Other Plain Groups

Many people mistakenly think that all those who look Amish are Amish. In fact, many plain-dressing groups have Anabaptist roots but are not Amish. There are numerous plain-dressing Mennonite groups, including some who use horse-and-buggy transportation and others who use cars, tractors, electricity, and other forms of modern technology in their homes, farms, and businesses. (For statistics and brief descriptions of groups using horse-and-buggy transportation, see Old Order Mennonites tables.)

Various Brethren groups such as the Old German Baptist Brethren, the Old Brethren, the Dunkard Brethren, and the Old Order River Brethren wear plain clothing and practice a traditional lifestyle. Like some of the plain Mennonites, members of these groups also own cars and tractors and use electricity and other forms of modern technology in their homes, farms, and businesses. The men in some of these Brethren groups wear beards, which easily leads outsiders to confuse them with the Amish.

Most of these plain groups forbid divorce and the ordination of women. They typically select lay men to lead their congregation. They do not use musical instruments in their worship services and seek to uphold traditional patterns of religious ritual. Most, but not all, of the plain groups worship in meetinghouses, but they are simple, modest buildings without steeples, stained glass, and ornate furnishings.

Unlike the more assimilated Anabaptist churches, the plain groups emphasize separation from the world. Members are discouraged from owning televisions and radios, and sometimes are restricted in their use of the Internet. The leaders of many of the groups also discourage higher education and involvement in worldly forms of leisure and mass culture.

Additional information

  • Donald B. Kraybill and Carl Desportes Bowman, On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish and Brethren (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001).
  • Donald B. Kraybill and James Hurd, Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World (State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006).
  • Stephen E. Scott, An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1996).

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture. Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in the summer. Other information is updated periodically.

For more in-depth discussion about the Amish:
The Amish book cover

Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013; paperback, 2018)

Recent books

In partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Press, the Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies publishes innovative and creative scholarship. The latest volume in the series explores the roles and experiences of Amish women:
The Lives of Amish Women book cover
Author: Karen Johnson-Weiner (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020)