Lepp, Aron (1827-1913)
Aron Peter Lepp: elder and administrator; born 4 March 1827 in Einlage, Chortitza Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, to Peter and Helena (Dyck) Lepp. He was the youngest of 19 children in the family, ten of whom died young. He was baptized on 22 April 1862 into the Mennonite Brethren Church. In about 1849, he married Katharina Siemens, daughter of Johann and Maria (Dyck) Siemens. The couple had 15 children, six of whom died young. Aron served as an elder in the Mennonite Brethren Church in Einlage from 1876 to 1903 and was influential in forming the identity of the denomination. He died in Omsk-Post, Siberia, on 22 September 1913.
Aron grew up and attended school in the Chortitza Mennonite Settlement, where his father manufactured spinning wheels and later founded a clock factory. In about 1849, Aron married Katharina Siemens, and he obtained work as an administrator of the Judenplan agricultural villages. He was converted in 1858, baptized by immersion in the Molotschna Mennonite Settlement on 22 April 1862, and joined the newly-formed Einlage Mennonite Brethren Church. Because of complaints regarding his affiliation with the Mennonite Brethren church, he was released from his Judenplan position.
When a series of crises left the Einlage church without a minister, Lepp was one of two men chosen to lead the congregation. Tensions in the church continued, especially regarding the question of whether the Mennonite Brethren should pursue closer ties with the Baptists or with other Mennonites. While Aron advocated the second option, which he believed would better preserve their beliefs and privileges, leaders such as Elder Abraham Unger wanted to merge with the Baptists. Finally, Aron suggested that the Baptists and Mennonite Brethren have separate congregations but maintain fellowship with each other, including communion.
In 1866, the Baptist preacher August Liebig put Lepp in charge of the Andreasfeld congregation, a branch of the Einlage church, and on 18 October 1869, he was ordained by the Baptist Elder Johann Oncken of Hamburg. In 1873, when the government proposed military draft laws that would threaten Mennonite nonresistance, Lepp and Unger prepared a confession of faith and a report for the government which outlined the differences between Mennonites and Baptists, and also between the Mennonite Brethren and the larger Mennonite church.
When Abraham Unger retired in 1876, Aron was elected to succeed him and was ordained by Elder Jakob Janz of the Friedensfeld Mennonite Brethren Church, thus helping to resolve issues people had about Aron’s previous Baptist ordination. The questions regarding the Mennonite Brethren and the rest of the Mennonite community continued, however, even being raised at the conference in 1877.
Over the next years, Lepp continued to serve as elder of the Einlage congregation. He participated in the commissioning of ministers, deacons, and elders, he traveled extensively as one of five Mennonite Brethren Reiseprediger, and he also participated actively in conferences and conventions. In early 1903 he resigned due to failing health, and in June he ordained Gerhard Regehr as his replacement. Aron and his wife moved to Petrovka, Naumenko Mennonite Settlement, where Katharina died on 25 December 1907. In 1909, Aron moved to be with his son, Jakob, in Omst-Post, Siberia. His health deteriorated, and he died there on 22 September 1913.
Aron Lepp was a strong and determined leader of the early Mennonite Brethren Church. Through his work in the church, both his own and others, he had a profound influence on the direction of the Mennonite Brethren Church and on the many people he encountered.
Dueck, Abe J. Moving Beyond Secession: Defining Russian Mennonite Brethren Mission and Identity, 1872-1922. Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Productions, 1997: 41, 44, 53.
Epp, David H. “Aus der Kindheitsgeschichte der deutschen Industrie in den Kolonien Südrußlands: Kulturgeschichtliche Stizzen aus alter Zeit.” Der Bote (13 July 1938): 2.
Epp, Heinrich. Notizen aus dem Leben und Wirken des verstorbenen Ältesten Abraham Unger, dem Gründer der “Einlager-Mennoniten-Brüdergemeinde. Halbstadt, Taurien, Russia: selbstverlag, 1907: 16, 17, 26, 29, 30, 31.
Epp, Johann. Iwanowke: Die Geschichte der Familie Heinrich Epp aus Iwanowka (Eppchutor) in Sibirien und deren Stammbaum (beginnt bei Peter Epp, geb. 1690). Bielefeld, Germany: [s.n.], 1995: 55, 182-187.
Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911: 240, 246, 291, 384, 385, 397, 398.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.23 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2006: #110584.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 439 f., 641.
Huebert, Helmut T. Events and People: Events in Russian Mennonite History and the People that Made Them Happen. Winnipeg: Springfield Publishers, 1999: 48, 87, 99.
Toews, J. A. A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church. Fresno, California: Board of Christian Literature, General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1975: 72, 73, 74, 75, 76.
Toews, John B. “Baptists and the Mennonite Brethren in Russia (1790-1930)” in Mennonites & Baptists: A Continuing Conversation. Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1993: 81-96.
Wardin, Albert W. “Mennonite Brethren and German Baptists in Russia: Affinities and Dissimilarities.” In Mennonites & Baptists: A Continuing Conversation. Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1993: 97-112.
Aron Lepp (b. 4 March 1827, d. 22 September 1913) was an elder of the Mennonite Brethren at Einlage, South Russia. He had been baptized by immersion on 22 April 1862. In consequence he was accused of being an "Anabaptist" by the Fürsorgkomitee in Odessa, and was dismissed from his office of civil and economic supervision of the Jewish settlement (see Judenplan, ML II, 439 f.). In 1866 he was put in charge of Andreasfeld, a subsidiary congregation, by the Baptist preacher August Liebig; at a conference in 1868 he was chosen to the ministry, and on 18 October 1869, ordained by the Baptist Elder Oncken of Hamburg. Although Lepp had received a Baptist ordination, he was reordained by the Mennonite Elder Janz of Friedrichsfeld, when he was chosen to fill the place of Elder A. Unger in 1876. Lepp was a determined opponent of the union of the Mennonite Brethren with the Baptists. He argued that the Mennonites would jeopardize their rights, and that the confessions of faith were too divergent. It is therefore largely due to his influence that the Mennonite Brethren did not merge with the Baptists. Lepp served in the office of elder until an advanced age. In 1903 he retired.
Author: Abraham Braun
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 327. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Huebert, Susan and Helmut Huebert. "Lepp, Aron (1827-1913)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2010. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/lepp_aron_1827_1913.
APA style: Huebert, Susan and Helmut Huebert. (September 2010). Lepp, Aron (1827-1913). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/lepp_aron_1827_1913.