The Ordnung

What is it?

Amish daily life is governed by a set of rules known as the Ordnung which is a German word meaning rules, regulations, and order.

The Amish way of life is based upon two religious pillars: the teaching of the New Testament and the regulations of the church. By applying the principles of the New Testament to daily life into this set of unwritten rules, the Amish church regulates the private, public, and ceremonial behavior of the community.

It is essentially a communal blueprint or collective wisdom that governs what is considered to be moral for the individual and necessary for the survival of the community.

Separation from the world is a key principle of the Amish way of life. The Amish religion emphasizes self-denial and humility. The outside world is perceived to be corrupted by vanity and vice, greed and violence.

Therefore, the necessity of being separate from the outside culture guides Amish thinking and decision-making. In the ever changing landscape of modern life, it often become a problem in deciding what modern innovations strengthen the community and which weaken it. Or, if using a new labor-saving technology would enrich the Amish lifestyle or corrupt it.

The Ordnung is the way that the Amish community decides what products and practices would undermine private and communal life.

What are the Basic Principles?

The Ordnung regulates private, public, and ceremonial behavior among the Amish community. It defines conduct ranging from personal dress to the use of technology. Basic principles that are common to most Amish communities include:

  • All Amish groups expect men and women to wear distinctive clothing. Married men are expected to grow a beard and wear a hat and vest. Women are expected to wear a covering for their head as well as a three-piece dress that includes a cape and an apron.
  • Members must speak a German or Swiss dialect
  • Owning an automobile is forbidden. Instead, members are required to travel by horse and buggy.
  • It is forbidden to own a television, radio, camera, or computer.
  • Higher education such as high school and college is generally not allowed.
  • Divorce is forbidden.
  • Joining the military is forbidden.
  • It is taboo to wear jewelry or any other ornament or garment that emphasizes vanity.
  • Community members are not allowed to sue anyone
  • Members must use self-propelled farm machinery. It is forbidden to tap electricity from public utility lines.

Although these principles, rules and regulations tend to apply to all the Amish people of Lancaster County, there are some variations in details among the different congregations.

For example, some congregations permit the use of propane gas stoves as well as refrigerators. Other, more conservative districts do not.

Likewise, while all communities tend to view clothing as a form of submission to the collective order as well as a symbol of group identity, congregations allow minor variations in the color and style of the attire.

Furthermore, some congregations allow battery-operated appliances and power lawn mowers while others don't.

Overall, the essential spirit of the regulations - applying the principles of the New Testament to modern daily life - is adhered to throughout all the congregations.

The regulations are interpreted and applied differently when congregations differ on whether or not a specific behavior or technological innovation undermines amish religious beliefs and community values.

How is it Created and Passed on?

The Ordnung is passed on by oral tradition. Children learn the regulations by observing the adults.

It is the role of the church leaders to interpret the practical application of these regulations to Amish life.

Members of each church district affirm the Ordnung twice a year before the spring and fall communion service. The details vary by local congregation. As mentioned above, the regulations of one congregation may permit propane gas stoves or indoor bathrooms while the regulations of more conservative congregations may forbid such practices.

Once established, these regulations resist change in order to preserve the community. However, when non-threatening innovations enter the community such as disposable diapers or gas-powered weed cutters, the rules will be modified for such allowances.

Although ordained church leaders review changes to the Ordnung in periodic leaders' meetings, the members of each local church district must ratify these changes before they can take effect.

If you enjoyed learning about how the Ordnung shapes Amish beliefs and way of life and would like to learn more about the Amish people of Lancaster County, please take a look at the following pages:

Adult BaptismAmish and MennonitesAmish ChildrenAmish Church Services Amish Clothing
Amish Culture Amish Dolls Amish EducationAmish Folk ArtAmish Food
Amish HistoryAmish Homes Amish Religion Amish Way of Life Amish Weddings
Amish Women Barn Raising Cars and the Amish Lifestyle Health Care and Modern Medicine Horse and Buggies
Rumspringa Shunning Within the Amish Community Technology and the Amish Farm

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about The Ordnung

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