The Amish movement was founded in Europe by Jacob Amman (~1644 to ~1720 CE), from whom their name is derived. In many ways, it started as a reform group within the Mennonite movement — an attempt to restore some of the early practices of the Mennonites.
The beliefs and practices of the Amish were based on the writings of the founder of the Mennonite faith, Menno Simons (1496-1561), and on the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith. The Amish who split from Mennonites generally lived in Switzerland and in the southern Rhine river region. During the late 17th century, they separated because of what they perceived as a lack of discipline among the Mennonites. Some Amish migrated to the United States, starting in the early 18th century. They initially settled in Pennsylvania. Other waves of immigrants became established in New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri Ohio, and other states.
The faith group has attempted to preserve the elements of late 17th century European rural culture. They try to avoid many of the features of modern society, by developing practices and behaviors which isolate themselves from American culture.
Two Amish children look out from their horse and buggy Aug. 7, 2002 in Lancaster County, Pa. The Amish, who have their roots in the Mennonite community, are a religious group made up of people who live in settlements in 22 states and Ontario, Canada. The oldest group of Old Order Amish, about 16-18,000 people, lives in Lancaster County, Pa. The Amish stress humility, family and community, and separation from the modern world.
James Hoorman writes about the current status of the Amish movement:
"In America, the Amish hold major doctrines in common, but as the years went by, their practices differed. Today, there are a number of different groups of Amish with the majority affiliated with four orders: Swartzengruber, Old Order, Andy Weaver, and New Order Amish. Old Order Amish are the most common. All the groups operate independently from each other with variations in how they practice their religion and religion dictates how they conduct their daily lives. The Swartzengruber Amish are the most conservative followed by the Old Order Amish. The Andy Weaver are more progressive and the New Order Amish are the most progressive." 2
Membership in the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church and other Amish denominations is not freely available. They may total about 180,000 adults spread across 22 states, including about 45,000 in Ohio and smaller numbers in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. About 1,500 live in south-western Ontario, in Canada. Almost all members are born into and raised in the faith. Converts from outside of the Amish communities are rare. Some Amish groups have a very restricted gene pool and are experiencing several inherited disorders.