The Schmiedeleut Split
In 1992, the Schmiedeleut branch of the Hutterian Brethren split into two groups. These divisions are Group 1 under the eldership of Jacob Kleinsasser, and Group 2 which has a committee of elders.
The schism occurred when a faction within the Church unsuccessfully attempted to remove Jacob Kleinsasser from his position as elder citing various alleged offences. The allegations against Jakob Kleinsasser ranged from the misuse of church funds to disagreement regarding the direction of the church. For example, Kleinsasser was in favour of higher education, took a strong stand against alcoholism and taught powerfully on the subject of sexual and moral purity. This alienated him from many. As in all divisions, the unfortunate reality of clashing personalities cannot be ignored.
Eventually, to solidify the division, Group 2 Hutterites established a new constitution to replace the original 1951 constitution. This constitution governs all Hutterite communities in North America except those part of Schmiedeleut 1. The single decisive issue included in this new constitution concerns the traditional leadership role of elder; Group 2, on the other hand, assembled a committee of elders to look after their church affairs.
The effects of this tragic division were broad and far-reaching due to the invocation of the Meidung (shunning) on both sides: families were divided, communities forced to split prematurely and christian love was shelved on both sides at times in an attempt to defend respective positions. The Meidung is a longstanding biblical and Anabaptist tradition, in spite of it’s great potential for abuse. The dissenting sides acknowledged there were not ‘at peace’ and could not consider each other bothers and sisters in Christ. This state of disunity exists to encourage the dissenting parties to continually seek reconciliation. The Meidung, initially broached by Group 2 against Group 1 is considered valid only by Group 1, which compounds the awkwardness of the split.
Although there have been many attempts at reconciliation, none have been fruitful. We pray that God will grant us the grace of reconciliation and restoration.