The Americanization of Church Customs
The Anabaptists generally acknowledged three basic ordinances of faith: baptism, communion, and footwashing. Each of these was affected by the Americanization of the church. Nineteenth century Mennonites in central Kansas represented a wide range of church practices indicative of the heterogeneous nature of the Kansas Conference. From 1874 to 1939 a dual acculturation process emerged -- Americanization and denominationalization. The Kansas Conference required individuals transferring memberships from denominations that practiced infant baptism to submit to adult baptism before receiving membership status in a Mennonite church. Mennonite clergy have traditionally wielded an important level of authority in Mennonite communities. The persecution of early Anabaptists produced emergency conditions that necessitated strong leadership for the sake of survival. By 1939 little evidence of nineteenth century Mennonite church customs still remained in most Kansas congregations. Although ethnic traits still existed in local congregations by 1939, Kansas Mennonites were less an ethnic group than a religious group.