Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites

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The Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites are a group of Old Order Mennonites located in Wellesley and Mapleton Townships in southwestern Ontario, Canada. The church was formally registered as the "Orthodox Mennonite Church of Wellesley Township" in 1962.[1] The group, originally known as the Elam Martin Mennonites, celebrated their first communion together on April 6, 1958, after several families left the David Martin Mennonite Church (today legally known as Independent Old Order Mennonite Church) in Waterloo County, Ontario in the late 1950s, "on account of serious disagreements within the church".[2]Evidence shows that the families who left were concerned about modernization in their previous church, including the usage of power tools and welders. [3] From that time, the Orthodox Mennonites have focused on remaining very separate from modern technology, including electricity, telephones and computers. They use horses for farming instead of tractors, and their dress is very plain. Their Sunday service practices are centuries old and in German, although English may be used when visitors are present. The Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites consider themselves the true descendants of the apostolic Church, in their area[4], in accordance with their understanding of lineage as presented in the Martyrs Mirror. Their beliefs center on the Bible, the Dordrecht Confession of 1632, and the Martyrs Mirror.

Genesis of the Wellesley Orthodox Mennonites

On March 11, 1956,[5]Minister Elam S. Martin was excommunicated a second time from the David Martin Mennonite Church, due to disagreements over the interpretation of Matthew chapter 18 in the New Testament.[6] Elam Martin (1907-1987), ordained a minister in the David Martin Church in 1934[7] decided eventually to unite with several others who left the David Martins, and became the Bishop ("by circumstance") of the group, which at their first communion in 1958 included 20 married couples plus 17 single members. [8] This new Elam Martin Mennonite Church held their first worship service at their newly completed 13th Line (WellesleyTownship) meetinghouse on June 24, 1962. It was during that time that the church legally registered with the name of "Orthodox Mennonite Church of Wellesley Township".[9]

The Division of 1974

For some time there was peace in the church. As the church took in new members, however, some things began to change, a little too quickly for many of the more traditional members.[10] One of the issues that came to a head was the issue of beard wearing for men, which caused disunity. Also, "the fact that Elam began to accept the David Martin group's (looser) interpretation of the ban ultimately resulted in a division between Anson Hoover and Elam Martin in the late winter of 1974."[11] With Elam Martin taking the side of the beard wearing group, the church was left without a Bishop. Anson Hoover (1920-2008) took the leadership as Acting Bishop. He had been ordained by Bishop Elam as a minister in 1965. [12] Amos Sherk, who stayed with the church, wrote, "On account of serious upheaval in the church under the leadership of Elam S. Martin and to establish the lamp of righteousness and of the truth of Jesus Christ once again into the assembly of believers a meeting was called upon this day (February 26, 1974) to see who all would be found willing to clasp the hands in fellowship and communion in Jesus Christ."[13] Perhaps a portent of this "serious upheaval" occurred in the Spring of 1971 when the Orthodox meetinghouse burned to the ground.[14] Now not only a building needed to be rebuilt. In the end, the Orthodox Mennonite Church of Wellesley Township was left with about half its former members.[15]

The Sherk Years

On April 29, 1975, Amos Sherk (1947-) was ordained a minister in the church.[16]His family had been with the Orthodox Mennonites from the beginning. More turbulence in the church saw the excommunication of Anson Hoover in the early Spring of 1976, and Amos Sherk became Acting Bishop on October 3, 1976. [17] Meanwhile, the Bishop Elam group that separated in 1974 made the decision in 1979 to move as a group to the Gorrie area (Howick Township) in Huron County, also in southwestern Ontario. [18]

  1. [1]
  2. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history of the Orthodox and David Martin Mennonites (Primary Source), no date, page 18.
  3. Royden Loewen: Horse-and-Buggy Genius: Listening to Mennonites Contest the Modern World, University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2016, page 56.
  4. David E.M. Martin: A Confession and Explanation of the Primary Reason why I am in Unity with the Orthodox Mennonite Church and why I am not in Unity with the Other Churches (Primary Source, unpublished), January 20, 2013, 48 pages.
  5. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history, page 16.
  6. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, Brotherhood, Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario, 2003, page 179.
  7. Amos Sherk, Unpublished history, page 8.
  8. Ibid, pages 18-19.
  9. Ibid, page 21.
  10. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites in Ontario, page 183.
  11. Ibid., page 180.
  12. Amos Sherk: Unpublished history, pages 21-24.
  13. Ibid., page 25.
  14. Ibid., page 24.
  15. Donald Martin: Old Order Mennonites of Ontario, page 180.
  16. Ibid., page 343.
  17. Ibid., page 183
  18. Ibid., page 180.