The Ordnung: The Truth About The Amish Society's Manual

The story of the Amish community in the United States is rooted in Europe's 16th century Reformation, which prompted the Anabaptist movement and led to the eventual formation of three similarly conservative spiritual groups; the Amish, the Brethren, and the Mennonites. As reported by Discover Lancaster, the Amish are the most conservative of the three groups.

The first known Amish families to emigrate to the United States were the Detweiler and Sieber families, who settled in Pennsylvania, and then began establishing Amish communities in Berks County. As reported by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, several waves of Amish immigrants followed and formed communities throughout Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. By 2011, Amish communities were present in 28 states and, as reported by PBS, the estimated number of Amish living in the United States was 261,000.

To many outsiders, the Amish are often thought of as a singular group. However, they have several different orders and numerous subgroups. Although all of the Amish orders and subgroups adhere to certain principles, including living a "plain" life, some are considerably more progressive than others.

As reported by Amish America, each community outlines its specific rules in its Ordnung, which is an oral or written set of rules and standards. In addition to general rules of conduct, the Ordnung also contains rules about more specific things, including allowable clothing and hairstyles.

In most communities, the Ordnung is reviewed twice each year and modified when it is deemed necessary. However, once established, rules are rarely changed without intense discussion and debate.

The basic rules in most Ordnungs

As reported by Amish America, the rules in the Ordnung are not taken directly from the Bible. However, they are primarily based on biblical values. Although each Amish community has a different Ordnung, a vast majority of the Ordnungs include several basic rules.

As reported by Welcome to Lancaster, all Amish people must wear plain clothing. Married men must wear a hat and a vest and married men must grow a full beard. Women must keep their hair pinned up and must cover their hair with a bonnet. Women must also wear dresses, which often include an apron and some sort of cape. Jewelry and any other type of ornaments on the clothing or the body are prohibited.

The Amish are forbidden from owning cameras, computers, radios, and televisions. They are also forbidden from owning an automobile or gas-driven farm machinery, and they are prohibited from using electricity in their homes or on their land.

They are also prohibited from getting a divorce, joining the military, joining public organizations, or filing a lawsuit.

Welcome to Lancaster reports members of the Amish community must speak a German or Swiss dialect and are not allowed to attend high school or college.

As reported by The Young Center, the Amish vow to follow all the rules and regulations of their community's Ordnung during their baptism. They also agree and acknowledge that failure to adhere to the rules may result in discipline or excommunication.

Unique rules included in some Ordnungs

Although the basic principles are included in all Ordnungs, they are often modified to fit a specific community's needs. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for example, some communities allow members to use propane stoves and refrigerators. Others allow battery-powered appliances and lawnmowers.

The Ordnung for the Amish community of Stevensville, Montana, specifies that their members are not allowed to wear any bright colors. As reported by Amish America, their community prohibits orange, pink, red, and yellow clothing in particular. They also prohibit coats and sweatshirts. The sleeves on women's and girls' clothing must be long and have elastic at the cuffs. The clothing must fit loosely, and no ruffles are allowed.

Although they are allowed to ride bicycles, the Stevensville, Montana, Amish community can only use them for "necessary travel." The Ordnung also specifies that buggies must be "plain" without any decorative embellishments or lights, other than those required by law.

In general, so-called New Order Amish communities are more likely to have more liberal rules in their Ordnungs. As reported by Amish America, New Order Amish communities are more likely to allow their members to have telephones in their home, allow men to trim their beards, and allow their members to travel by airplane. They also allow their members to have rubber tires and more embellishments on their buggies. New Order Amish communities are also more likely to be open to contact with "outsiders," who are often welcomed to their church services.