The Difference Between Amish and Mennonite

Amish or Mennonite? What is the difference?

“How do you know they are Mennonite, and not Amish?” It's a question we frequently heard asked as our family grew up around the Amish and Mennonite communities.

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While they share numerous similarities, this question is more complicated than one might think. Both Amish and Mennonite are very diverse groups, and both originate from a similar cultural and religious heritage.

The major differences between Old Order Amish and Mennonites are their practices rather than their beliefs.

  • Amish wear strictly plain clothing, while Mennonites allow prints and plaids. Some have no resemblance of Amish styles at all.

  • The head covering is a sure mark of identification for each group. Each community has their own style of “kapp” (covering). The Mennonite coverings are typically much smaller than the Amish coverings. Some Mennonites simply pin on a doily and call it a head covering! There are even some Mennonites who have abandoned the covering tradition altogether.

  • The traditional horse and buggy transportation is required among all Amish and even some Mennonites. If one drives any motorized vehicle, you can be certain they are not Old Order Amish, since they consider cars “worldly.” However, Amish are allowed to ride in their “English” friend’s vehicle for any reason. The point is to never sit behind the steering wheel if you want to be “right with God.” Many Mennonite groups have advanced to driving cars today.

  • Modern technology is frowned upon and shunned by the Old Order Amish. However, the New Order Amish now have the liberty to have electricity if they so choose. Most Mennonite groups use modern technology in varying degrees.

  • Amish and Mennonites alike share the same value of non-resistance. I’m not aware of any of their churches that condone their people joining the military. They believe it’s violating the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

  • Most conservative Amish hold to strict shunning, while Mennonites are generally more lenient in shunning practices if they practice it at all.

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This may sound rather confusing to the average reader, but to them it all makes perfect sense — “because it’s our rules!” These are the established guidelines by which they choose to live.

Whether or not this helps you to identify them more easily is uncertain, but now you know at least some of their underlying differences in their lifestyles.

Photo Credits
all photos: AmyD