The first Mennonites to settle in Canada came from Pennsylvania in 1786 and settled near Sherkston, along Twenty Mile Creek in the Niagara region of Ontario. The church membership increased rapidly. Dissension arose between two of the ministers in the later 1840′s. Bishop Benjamin Eby of Waterloo county was called in to make peace between Dilman Moyer and Daniel Hoch. For a short time he appeared to have succeeded. But in 1849 the dissension flared up again and Daniel Hoch left the church and was excommunicated. Benjamin Eby wrote the following letter in November of 1850.
This is a matter of which I would rather be spared; since it might only serve to raise Hoch’s hostility, which I hate to do, for my calling is to seek peace, according to the Lord’s word, where he says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Since you, however, so urgently urge me for an explanation of the above question, I feel prompted by my honest love for you to give you a scriptural answer, to enable you to prove it by God’s word.
Jesus commanded his disciples to preach and to baptize; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Under this doctrine we have pledged ourselves; it leads us on the narrow way, the strait gate; on this way of the cross we are enlightened through the Holy Ghost, and learn to deny our innate carnal reasoning and self will; walk in obedience to Christ’s teachings; (excluding weakness) we share the divine nature; then we learn meekness and humility from Jesus; we love God with our whole heart, and our neighbour as ourselves; we thank God for His many benefits, and beseech Him for further protection according to His Holy will; we pray for our fellowmen, even our enemies who offend us; and when we see their souls in such great danger on the road to eternal perdition, we come before the Lord with fervent tears in prayer, and pray for grace for them. This is only a little of the fruit and nature of the regenerated children of God; and it is the duty of a faithful shepherd, earnestly and diligently to seek to lead the flock to this doctrine, and strengthen it therein; for the office of a preacher is a serious calling. Paul says, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” And Peter says, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” And Paul, “Take therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.” Paul also admonished the church when he said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do mit with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
Many more passages can be quoted out of the old and new Testaments on the duty of preachers, but I consider the above to be sufficient, whereby you can realize why I gladly hold to God’s word unwaveringly. And because of the conviction of my conscience, I can do not other as in my insignificance with the gifts which the Lord in His grace gave me, than to deal honestly, and not to deviate from God’s commandment. This is the reason why I cannot be in unity with Jacob Grosz and his followers, because they have begun to associate with those who do not walk in the doctrine which Christ and the apostles taught.
I admonished them to confess the truth of the Gospel and hold fast thereon, which they do not wish to do, but rather took their own way. I beseech you, you may take time to understand the full meaning of this proposition. I do not wish to judge other religions. But these were of our own church members, therefore I wished to admonish them to steadfastness, that they might not break their baptismal vows. For there where at that time they began to associate with, it is allowed to baptize children, contrary to God’s command, for He commanded to baptize believers. Christ commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel freely; those preach for wages. Christ commended His disciples to flee from one city to another when they are persecuted; those seize the ones who cause unrest, and bring them before judgments. Christ prohibited the swearing of an oath; those do not avoid the swearing of an oath. Christ commanded His disciples to wash each other’s feet; those say that was only a custom in the east, of which we have no need to do. They do not seem to remember that the rest of the commandments were also given in the east. Christ gave His communion to His disciples and said, “This do in remembrance of me.” Acts 2:42 it says that the believes at Jerusalem remained steadfast in the apostle’s teachings, and in communion, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. They were as one heart and one soul. Those want to make the Lord’s communion common, and allow such the privilege to take it who do not remain in the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Christ commanded, “teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” We promised to follow this commandment of Christ at our baptism; those wish to follow their own imagination.
With this association Daniel Hoch also left the church, (that we cast him out, as we are blamed, is an error, for he left on his own accord;) and joined himself with that association, as he himself admitted in a letter of July 31, 1849, where he writes, “We, Jacob Grosz, Jacob Albrecht, and I, came to agreement last fall,” which agreement already ended in August, 1849. Then he came, once more to unite with us, but not in the likeness of the prodigal son, who came in repentance; nor like Peter, who wept bitterly; nor humiliated like Manasse. Were any indications of repentance to be felt, we would have embraced him with love. But unless he realizes and perceives his deviation from the church, and freely confesses that he allowed himself to be led astray, no honest church member can trust him as a true shepherd. For when a shepherd leaves his flock and flees, then the sheep dare not trust him, otherwise the flock may be scattered. I hope through the above writing you may understand my mind regarding holding fast to the teachings of Christ. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. On this foundation our rules and regulations stand, upon which the church of Christ must be planted, built and founded; and when one brother has offended another, confesses his error, comes and says, “I am sorry,” he shall be forgiven; should he not repent of his error, it shall be told to the church, and if he does not hear the church, she shall set him like unto the heathen. Thus the church has the full right, from Christ himself, to keep church counsel.
When the shepherds do not choose to allow the church their rights, mistrust, hostility, and finally strife follows, whereby the enemy has the opportunity to bring heresies among them, and lead the poor souls into destruction. This was the case at the Twenty. Grosz wished to govern the church according to the Gospel, but Hoch left him and would not follow him; whereupon Grosz had to make many grievous complaints, since he could plainly see that the church, instead of being cared for, was being more and more led into confusion, until finally, as if in despair, both united [or agreed] to leave the church, and fled together.