Who Are the Old Order Amish?

Old Order Amish is one type of Amish order. It’s history dates back to the mid eighteen hundreds. In 1862, Amish bishop ministers and deacons from across the United States and Ontario began a series of annual gatherings. These meetings were to address and resolve disagreements in certain Amish communities. These gatherings were called Dienerversammlungen(ministers’ meeting), they convened each spring from 1862 through 1878(except 1877) to discuss issues. Such issues as the proper way to baptize, how to relate to Mennonites, and how much the church should accept American cultural mores. In short, which offerings on the American cultural menu should the church accept and which should it reject?

Family of Old Order Amish
Family of Old Order Amish

As leaders met to discuss, debate and seek consensus, it became clear they didn’t agree on many issues. A majority of those who attended Dienerversammlugen seemed somewhat open to adapting to the times. Others wished to hold tight to the “Old Order” of their forebear.

By 1865, conservative leaders, who had wanted to keep old practices, realized they were being outflanked. That spring, traditional leaders meant in Holmes County, Ohio, a few days before the larger body of ministers met. The traditionalist prepared a manifesto of their commitment to an Old Order way of life and a list of things to purge from Amish communities. The traditional respecting leaders concluded that the gate on the pathway to heaven ” is portrayed for us a straight and the way as narrow, but it is not therefore ever closed, but stands open for all repentant souls, and as the Savior says…’Whoever does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.’ “

The 1865 ministers’ meeting ignored the conservative leaders’ overture and in response the tradition-minded churches withdrew from the national ministers’ forum. Within two generations, the progress-seeking churches would surrender their distinctive Amish identity and merge with neighboring Mennonites.

Meanwhile, the tradition-minded “Old Order” Amish came to be identified by plainness, simplicity, small-scaled farming, and skepticism of world culture. As late as 1912, some lines of fellowship were still fluid, as emerging technological issues were beginning to mark Old Order identity. That year the church voted on whether to accept telephone. After voting, telephones were rejected.

Characteristics of Old Order Amish

  1. Plain dress
  2. Horse and buggy travel
  3. Pennsylvania German language
  4. Worship in homes
  5. Ban on electricity
  6. Ban on phones
  7. Belief in “living hope” of salvation
  8. Church services every other Sunday
  9. Usually no Sunday school


Kraybill, Donald. The Amish. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013

%d bloggers like this: