Who are the New Order Amish?
The New Order Amish are a subgroup of Amish that split away from the Old Order Amish in the 1960s.
The New Order group is one of the most progressive groups of Amish. And while they still drive a horse and buggy and hold to the traditional Amish-style dress, there are a few things that set them apart from the Old Order Amish.
New Order Amish communities can be found in about a dozen states across the USA, with the largest population residing in the Holmes County, Ohio area.
And they are few in number compared to other Amish groups.
Reasons Why the New Order Amish Split Away From the Old Order
My parents were a part of the group that left the Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, PA. And there were a couple of key reasons why they decided to leave.
#1. Spiritual Issues
The Old Order Amish do not encourage individuals to read and study the Word of God. The preachers are the only ones that are supposed to study the Bible, and they tell the church what the Word says and means.
But a few of the Amish became hungry for God’s Word and started reading it for themselves. Discussions began to arise among members of the church. And several families decided to get together to study the Bible.
Some of them began to question whether they were being taught the truth regarding salvation, etc. The hunger for spiritual activity began to spread, and more of them started having Bible study groups.
But most of the bishops/preachers were not happy. They tried to stop it, which is why they ended up with a split.
#2. Concern for the Youth
The Old Order Amish youth begin their Rumspringa (translated as “running around”) at the age of sixteen. And many of them spend the next few years of their lives getting a taste of the world. They’re not members of the church yet, so they are allowed to get a driver’s license. And a lot of them get involved in drinking, smoking, immorality (bed courtship was a tradition), etc.
Some of the parents were concerned about their young people getting involved in the things of the world, and they didn’t want their youth to grow up like this.
(I wish that I had asked my parents more questions and got them to tell me the story in-depth. But these were the two points that I heard them talk about, as to why they left the Old Order Amish.)
New Order vs Old Order Amish
There are several differences between New Order and Old Order churches, besides the issue of salvation.
#1. Difference in Appearance
New Order Amish churches still preserve the traditional Amish dress, although there is a trend towards slimmer brimmed hats, as well as neatly cut hair and trimmed beards among the men.
And the New Order women typically have brighter colors and slightly different styles (our head coverings were made of different fabric, etc.). But some of the differences may not be very noticeable to the outsider.
#2. More Modern Conveniences
With the start of a New Order came a few changes in their rules. Although there are also differences among the New Order groups.
The New Order groups farm with tractors (and you may even see them driving to town with their tractor), and they have telephones in their homes.
Holmes County, Ohio New Order churches (which is home to the majority of their groups) decided that they would not allow electricity, although many of them have generators and battery-powered lights, or solar panels.
But the New Order churches in other areas are allowed to have electricity and the modern conveniences that it brings.
The New Order Amish are also allowed to fly and travel by airplane.
#3. Sunday School and Bible Study
Old Order Amish only have a church service every two weeks, with a fellowship meal following the service. The New Order Amish kept up that tradition as well, but then they have Sunday School on the in-between Sunday.
Most of the New Order groups also meet in their homes (a few groups have a church house). So every family hosts the service for two Sundays. Sunday School is a shorter service with faster singing, a short devotional, and then everyone divides into groups and has a typical Sunday School class.
Once a year the church takes votes to elect the Sunday School teachers, as well as the teachers for their mid-week Bible Study groups.
#4. Evangelistic – Mission Minded
The New Order Amish are involved in trying to win souls to Christ. And they will also witness to the Old Order Amish when given a chance.
I shared in My Story part 2 about the time that I spent at a small Native American reserve as an Amish missionary.
Our youth group went to New York City once a year to pass out tracts and share a Gospel service at the Bowery Mission. And some of the groups get involved in prison ministry, etc.
#5. Pennsylvania German Language
Pennsylvania German is mostly preserved in the New Order groups, but there is a tendency to shift to the English language.
Their church services are mostly in the PA German/Dutch language, although there’s more English mixed in. And if you go visit, they might even preach in English for your benefit.
#6. No alcohol or tobacco
The New Order Amish strictly prohibits the use of alcohol and tobacco, believing that our bodies are the temple of the Lord, and this is not something that Christians should be involved in.
So even though they are more progressive and not as strict on many things, they are more conservative on a few issues.
#7. No Rumspringa
The New Order youth do not practice the typical Amish “Rumspringa”. The majority of their youth get saved at a younger age and join the church in their early teens.
They’re allowed to join the youth group at sixteen years old. But there is no drinking, smoking, drugs, or bed courtship. The parents are very concerned about the youth and want them to serve God and live a clean life.
In our church, we had a “Hands off and lips off” rule for dating couples. And they usually have their dates in the living room just talking or playing a game, reading God’s Word, and praying together.
They have a youth leader that plans wholesome activities for the youth group at least twice a week. Most of the New Order youth learn how to read music, and they spend a LOT of time singing 4-part harmony together. (It’s beautiful!)
Every other week they have a youth Bible Study. Other weeks they sing at nursing homes, play volleyball, etc.
I shared my experience of being a New Order Amish teenager in My Story (part 2).
#8. No Shunning
The New Order Amish do not practice shunning when someone leaves the church. (Old Order church members are shunned when they leave.)
#9. More Technology
The New Order is a bit more lenient on technology usage. Most of them are freely allowed to carry and use cell phones (Of course, when I was a member of the church, cell phones were still not an issue. And I am not sure what their rules are on having smartphones and using the internet?)
One of my brothers is a preacher in a New Order church, but I haven’t asked him about their rules. Although, I know they definitely try to limit internet use.
He has his own business and uses computers, email, etc. for his business. But I’m not sure where they draw the line, or what their rules are regarding the smartphone?
The New Order churches typically are not allowed to have stereos, radios, tv, cameras (although they are somewhat lenient on cameras and have photos), etc.
New Order Amish Beliefs
A key difference between Old Order and New Order Amish is their belief on the issue of salvation.
The New Order groups teach salvation by Grace through Faith (as taught in Ephesians 2:8&9), and they freely talk about being born again, having the assurance of salvation, and going to heaven.
They encourage their members to read God’s Word and strive to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
They are also evangelistic and desire to share the Word of God and salvation in Christ to the outside world.
But the Old Order groups believe that it is prideful to say that you are saved and going to heaven. They believe that Jesus died for their sins, but largely teach salvation by works. And they say that one can only “hope” to make it to heaven.
New Order Amish in Lancaster, PA
I grew up New Order Amish in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. And I was a part of the church there for the first twenty-two years of my life.
But if you travel to that area today in search of a New Order church, you won’t find any. The only Amish in the Lancaster area is the Old Order Amish. (I don’t consider the Beachy Amish/Mennonites as Amish.)
The New Order tends to have a lower percentage of its members stay with the Amish. They are so close to being like their Beachy Amish/Mennonite neighbors, and the church does not shun them for leaving. So there’s a pull to leave the Amish and get a car.
When I was growing up, there were two New Order churches in the Lancaster area. And we also fellowshipped with a New Order church in Lewisburg, PA.
But over the years, people kept leaving and joining the Beachy churches. Slowly our membership dwindled until all that was left were older couples. And eventually, they decided they might as well join their kids where they go to church.
So all three of these New Order churches died out.
And yes, I felt sad for my parent’s generation who started these churches only to see them fail. But I am grateful that they stood for the truth and did what they thought was right for their children.
Read More About the Amish
- I’m sorry about the quality of the images in this post. We weren’t supposed to have cameras, but some of us were sneaky and had one anyway. We liked to take photos, but they sure weren’t great quality. 😉
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The Ausbund is a German songbook that’s used in Amish churches. And the Martyr’s Mirror is very dear to the Amish and Mennonites since it contains stories of early Anabaptist Christians.