabled the rapid, successive church planting. A prerequisite to membership was one’s willingness to relocate to an outreach if called upon by the church.
Cedar Springs leaders were involved in the early work of Maranatha Amish Mennonite. They shared with other Maranatha churches a concern about the Beachys’ apparent lack of denominational structure and the declining distinctiveness of historic religious practices. Therefore, Cedar Springs, with several other churches, developed a constitution and separate ministers’ meetings for churches willing to come under a structured accountability. After several years, however, Cedar Springs sought a greater intimacy and a slightly more strict discipline than what Maranatha upheld. By this time, Cedar Springs had several church plantings established and was able to develop an independent denomination. The network formalized its independence gradually, beginning in the early 2000s. By 2008, they had adopted the name Ambassadors Amish Mennonite and had established a monthly periodical, The Connector; by 2009, they had adopted a constitution similar to Maranatha’s, but with several additions.
Theology, Structure and Culture
Ambassadors Amish Mennonites ascribed to the tenants of the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith and felt their core beliefs are adequately summarized in Daniel Kauffman’s Doctrines of the Bible. They would think of themselves as Beachy in the sense of the broader Amish Mennonite movement, but not the organized denomination. Their dress standard and mission program resembled that of the mission-minded Beachy churches in the 1970s-1980s. Suspenders were optional for men, but many—both young and old—chose to wear them. Women's head coverings were cap style and came up to the back of the ears. Computer use and ownership was strongly regulated. Members were active in literature distribution, nursing home visits, and church planting, mission activities that were once common among the Beachys.
Interaction of the laity among Ambassadors churches was frequent, owing in part to their small network and their geographic centralization in Kentucky and neighboring states. This has created a strong sense of identity. Their monthly periodical, The Connector, featured church news, sermon notes, articles of spiritual interest, and family profiles. The constituency also rallied to its far-reaching publishing program, Still Waters Ministry. Still Waters produced the bimonthly devotional booklet, Beside the Still Waters, which had a circulation of around 190,000 as of 2010. Sermon booklets, sermon CDs, and a cappella music CDs were also offered free of charge to subscribers.
Church life and structure resembled that of the Beachys. Like the Beachys, families were large among the Ambassadors. Men were mostly employed in some form of woodworking or farming, though several were involved in construction or craft-related jobs. Still Waters Ministries employed several men and women in the printing house, and each church also employed several men and women as church school teachers. Young adults participated in Ambassadors’ or one of Maranatha’s area-wide Bible schools, a one to two week program sponsored each winter by a local church. Hunting and fishing was perhaps the most popular form of recreation, but low-key forms of choir, volleyball, and softball also drew participants.
In 2010 the following four congregations were members of the Ambassadors Amish Mennonite Churches network, with a total membership of 262:
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.
The Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches. "Ambassadors Amish Mennonite." Web. 27 September 2010. http://www.beachyam.org/ambassadors.htm.
Beside the Still Waters. [Bi-monthly periodical]. Leitchfield, KY: Still Waters Ministries.
The Connector. [Monthly periodical]. Edited by William & Miriam Coblentz. Advance, MO: Ambassadors Amish Mennonite churches.
Mennonite Church Directory 2010. Harrisonburg, VA: Christian Light Publications, Inc., 2010.
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MLA style: Anderson, Cory. "Ambassadors Amish Mennonite Churches." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2012. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/ambassadors_amish_mennonite_churches.
APA style: Anderson, Cory. (January 2012). Ambassadors Amish Mennonite Churches. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/ambassadors_amish_mennonite_churches.