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 they were not ‘at peace’ and could not consider each other bothers and sisters in Christ. This state of disunity existed to encourage the dissenting parties to continually seek reconciliation. The Meidung, initially broached by Group 2 against Group 1 was considered valid only by Group 1, which compounded the awkwardness of the split. There have been many unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation over the years.
In 2017, under the eldership of the newly elected Arnold Hofer, a renewed effort towards reconciliation was undertaken.
In a Sendbrief published and sent to all Hutterites in December of 2019, Group 1 asked for forgiveness for any mistakes and hurts perpetuated over the years against Group 2. As well, in this Sendbrief, Group 1 formally announced a forgiveness for any transgressions committed by Group 2 against Group 1. At this point the Meidung against Group 2 ended. As a result, many colonies from both Group 1 and Group 2 have reconciled.
However, the church leadership of Group 2 remains opposed to reconciliation, and despite much effort on behalf of Group 1, no formal agreement of reconciliation at the leadership level has occurred.
We pray that God will grant us the grace of reconciliation and restoration.