Funk, Christian (1731-1811)
Christian Funk, born in 1731 in Franconia Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the son of Bishop Henry Funck. He married Barbara, daughter of Preacher Julius Cassel, in 1751. Nine children were born to this union. His father ordained him to the ministry for the Franconia circuit about 1756. He was confirmed as bishop in 1769. According to the letter of 1773 addressed to the Mennonites of Holland, which was probably written by Christian Funk, the bishop district included the congregations of Franconia, Plains, Salford, Rockhill, and Line Lexington.
Christian Funk was an able leader with very decided views, which finally led to the first schism among the American Mennonites. The American Revolution with its problems for nonresistant Mennonites formed the background for this division. Most of the Mennonite leaders strenuously opposed the oath of allegiance required by all Pennsylvania inhabitants by an Act of the Assembly, 13 June 1777, on grounds of Scriptural principle, as well as their loyalty to the king, to whom they had promised allegiance. They also opposed the payment of a special war tax of two pounds, ten shillings, levied in 1777. They considered Congress a government in rebellion. Christian Funk agreed with his fellow ministers that "as a defenseless people, the Mennonites could neither institute nor destroy any government." But after Funk read a copy of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and noted its guarantees of freedom of worship and freedom of conscience on the matter of bearing arms and oath taking, he began to express his conviction that Congress should not be denounced as rebellious. He also urged the payment of the special war tax, and took no stand against the oath of allegiance. These views brought Funk into direct conflict with his fellow bishops and ministers. He was deposed from his office as bishop, silenced as a minister, and excommunicated. After the war ended a reconciliation was attempted, but was unsuccessful, as Funk refused to be admitted as a transgressor.
Funk and several followers continued to worship as a separate group, which organized at least four congregations. Various factors, such as poor leadership, the Herrite influence, and the Oberholtzer schism, led to the final disintegration of the "Funkite" group by 1855. In that year the meetinghouse near Harleysville was torn down and rebuilt at the Delp's burial ground. Tradition holds that Funk lies buried in this cemetery, though no marker has been found. He died 31 May 1811.
Our principal source for the history of the "Funkite" controversy is Christian Funk's own treatise, Ein Spiegel für Alle Menschen . . . (published at Reading, 1813 and in English, A Mirror for all Mankind . . . , Norristown, 1814). It is admittedly a strong polemic in defense of Funk's position in the issues involved. It is also an invaluable contemporary source for our knowledge of Mennonite church life and practices of the late colonial period.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 18.
Cite This Article
Leatherman, Quintus. "Funk, Christian (1731-1811)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 16 Jan 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Funk,_Christian_(1731-1811)&oldid=145205.
Leatherman, Quintus. (1956). Funk, Christian (1731-1811). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 January 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Funk,_Christian_(1731-1811)&oldid=145205.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 421. All rights reserved.
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