Written by: Christine M. Irvin
The Amish can trace their religious roots back to the early 1500s as their beliefs and practices were based on the writings of Menno Simon, the founder of the Mennonite faith, as well as on the 1632 Mennonite publication, Dordrecht Confession of Faith. The Amish later split from the Mennonite church in the late 17th century, and the Amish movement was founded by Jacob Amman in Europe . The word Amish comes from Jacob’s last name, Amman .
The growth and development of the Amish faith basically began as within the Mennonite movement as some of the members were unhappy with the group’s beliefs and practices. The major points of contention between the members were on the lack of Meidung, or shunning, which is a form of excommunication of members from the group; the frequency of communion; the matter of foot washing; and the style of dress. When the group broke away from the Mennonites, in the late 1600s, they then called themselves the Amish. But, even today, the Amish and Mennonites are very similar in customs and beliefs. The distinction between them lies mostly on the issues of dress and the way the two groups worship.
The Amish who broke away from the Mennonites made their homes in Switzerland and in the southern part of the Rhine river region in Germany . However, over time these Amish rejoined the Mennonites, the last group in Germany doing so in 1937, leaving no organized Amish groups in Europe .
Amish emigration to the United States started in the early 1900s. The first ones settled in the state of Pennsylvania . Later groups went to New York , Iowa , Missouri , Illinois , Indiana , Ohio and some other states.
The Amish try to preserve their 17th century European culture even whle living in the United States . As much as possible, they shy away from modern society, isolating themselves from the American culture.
The Amish believe and promote the ideas that salvation is by the grace of God and not through church sacraments; an individual freedom of belief; and reliance on what the Bible teaches without much attention to church traditions.