Moses H. Roth–Mild-mannered Dissenter

Moses H. Roth was one of the founders of the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario. This group resulted from a division in the Mennonite Conference of Ontario in 1959 when a small group of ordained leaders believed the conference had become too lax in enforcing visible symbols of separation from the world. This included “innovations” like church weddings with flowers and veils, the wearing of wedding rings, women cutting their hair, and the wearing of less modest clothing.

Moses Roth was a more outgoing personality than his friend, Curtis Cressman, and had a more pastoral approach in personal relationships. He was founder of the congregation that became one of the largest conservative Mennonite congregations in Ontario–Countryside Mennonite Fellowship.

An interesting fact from the article reproduced below is that Moses Roth witnessed the last hanging in Stratford in 1954.

This article in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online by Howard Bean was written in 2013, and can be seen there complete with bibliography.


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Barbara & Moses Roth, early 1960s. Family photo

Moses H. Roth: bishop and farmer; born 1 February 1898 in Oxford County, Ontario, Canada to Rudolph “Rudy” Roth (10 December 1868-1 March 1943) and Lavina (Hostetler) Roth (7 August 1873-24 April 1927). He was the fourth child in a family of four boys and two girls. On 7 February 1923 he married Barbara Martin (3 April 1901-1 May 1991). They had one daughter, Gladys. Moses died on 24 December 1978, in New Hamburg, Ontario.

Moses farmed near New Hamburg, and was reasonably prosperous. It is said that Milo Shantz, prominent Waterloo County entrepreneur, got his first loan from his uncle, Moses.

Prior to his ordination, Moses Roth served regularly as Sunday school superintendent at Biehn Mennonite Church (now Nith Valley) near New Hamburg. In 1931 he was ordained minister to assist Ozias Cressman, at Geiger Mennonite Church (now Wilmot Mennonite Church). He was ordained bishop in the Mennonite Conference of Ontario in 1937 serving primarily at Geiger Mennonite Church but also in such places as Poole, Ontario (1949-1959) and Clarence Center, New York.

Moses believed strongly in missions. He planted the seed for the beginning of the London Rescue Mission and Nairn Mennonite Church through his teaching at a winter Bible school in Wellesley, Ontario. He was a long-time summer Bible school superintendent at the Baden mission. He gave supervision to such mission outposts as Markstay and Minden.

In the mid to late 1950s Moses became increasingly alarmed by what he saw as apostasy in the Ontario conference with the acceptance of the wedding ring, sisters in the church cutting their hair, and a weakening of dress restrictions. In 1959, Moses, along with Curtis Cressman (bishop), preachers Elmer Grove and Moses Baer, and deacons Andrew Axt and Clarence Huber withdrew from Ontario Conference and organized the New Hamburg Conservative Mennonite Church. This was the beginning of what became the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario and Midwest Mennonite Fellowship, together having approximately 2000 members (2013).

By the end of 1960, Moses began a second congregation in Heidelburg, the location of which changed in 1983 to Hawkesville and was renamed Countryside Mennonite Fellowship. Moses served as bishop at Heidelburg until 1968 when he withdrew his oversight due to difficulties in the congregation. Prior to his death in 1978, he made peace with the congregation and preached for them again at least once. From 1968 to 1978, Moses pastored a small independent Mennonite congregation at Crosshill for a year or so, and then a second congregation at Ethel.

In his ministry, Moses Roth earned a reputation for having the gift of healing as he prayed for the sick and anointed them with oil.

Moses was present on 16 February 1954 at the last hanging at the Stratford jail. Moses visited Reuben Norman, who was convicted of murder, in prison and led him to repentance.

4 thoughts on “Moses H. Roth–Mild-mannered Dissenter

  1. Sam, I try to read all your posts and this one caught my eye. I am curious as to Pastor Roth’s theological leanings. Were they just as conservative? Or would you know? I’m glad he made peace with his congregation at Heidelburg before he left this earthly realm.

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    • He would have been a theological conservative, perhaps described as a fundamentalist. I did not know him, but he has been described by some as somewhat more flexible in enforcing rules than some of his contemporaries.

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      • Thanks a bunch Sam for replying. I’m always curious as to the “how” these guys think than the actual facts as to what they did or didn’t do. Thanks again Sam

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  2. Sam, my aunt Susie who I’ve written about married Dan Roth and I know he had Ontario relatives that they visited. I have one of her photo albums with photos of Dan and Susie visiting friends or relatives in Ontario. I doubt that this Mose was related to them though. I’ll have to check it out sometime. Thanks for an interesting post: no thank you to viewing a hanging. How sad but I’m sure dear Mose felt like he needed to be there after their special history.

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