The Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland (which today is a province of the Netherlands). Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in 1632, but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer’s baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches because of their commitment to pacifism.
The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships with Swiss German Anabaptist origins. They are closely related to, but distinct from, Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.
The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish. In the second half of the 19th century, the Amish divided into Old Order Amish and Amish Mennonites. The latter mostly assimilated into the main society during the 20th century, whereas the Old Order Amish retained much of their traditional culture. When it is spoken of Amish today, normally only the Old Order Amish are meant.
In the early 18th century, many Amish, and Mennonites, immigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the Old Order Amish, but also the New Order Amish and the Old Beachy Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”, although two different Alemannic dialects are used by Old Order Amish in Adams and Allen counties in Indiana.