Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

Technology in the Service of Community: Identity and Change among the Andy Weaver Amish

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

Technology in the Service of Community: Identity and Change among the Andy Weaver Amish

Article excerpt

Abstract: Located on a spectrum between the more progressive New Order Amish and the conservative Swartzentruber groups, the Andy Weaver Amish illustrate the complexities of contemporary Amish identity. Historically, the group emerged in the mid-1950s amid a debate over whether or not to shun individuals who joined non-Amish Anabaptist groups--and how to relate to other Amish groups who refused to shun such individuals. Since then, however, the lines of identity have become more complex. Though they share many of the same theological and ethical convictions of other Amish groups, the Andy Weaver Amish tend to be more vigilant than other Amish affiliations in avoiding the use of specific technologies. They also have a somewhat higher view of ministerial authority and the weight of tradition; and they avoid references to the "new birth" or conversion. In the end, it is these dynamic and fluid realities, which defy simplistic definitions, that offer the best window into the faith and practice of Andy Weaver groups today.

The Andy Weaver Amish--a moderately conservative expression of Old Order Amish with congregations spread from Ontario to Texas and New York to Nebraska, and beyond--appear to exemplify the stereotypical portrait of the North American Amish as strict, industrious, and morally-conscientious inhabitants of a bygone era, free from the individualism and consumerism that have come to symbolize the ascendance of modernity. (1) The group is distinguished by its especially frugal manner of life, conservative dress, skepticism of modern technology, and unwavering application of the principle of Streng Meidung (strict shunning). With more than a dozen distinct non-communing Amish affiliations present in North American, (2) what sets the Andy Weaver approach to technology apart from that of other plain groups? This essay explores that question from two discrete angles. It begins with an analysis of three moral/theological motifs--Christian sanctification viewed primarily in terms of a humble (demUtig) life; separation from the ungodly world; and salvation by faith--that are typical Anabaptist convictions yet understood in a distinct way by the Andy Weavers. The essay then addresses the question phenomenologically by examining three intramural debates on whether or not to permit a previously forbidden innovation. (3) Finally, the essay joins these two approaches by delineating the main contours of an Andy Weaver understanding of technology while recognizing the wide-ranging differences that exist between, and at times within, specific communities.

Although recent internal conflicts over excommunication (Bann) and shunning (Meidung) have threatened to divide the Andy Weaver constituency, (4) they remain unified by a minimalist attitude toward technology, (5) adopting only those innovations that will truly benefit their communal identity as a group guided by a shared ideal of what it means to be authentically Amish and, by extension, an unadorned disciple of Christ.

CONTEXT

The Andy Weaver Amish are located on a continuum of groups spanning the ultraconservative Swartzentruber and progressive (New) New Order Amish of Holmes County, Ohio. (6) In their 2010 survey of Amish groups in Holmes County, Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell describe the Andy Weaver Amish as "moderate conservatives." (7) The Andy Weaver faction emerged as a distinct affiliation in Holmes County, Ohio, around 1952. The primary catalyzing factor in the division that gave birth to the group were divergent--at times, mutually exclusive--positions on church discipline. The landmark case occurred in an Amish district in Orrville, Ohio, and focused on the proper disciplinary procedure for a member who left the Old Order to join a more technologically progressive conservative Anabaptist (non-Amish) group that adhered to the Dordrecht Confession but was not as rigorous in applying traditional principles of separation and simplicity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.