What’s the Difference Between Amish and Mennonite?


The Amish and Mennonite traditions fascinate many people. Each group’s convictions about their Christian beliefs, community values, and the extent to which they should interact with society are central to their identity. Amish and Mennonite communities are distinct, yet outsiders easily confuse them.

Amish and Mennonite are Christian traditions that date to the time of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The communities split over secondary theological issues in their early histories. Today, most Amish embrace seclusion, while Mennonites generally interact more with society.

See the Amish and Mennonite comparisons chart below and learn more about each tradition.

Amish Mennonite similarities
What language is spoken in Amish church services? See below

Amish and Mennonite Comparison Chart

AmishMennonite
IdentityDevout Protestant Christain community with roots in the Anabaptist traditionDevout Protestant Christain community with roots in the Anabaptist tradition
FounderNamed after Jakob AmmannNamed after Menno Simons
HistorySplit from Mennonites in the late 17th century under the leadership of Jakob Ammann (1644-1730) for reasons like wanting to observe communion more frequentlyMenno Simons (1496-1561), a former Catholic priest for whom the tradition is named, founded the community that had mostly Protestant convictions
MembershipMembership is over 300,000 globally (est.)Membership is over 2 million globally (est.)
BeliefsOrthodox Christians, affirming the Trinity, the sinfulness of all people, God’s love for all people, the inspiration of the Bible, believer’s baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Second Coming of ChristSame; they tend to emphasize evangelism more than Amish people do
AppearanceTraditionally, men have beards and commonly wear hats; women wear bonnets and long dressesMany embrace modest modern clothing styles and, as a result, are seen as liberal by those with more conservative convictions
TechnologyMany don’t use technology; a small amount use it in limited amounts; few completely embrace itMost embrace modern technology
ShunningPractice shunning as a form of community disciplinePractice shunning as a form of community discipline
LifestyleMost value “plain living” and pacifismSome value “plain living” and pacifism
ChurchDon’t have church buildings; meet in homesSome meet in church buildings, some meet in homes
LeadershipNo central headquarters or leadershipThe current name (2001) of the organization is called Mennonite Church USA, headquartered in Elkhart, Indiana

What is the Amish tradition like?

People generally think of the Amish as devout Christian separatists that refuse to use most modern technology. This assumption is only true in part because some Amish embrace the limited use of technology.

The Amish also try to avoid relying on mainstream society, instead choosing to depend on their family and community for support. Many Amish wear plain clothes and try not to draw attention to their physical features.

One of the traditional primary defining features of the Amish has been their refusal to use electricity, cars, and other forms of modern technology. This conviction is rooted in the desire to keep their community separate from the outer world and its temptations.

As a result, there is a strong bond between the members of the community, and its members are protected from negative outside influences. [1]

However, different Amish communities have different convictions. While some strictly refuse to use any technology, other Amish groups permit the use of telephones and even cell phones.

In some cases, some Amish will accept automobile rides from other people, and there are even subgroups, like the Beachy Amish, who permit owning cars.

Most Amish don’t go to church in the same manner other Christians do. Instead, they congregate in private homes, and the service is in the language of Pennsylvania Dutch. However, some less traditional Amish groups have church buildings and even hold Sunday school, which is not typical for the more conservative factions.

Clothing and outward appearance distinguish the Amish from outsiders. Their clothes tend to be plain-looking and handmade. Men wear beards with no mustaches, straw or felt hats, black pants with suspenders, shirts that are typically white, and black coats.

The women cover their heads with bonnets and wear their hair in buns on the back of their heads. They also wear dresses with aprons, and the dresses are not allowed to be shorter than halfway down the calves. [2]

Also see Are Quakers (Friends) Christians? to learn more.

Amish farmer
Do Mennonite women wear bonnets like the Amish? See below

What is the Mennonite tradition like?

The Mennonite tradition is less conservative compared to the Amish. Mennonites are not opposed to using motorized vehicles; they wear less conservative clothing and typically congregate in churches. 

One thing that clearly separates Mennonites from the Amish is their relative openness to technology. Mennonites often drive cars, use electricity, use phones more often, and can even watch television, even though their churches generally discourage it as a form of entertainment. [3]

Some liberal Mennonite groups are almost indistinguishable from modern society, as they have accepted modern technology and fashion (to a large extent), and thus, they don’t stand out from the crowd as much. On the other hand, some more conservative Mennonite groups are still very similar to the Amish in their lifestyle and fashion. 

Traditionally, Mennonites congregate in churches, and the service is typically in English. Mennonites encourage reading the Bible and having a close personal relationship with God. Spreading their faith is also important to them. This makes them somewhat similar to New Order Amish but distinct from Old Order Amish. [4]

The openness that distinguishes Mennonites can also be seen in their fashion. Mennonite men can choose to have beards or not, and they often buy their clothes instead of making them by hand. Mennonite women dress less conservatively than their Amish counterparts and often wear ornamented clothes and no head covers. 

Mennonite fashion can vary widely from group to group. Some members will showcase more variety in their clothing, while others will closely resemble the Amish in their similarity. However, Mennonites tend to be less conservative in their fashion, lifestyle, and tradition than the Amish. 

Theologically, there are very few differences between the Mennonites and the Amish. The main difference is how their beliefs translate into their lifestyles and outward practice. 

Amish Mennonite

What other groups are similar to the Amish and Mennonite?

There are many other religious groups similar to the Amish and Mennonites in practice. Some of these groups include The Old River Brethren, Conservative Friends, The Calvary Holiness Church, and The Dunkard Brethren Church.

The Amish and Mennonites are not alone in their conservative lifestyles. In fact, many other similar groups often have German or Swiss Anabaptist heritage. These groups are usually referred to as plain people due to their plain clothes and limited use of technology.

The Old River Brethren, for example, are another group that practices separation from the world, and they look similar to the Amish. However, they allow electricity, cars, and moderate Internet access. Some even go to college, if necessary. [5]

On the other hand, Conservative Friends are a Quaker branch, which makes them distinct from other plain people. While they’re not as strict as the Amish and similar groups, some Conservative Friends wear plain-looking dresses to express their faith.

The Calvary Holiness Church has shared history with the Mennonite faith. It broke away from the Brethren in Christ in 1963 to preserve conservative traditions such as pacifism, plain dress, and foot washing. 

The Dunkard Brethren Church, founded in 1926, has similar practices to traditional Amish and Mennonite people. They live in isolated communities, prohibit divorce, wear plain clothing, and maintain conservative traditions. 

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source
[5] Source

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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