Orland Gingerich was a soft-spoken man who carried progressive ideas forward with a humble persistence. Although a farmer and cheese-maker (Kochäse or cook cheese) by vocation, Orland accepted his church’s call to leadership and became a minister and bishop. For Orland, leadership meant advanced education, something not readily welcomed by many in the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference (later Western Ontario Mennonite Conference).
The article by Virginia Hostetler in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) that is replicated below outlines his impact on the Ontario Amish Mennonite community.
Perhaps less recognized is his contribution to Amish Mennonite history in Ontario. He wrote the first book-length history on Ontario Amish, and participated in some foundational oral history projects.
The full article, with bibliography, can be seen at http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gingerich,_Orland_S._(1920-2002).
Orland Steinman Gingerich: Ontario minister and bishop, active in Mennonite historical research and interpretation, and in leadership in other Mennonite organizations; born on 12 November 1920 in Wilmot Township, Waterloo County, Ontario, the oldest child of four born to John Z. Gingerich (24 January 1887-9 December 1962) and Annie (Steinmann) Gingerich (7 January 1893–4 July 1973). Orland married Agnes Irene Roth (1924- ) on 3 July 1948; they had 10 children. Orland died 23 January 2002 in Kitchener, Ontario.
In 1950 Orland graduated from Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with a Bachelor of Arts in the Bible. He also studied at Goshen Biblical Seminary and later at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. Orland became the first theologically trained pastor in the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference (later called Western Ontario Mennonite Conference). He was ordained in 1951 and served as a minister at his home congregation, Steinmann Mennonite Church, from 1951 to 1972. In 1954 he was selected by lot for the office of bishop, the last bishop in the conference to be selected by this method.
In the early years of his ministry, Amish pastors and bishops did not receive a salary from their congregations, so Orland earned a living through farming and cheese making. He served as a pastor at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (1973-1974), Bloomingdale Mennonite Church (1974-1984), Wilmot Mennonite Church (1986), East Zorra Mennonite Church (1987-1988, 1994-1996,)Preston Mennonite Church (1988-1989), and Rainham Mennonite Church (1989-1991). Church administrative matters also interested Orland. In 1963, when the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference was re-structured and was renamed the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference, Orland became the ministerial superintendent (conference minister) for the conference. He also served on the conference’s mission board for 12 years.
Although the Amish tradition in which he grew up did not encourage education beyond elementary school, Orland was a strong proponent of learning. During the 1950s and 1960s he taught in the Winter Bible Schools of the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference and in the Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute. He was a founding board member of Conrad Grebel College, the Mennonite church college associated with the University of Waterloo. He served on that board from 1961 to 1979.
Orland had a deep love of history and used his skills to promote knowledge of Mennonite history in particular. On 8 May 1965, at the first meeting of the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, he gave a presentation on the reasons to form a historical society. He went on to become a charter member of the Society, serving as the first vice-president of the board (1965-1977) and as president (1977 to 1980). Over the years, he conducted research, wrote and spoke on many historical topics of southwestern Ontario. For a period of time Orland held the title of “Conference Historian” for the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference. He also served on the committee which planned the events for the sesquicentennial commemoration of the arrival of the Amish to Canada, celebrated in 1973.
Orland was the author of The Amish of Canada (Conrad Press, 1972), the first major source on the Canadian Amish Mennonites. His writings appear in five-volume The Mennonite Encyclopedia, in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO), and in the publications of Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario. His profile ofChristian Nafziger, who played a key role in the Amish settlement in Canada, appeared in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
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Known for his soft-spoken and humble manner, Orland Gingerich has been described as a “risk taker,” a “church statesman,” and a “servant- leader” who had deep respect for others and who helped lead the church through times of much change.