Mennonite Women and Their Bishops in the Founding of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church

By Graybill, Beth | Mennonite Quarterly Review, April 1998 | Go to article overview

Mennonite Women and Their Bishops in the Founding of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church


Graybill, Beth, Mennonite Quarterly Review


Abstract. This essay applies feminist theory to a conflict in Lancaster County that led to the founding of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church in 1968. Since women's dress and gender roles were key elements in that division, the Ainlay/Kniss model of conflict needs greater nuancing to account for gender-related themes. To be sure, male and female founding members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church shared a common cause, but a focus on gender as a category of analysis strongly suggests that men and women were attracted to the church for different reasons.

**********

This paper applies a gendered analysis to the conflict that led to the founding of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church in 1968. I rely on archival analysis and oral history interviews with women inside and outside the denomination to argue that women's dress and gender roles were key elements in the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite division from the Lancaster Conference of the (Old) Mennonite Church. Feminist inquiry questions how gender role expectations affect institutions, including the church, and asks how women in particular are affected by divisive issues such as church splits. Examining women's dress as an object of material culture reveals insights about the qualities that the wearer and her culture associate with being female, (1) qualities that may be especially contested during conflict situations. Thus, exploring gender roles, women's dress and the ways these factors influenced the formation of a new Mennonite denomination in the late 1960s constitutes the heart of my investigation.

As a case study for the model of conflict outlined by Stephan Ainlay and Fred Kniss in their theoretical paper, my investigation into the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church illustrates both the overall validity of the Ainlay/Kniss model and the need for greater nuancing in our understanding of Mennonites and conflict. While I directly discuss their visual model toward the end of this paper, I suggest that a perspective more sensitive to intragroup differences along gender lines, even within a group that finds itself in general agreement, would more accurately characterize particular conflicts such as this one. Specifically, as I illustrate below, using gender as a category of analysis enables us to examine the ways in which male and female founding members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church shared common cause, as well as the ways in which men and women were motivated by distinct points of emphasis and discrete goals.

IMPORTANCE OF THE CONFLICT

The formation of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church out of Lancaster Conference merits our attention for two reasons. First, in 1968 Lancaster Conference was the largest Mennonite body in the world, claiming a membership of 16,005 before the split; this division marked the first major schism in the conference since the formation of the Old Order Mennonite groups some 70 years earlier. (2) The initial exodus from Lancaster Conference in 1968--which included 5 bishops as well as 27 ministers and 469 members from 12 congregations--was comparatively small. But the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church grew rapidly, formally organizing the following year with 1181 members in 27 congregations. (3) In the years following, additional converts from Lancaster Conference as well as from more conservative Mennonite and Amish groups were drawn to the group's evangelical fervor. (4) Today the denomination has tripled its original membership, numbering 3665 adult members in some 60 congregations (5)--and these numbers would be even higher but for the fact that the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church itself has spawned two church splits in its brief history. (6) The rapid growth of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church is in contrast to Lancaster Conference, which has grown more modestly during the same time period--to 19,979, an aggregate growth of 25%. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mennonite Women and Their Bishops in the Founding of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.