“He was married to Elizabeth Ritter by the Justice of the Peace Henry Selman on November 18, 1852 and five months later, April 1, 1853, she gave birth to their first child, a daughter Lavina. Undoubtedly this premarital relationship and the necessity to marry were the source of his despair in early 1853….”
This may seem petty, but the truth about John Holdeman is that he was a carnal young man who impregnated his girlfriend and was married by a justice of the peace. Does this disqualify him? Not necessarily. However, it is an historical fact that is pretty much concealed when his praises are being sung.
It must be said that after his marriage, he fell under conviction for his sinful ways and was converted. He was baptized into the Old Mennonite Church, and sometime thereafter he began to feel a call to the ministry. He also began to find fault with his church. In his forthright and impetuous way he began to rebuke his church leaders for various lapses that he felt that he was seeing. He began to rebuke them for laxness in child rearing. Child rearing is one of the points that is often cited today as a reason for him separating. Can you imagine if a young recently converted brother with a rowdy past would stand up in the Holdeman church and begin to rebuke the ministry? Child rearing is an important matter of course, but not a corporate issue. It is totally and completely a family matter, to be addressed by the parents and the parents alone. When did a church become responsible for the rearing of the members’ children? Aside from that, Holdeman himself did not do well with childrearing, and it is a fact that none of his own progeny joined the movement that he started. It is often stated that he traveled a great deal, wrote compulsively, and was financially so strapped that he had to declare bankruptcy. At one point he was involved in a lawsuit because the expelled husband of a church member became angry when Holdeman and his friends encouraged the wife to withhold the marriage bed from her husband. The husband became understandably enraged and filed a lawsuit and the Holdeman church was obliged to pay a monetary settlement. I’m not of a mind to supply the source of this information right now, if anyone has a link to the web page that details the case, please feel free to supply it.
So, as regards childtraining, Holdeman did poorly. One could say, “well, he was so busy doing the Lord’s work that he didn’t have time to be a father.” Not a good excuse. When one brings children into the world they should be the first responsibility. He often was away from home for extended periods, leaving his poor wife alone to care for the offspring. And yet he dared to rebuke the Old Mennonite Church on the issue of child rearing. What did he want to see in the church he left? Was he in favor of more severe punishment? We know that he had a punitive heart, as is evidenced by the strict stand he took on excommunication and avoidance. He believed apparently that the way to discipline was to be harsh and punishing. He set this precedent for his followers, as we repeat, none of them included his own children.
We continue to try to turn your minds to the idea of what would happen if a young brother were to stand up today and rebuke the church. Imagine him giving them an ultimatum and when they failed to come to his line of understanding, he announces that he is leaving and the candle stick goes with him. He diverts the lineage of the true faith away from the present church and begins to cut a new channel for it. Would he be admired? Would any go with him? Remember that John Holdeman left with a very few people. He labored in vain for many years. His upstart movement would have died out, and perhaps the candlestick with it, if he had not stumbled upon a cadre of disenfranchised immigrants who had no idea who the Old Mennonite Church was, nor the rather ignominious past and history of John Holdeman. It is quite likely that the Russian/Polish immigrants that he brought into the fold were more qualified to be the founding fathers of this new denomination than he was. They were simple men who loved God and were looking for a more sincere expression of that love. These men realized that perhaps they had never been converted and they began to seek God earnestly, and they were baptized and added to Holdeman’s church. As for a baptismal/ordination lineage, it perhaps came through these men more than John Holdeman. Remember that he was never ordained. One of the men who joined up with him, a Tobias Unruh, I believe, defected from another Mennonite group and joined with Holdeman. He had been ordained in that group, so let us grant that perhaps some sort of continuity of ordination came through him.
While we are speaking of Holdeman’s failure to be ordained by the laying on of hands, let us examine the scriptural foundation for this sacrament. ( I use the word sacrament loosely here, whether it is truly a sacrament or not is in question. The word sacrament literally means something holy.) John Holdeman was never ordained. He claimed that he followed the precedent of the Apostle Paul, in being called and ordained by God and not man. This is quite an arrogant statement. Imagine a young man making this claim today. One must, in all honesty, assign the same level of contempt to John Holdeman that one would give to anyone making this claim today. In all honesty, what qualifies a man to make this claim for himself?
The laying on of hands basically confers on another the continuity of a blessing and commissions one to go forth. 1 Timothy 4:14 says “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” Acts 6:5-6 says “And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man of full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Niconor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid [their] hands on them.
Acts 13:2-3 says “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away.”
Furthermore, the question must be addressed as to whether Paul was ordained by man or not. What do we make of the verse in 9:17 that says “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, [even] Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” How was the Apostle Paul ordained to his office of authority? Did God ordain him privately — secretly — without any human witnesses to the fact, or was he ordained BY THE HAND OF MAN?
It would seem from reading this verse that Ananias, a man full of the Holy Ghost, was sent by God to lay hands on Saul. This did not confer upon Saul the authority to preach, it merely facilitated his conversion and his being filled with the Holy Ghost. Saul spent time alone for three years, during which time he was taught by Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:1 says “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” 1 Corinthians 15:8 says “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (Speaking of Christ.) So from these verses we see that Paul actually saw and communicated directly with Christ. I doubt that even John Holdeman was audacious to make this claim. So here we already see a divergence in the paths of John Holdeman and the Apostle Paul. John Holdeman never made the claim that he had gone to the wilderness and met Christ personally.
Acts 13:2 “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (note that at this point Paul was still known as Saul) verse 3…And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away.” We can see from reading these verses that Paul was ordained by the laying on of hands. He was sent out to do the Lord’s work by the laying on of hands. In verse nine it says “Then Saul, (who also [is called] Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,” Here after his ordination we see him being called Paul.
So what do we make of Holdeman’s claim that he was privately ordained by God, in the same way Paul was? It seems as though this claim does not hold water. First of all, Paul put himself under the authority of other apostles, and it was not until he was ordained that he actually went forth preaching. So, my friends, tell me, what about Holdeman and his ordination issue? Does God really ordain men independently and secretly?
You may wonder why we labor at great length to discredit John Holdeman. The entire Church of God in Christ Mennonite rests upon the foundation that he built. If this foundation is faulty, then it is no wonder that over a hundred and fifty years down the road, the building is wobbling. It is true that the structure may stand and appear to flourish for a while, but ultimately, given the passage of time and a bulky membership, there will be serious issues that cannot be ignored. For one thing, 20,000 plus members can no longer be individually controlled. In order for Holdeman’s idea to work, all of the members must be under some sort of dictatorial control. As has been stated in another post, when a group becomes organized, they create walls. God will not be contained within walls that man has built. It matters not how loudly they proclaim that they have direct information from God that he himself builds the walls, the truth is that the fruit of this tree will soon be known. When man begins to include some and exclude others, spirituality dies. People begin to live by the law. They begin to rely on history books that relate the teachings of their founder. God wrote the guidebook, the Bible. Any man who creates any other foundation is in direct conflict with what Christ taught. These may be difficult sayings to comprehend and receive, and so all I can do is ask you to pray and see if God will enlighten your mind. If what I have written here is false, then let it fall. If there is truth, then let God enlighten you further.
In the pursuit of truth justice mercy and love,