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2 Faith and Practice
4 External links
The congregations of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite are descendants of the Anabaptists of the "Radical Reformation" of the 1500s. In doctrine and practice they profess to carry on the faith of Jesus and His apostles. Holdeman Mennonites also recognize the faith of the Waldenses and other nonconformist groups of the Middle Ages as part of their spiritual heritage. They believe that "Christ established one true, visible Church, and through her He has preserved His faith and doctrine through the ages."
Under the influential work of Menno Simons, many of the Anabaptists became known as Mennonites. The earliest permanent settlement of Mennonites in America was at Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1683. In the mid 19th century some American Mennonites believed they saw in their church a spiritual decline and drift away from sound doctrine, and sought to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints". Among these was John Holdeman (1832-1900), who was born in Wayne County, Ohio to Mennonite parents. John's father, Amos Holdeman, was interested in the revivalist movement of John Winebrenner1. John Holdeman became both an evangelist and a reformer. Some issues he believed needed reform included the baptism of persons not giving sufficient evidence of conversion, less than diligent child training, and laxity of church discipline. Holdeman and other concerned individuals began holding separate meetings in April of 1859, which resulted in a permanent separation from the Mennonite church and the eventual organization of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Holdeman wrote extensively and traveled widely, and new congregations were formed in the United States and Canada. Growth among the Mennonites and Amish was minimal until the arrival of Mennonite immigrants from Prussia, who settled in McPherson County, Kansas in 1875. In 1878, Holdeman baptized 78 of members of that group. In 1881, he baptized 118 Kleine Gemeinde Mennonites in Manitoba. They had migrated to North America from Russia. With this group came their leader, Peter Toews. From a small beginning to a membership of around 750 at the time of Holdeman's death, the church experienced slow but steady growth until the mid 1970s. Beginning in 1976 until 1979, due to internal dissension, the steady growth declined, but has since stabilized.
Faith and Practice
The church holds a strong Mennonite doctrinal heritage. Simplicity and modesty in clothing, homes and personal possessions is held as an ideal. Men wear beards, and women wear a head covering. Baptism is observed by pouring water on the believer's head; closed communion is held with unleavened bread and unfermented fruit of the vine; and feet washing is observed with the ministers washing the brethren's feet and the wives of ministers and/or deacons washing the sisters' feet. Nonresistance is standard practice, whether among individuals, regarding suits at law, or concerning warfare among nations. The Christology of this church is probably closer to the teachings of Menno Simons and Melchior Hoffman than any other Mennonite group. Holdeman's teachings on salvation and the Bible probably reflect more evangelical Protestant (and probably pietist) influence. The new birth is described as an experience involving "faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, repentance, forsaking our sins, and a resulting change of life from sin to serving Christ." Outstanding beliefs include the idea that God has always had a true church among the righteous, and that the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite is the heir to that "true church" heritage, and a strong emphasis on dreams and visions.
Congregations meet weekly on Sunday mornings for Sunday school and worship. They meet on Sunday and Wednesday evenings for teaching, fellowship, and singing. Their ministers are chosen from within their own ranks; formal training is not required. Usually there are several ministers in one congregation. There are no salaried ministers, and they seldom use prepared notes, but rather preach extemporaneously. They worship in fairly plain buildings and use no musical instruments. Singing is a cappela and in four-part harmony.
A General Conference, made up of ministers, deacons, & other delegates, meets every five years (more often if necessary) for decision-making. Most churches operate a private school for the education of their children.
The Messenger of Truth, which was begun in the early 1900s, is issued bi-weekly from the church headquarters in Moundridge, Kansas. Canadian offices are located in Ste. Anne, Manitoba, Canada. In addition to the United States and Canada, the Holdeman Mennonites have established mission work in Belize, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Europe, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Mexico, Nigeria, and the Philippines. In January 2001 the largest concentration of membership was 12,450 members in the United States. In Canada, the church had 4,260 members, and a worldwide membership of about 18,900. Current membership still greatly reflects the growth of the church through the Swiss-German ancestry of those such as Holdeman, the Kansas-Prussian ancestry, and the Manitoba-Russian ancestry.