Anabaptists originated in sixteenth-century Europe. They believed in voluntary, adult baptism, nonviolence, love of the enemy, and discipleship. Today the term may include Amish, Mennonites, and related groups.
Anabaptists in Lancaster County
Many different Anabaptists make their home in Lancaster County, Pa. They represent the spectrum from modern to conservative. Some groups are concentrated here but have larger constituencies in surrounding counties and states.
2018 Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Anabaptist Survey
Conducted by Carl Garber
The goal of this census is to provide an update on the total number of congregations (districts) and members of all Anabaptist affiliated churches (or fellowships, or conferences) in the United States in 2018.
To achieve this goal, a review of several previously published census reports was conducted going back thirty years to ensure that all Anabaptist-related denominations, conferences, districts, and churches were included, no matter how small. The review included the following census reports:
- 1990 World Conference Report1
- Anabaptists-Mennonites Nationwide USA, 19972
- Anabaptist World USA, 20013
- “Mennonite Church Groups,” 20104
- Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites, 20105
- 2015 World Conference Report6
- Mennonite Church Directory 20187
- “Hutterite Directory”8
This census includes all those in the main groups of the Anabaptist peoplehood: Amish, Amish Mennonite, Brethren, Hutterite, Mennonite, River Brethren, and unaffiliated Anabaptists that can be identified.
The census reports mentioned above were also used to generate a complete list of all known Anabaptist groups. Not all surveys included the same groups, so a complete list was tabulated for any group listed in the above census reports. In some cases, a group or conference name had changed during the past thirty years, or new groups have formed. Hopefully, this survey appropriately reflects these changes.
An attempt was made to go directly to the source for the most current census information whether it be for a denomination, a conference, a fellowship, or individual church (if independent or unaffiliated). In some cases, the contact information was provided in these census reports but in many instances was found to be out of date. A more efficient approach to identify contacts for current information was via the internet. However, this was not a comprehensive approach because some groups do not have a website for contact information because they might be too small, or because they intentionally avoid the use of the internet and email. So where possible, contact was made by phone or letter.
I want to thank Edsel Burdge at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College who tracks the Old Order Amish population nationwide annually. The latest data from July 2018 was incorporated in this 2018 census report.
Cedrontech maintains a directory of Hutterite colonies, which contains geographic and demographic information, including the number of residents for each colony of each state and province. The number of members was estimated, per the approach of Kraybill, who recommended a factor of 2.25 residents per member.
I also want to thank Larry Heisey at the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookline, Ohio, for his wonderful assistance in contacting about a dozen smaller groups in the Brethren family.
Also, a special thanks goes to the editor of the Christian Light Publication Directory that is published annually. The 2018 directory had just come out at the start of this project and served a vital role. I went through each conference in this directory to determine which congregations were inside or outside the United States. The data in this 2018 Census Report reflects only congregations in the United States, so it is slightly lower than that reported elsewhere.
GAMEO (Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online) provided very useful additional information regarding unaffiliated or independent churches via the category of “Independent Mennonite Congregations.” Each independent church was identified to determine contact information and census data.
Comparison of data from this census was made to data provided by the 2015 World Conference online report and GAMEO.
When the 2015 Mennonite World Conference website was visited on June 28, 2018, it was assumed the country details from the map reflected the 2015 census because the map and web page were both labeled 2015. However, after the 2018 World Conference Census report and GAMEO 2018 data were available, the map-based details were again selected, and found to be almost identical to what was presumed to be 2015 map-based details. Also, it appears that the map detail census is close but does not agree exactly with data shown on the overall census report summary.
The 2018 LMHS census shows more than 100,000 Anabaptist members, suggesting that the Anabaptist census in GAMEO and the one generated for the 2018 World Conference report may have omitted some Anabaptist denominations. Beginning in 2015, the Mennonite World Conference census was broadened to include all Anabaptist groups, including Old and New Order Amish, Brethren, and Bruderhof Communities, but not the main Hutterite groups nor some of the larger groups in the Brethren family. The 2018 LMHS census attempted to include all groups.
Finally, some independent or unaffiliated churches declined to be included in this census. A separate table is maintained at LMHS for anyone who wishes to research that information.
The table below is the 2018 LMHS Census of Anabaptist related churches and congregations and districts in the United States, showing the number of members, the number of churches (districts or colonies), and where available, the average attendance (or population). Each data entry shows a comment on the source of the information and may also include additional comments. Notice that a number of churches and groups did not report average attendance, so the grand total at the top of the column is not complete.
1. Diether Gotz Lichdi, ed., 1990 World Conference Report (Carol Stream, Ill.: Mennonite World Conference, 1990).
2. C. Nelson Hostetter, Anabaptist-Mennonites Nationwide USA, (Morgantown, Pa.: Masthof Press, 1997).
3. Donald B. Kraybill, C. Nelson Hostetter, Anabaptist World USA (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2001).
4. C. Nelson Hostetter, “Mennonite Church Groups,” Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, https://www.lmhs.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/usa-stats-2010-12-09.pdf.
5. Donald B. Kraybill, Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).
6. Mennonite World Conference, “2015 World Conference Report,” accessed Jun 28, 2018, www.mwc-cmm/mwc_map/country/1228#.
7. Christian Light Publications, Mennonite Church Directory 2018 (Harrisonburg, Va.: Christian Light Publications, 2018).
8. Cedrontech, “Hutterite Directory,” accessed August 29, 2018, www.cedrontech.com/directory.
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