Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889)

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Categories > Religion > Protestant Christianity > Protestant Christian denominational families > Anabaptism > Anabaptist denominations > Mennonite

Text for original article taken from Global Annabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online - GAMEO. Jacob Wisler (1808-89)


Contents

Early years

Jacob Wisler (1808-1889), founder of the Old Order Mennonites, was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on 31 October 1808, the eighth child of Christian Wis­ler and Susan Holdeman. He moved with his par­ents to Columbiana County, Ohio, about 1820. There on 19 November 1827, he married Mary Hoover (1808-1860). To this union were born at least seven chil­dren, including David (1830-1902), a deacon. In 1833 Jacob was ordained to the ministry in the Mid­way Mennonite (MC) Church near North Lima, Ohio, almost certainly by Bishop Jacob Nold. In 1848 he and his family moved to Elkhart County, Indiana, and settled on a farm one mile north of the present Yellow Creek church and two and three-fourths miles west. His second wife was Catherine Knopp; this union was childless.[1]

Ordination and conflicts

In 1851 Abraham Rohrer, a bishop of Medina County, Ohio, who had ordained Martin Hoover (d. 1850 at the age of 89) bishop just before he came to Elkhart County in 1845, came to Yellow Creek and ordained Wisler as his successor.[2]

Wisler, of a conservative turn of mind, was opposed to any change in the life of the church.[3]

Joseph Rohrer (1801-84), a preacher of Stark County, Ohio, came to Elkhart County in 1850, and served for some time in the ministry with Wisler. But Wisler did not like the exuberance manifested by Rohrer as he preached, and accused him of having too much of a "Methodist" spirit. Rohrer finally left the church and united with the Evangelical Church, whose house of worship stood one-half mile north of the Yellow Creek Mennonite meetinghouse, eight miles west of Goshen.[4]

Much more serious were his differences with Daniel Brenneman, a preacher of Fairfield County, Ohio, who settled in Elkhart County in 1864. Brenneman was a man similar in spirit to Joseph Rohrer, and was soon, like Rohrer, more popular than the bishop. Brenneman was happy to preach in English and he did not hesitate to sing a strong bass in the Yellow Creek services, although he knew that Wisler favored the old unison singing. Wisler also had difficulty with Joseph Holdeman, a deacon of the near-by Holde­man congregation. Holdeman and other leaders were critical of Wisler. There was considerable dissatisfaction in the church by 1867, the year when John F. Funk located in Elkhart County.[5]

Vain efforts were made annually in 1867-1871 to effect permanent peace among the ministers of western Elkhart County (considered as one bishop district west of Goshen). In October 1867 a committee of 16 leaders from Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Virginia attempted to adjust the difficulties. The first signer of the Committee of Sixteen was Joseph Hagey of Ontario. The next year, 1868, Tillman Moyer of Ontario made another effort to iron out the difficulties, and he signed his statement "In the presence of Joseph Hagey." In 1869 Tillman Moyer was back again, accompanied by two Ontario and two Ohio Mennonite leaders, and another effort was made to establish permanent peace. In 1870 Bishop John M. Brenneman of Ohio, the strongest leader in the state, came to Elkhart County with the express approval of Bishop Rohrer, who had ordained Wisler and who had served on the Committee of Sixteen in 1867, and Brenneman succeeded in once more effecting peace.[6]

Despite the attempts for reconciliation with him, Wisler was unwilling to accept the Sunday school and similar new institutions and practices. Wisler's dissatisfaction with the Indiana Conference's approval of Sunday schools in 1870 led to fresh trouble in 1871, and in October 1871 a committee of six bishops headed by John M. Brenneman suspended Wisler's bishop function, with the approval of the Yellow Creek congregation.[7]

Church factions and schism

Wisler rejected the decision of the Committee of Six, and on 6 January 1872, the Elkhart County ministers announced to the Yellow Creek congregation that Wisler and his followers, including preachers John Weaver and Christian Bare, were no longer members of the church. It was probably John F. Funk who made the announcement.[8]

Thereupon Wisler led a schism, establishing a continuing Yellow Creek congregation which came to be called the Old Order Mennonite Church. After the announcement of the Elkhart County ministers, Wisler began to hold separate services and to seek support elsewhere. This support he found in eastern Ohio (Wayne, Medina, and Columbiana-Mahoning counties), where the church divided and the conservative group followed Wisler. [9]

A number of efforts toward healing the Wisler schism were made in 1872-89, but Wisler always felt that he and his group were a happy fellowship, much closer to the old Mennonite practices and atti­tudes than were the "Funk" Mennonites (Mennonite Church), and that therefore there was no reason to attempt a re­union. If the more progressive group wished to re­turn to the old ways and drop the Sunday school, they could join the congregation in which he had been a preacher since 1848 and a bishop since 1851.[10]

Death

Wisler died on 1 May 1889, and was buried in the old Mennonite cemetery across the road from the Wisler Yellow Creek (frame) meet­inghouse. Christian Shaum, Wisler's assistant bish­op, and Martin A. Hoover preached at his funeral service.[11]

Wisler Mennonites after Wisler's death

In 1907 the Wisler Mennonites of Indiana divided into the more progressive Ramer or Wisler Mennonites and the more conservative Martin or Old Order Mennonites. By 1920 the Ramer and Martin groups had respectively about 150 and 60 members, in 1957 150 and 102. The Ohio congregations in the Wisler group totaled 345 members in 1957, all of the more progressive group. The Indiana and Ohio progressive Old Order congregations (Wisler Mennonites) constituted a conference which has met annually in June since 1907.[12]

Notes

  1. Wenger, John C. (1959). Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.
  2. Wenger, John C. (1959). Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.
  3. Wenger, John C. (1956). Old Order Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O544.html.
  4. Wenger, John C. (1956). Old Order Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O544.html.
  5. Wenger, John C. (1959). Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.
  6. Wenger, John C. (1956). Old Order Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O544.html.
  7. Wenger, John C. (1959). Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.
  8. Wenger, John C. (1956). Old Order Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O544.html.
  9. Wenger, John C. (1956). Old Order Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O544.html.
  10. Wenger, John C. (1959). Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.
  11. Wenger, John C. (1959). Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.
  12. Wenger, John C. (1956). Old Order Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 October 2010, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O544.html.

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