Stauffer, Weaverland, Groffdale … Oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed

The history of the Anabaptist movement is one of continuous schism. That is the story of most religious movements, as brilliantly skewered by Monty Python in their film Life of Brian:

In the case of my family, I think I’ve finally discovered the name of our particular split hair – The Stauffer Mennonite Church. At least, that was their umbrella as of a few decades ago. Anyway, peace be on the household whose duty it was to collect information for that site. I do not envy them the task. I think the petty politics would have driven me to a narcotics addiction.

Consider for a minute the incident that led to the creation of the Stauffer church – a “question of the treatment of an orphan child adopted by one of the members.” A man named Jacob Stauffer – probably a great, great something or other of mine – wrote a 430-page book in support of his stance on the issue. This must have been some orphan. Anyway, that family squabble in 1845 was the first of a chain of fractures, schisms and otherwise childish behavior in the Lancaster Conference, spurred by the rapid technological change of the 20th Century and resulting in the creation of the Weaver and Groffdale Conferences. These latter two conferences seem to have slivered over issues of proper shunning and rubber on wheels.


There is a need for constant revision of the Ordnung (community rules) in order to keep up with technological change, but my people don’t seem to have any framework for doing so. I could be very wrong, but, as I read the schism histories, I see simple, poorly educated farmers stuggling to maintain a balance between market competitiveness and social cohesion with only cherry picked Bible verses to guide them. Add in a dash of absolute certainty and a pinch of apocalyptic fervor, and you have the recipe for social dynamite – people shunning and banning each other left and right.

All this passive-aggressive warfare has left a lot of casualties, my family being one of them. However, in this wired age, the casualties are starting to find each other and commiserate. A family member turned me on to the Church of God forum, where plenty of ex-Holdeman Mennonites hang out and the bitterness flows like water. I suggest you start with their ongoing riff on a popular Jeff Foxworthy routine.



2 Responses to “Stauffer, Weaverland, Groffdale … Oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed”

  1. OriginalSinnick Says:

    The irony of this being that Jesus prayed a prayer to the Father that was not granted. See Matt. 17.

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