In 2012, we asked internationally renowned scholar Donald B. Kraybill to answer our top ten questions about the Amish; one of those is about shunning. Read the rest of the FAQ on our site for The Amish.

What is shunning? 

If Amish church members break their vows of baptism by disobeying religious leaders or church regulations and refuse to confess their error, they will face excommunication. Based on several biblical scriptures, the church shuns ex-members to remind them of their disobedience in hopes of winning them back. Shunning is practiced in different ways by various Amish groups, but it typically involves rituals of shaming such as not eating at the same table with ex-members at weddings or other public gatherings. Shunned people rarely live at home but some return for funerals, weddings or reunions involving family members. The strictness of shunning and communication between parents and adult children who leave varies from one group of Amish to another.

Wayward members are reinstated if they confess their transgression. Some congregations end the shunning if an ex-member joins a pacifist plain-dressing church such as conservative Mennonites. Unbaptized people who leave are not shunned, because they never made baptismal promises and joined the church.

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  • DIG: Gretchen Stone Cook Charitable