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German Mennonites

German Mennonites

Brethren in Christ

Church of God in Christ, Mennonite

Congregational Bible Church

Conservative Mennonite Fellowship (Nonconference)

Markham-Waterloo Conference (Mennonite)

Mennonite Church, USA

Old Order (Reidenbach) Mennonites

Old Order (Wenger) Mennonites

Old Order (Wisler) Mennonite Church

Old Order (Yorker) River Brethren

Reformed Mennonite Church

Stauffer Mennonite Church

United Zion Church

Weaver Mennonites

Weaverland Conference Old Order (Horning or Black Bumper) Mennonites

Brethren in Christ

PO Box A, Grantham, PA 17027-0290

Alternate Address

Canadian Headquarters: 2700 Bristol Cir., Oakville, ON, Canada L6H 6E1

The Brethren in Christ Church (originally called Brethren but soon known as River Brethren) formed in the late 1770s in the intense religious atmosphere of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Brethren, some of whom were Mennonites, had been influenced by the Pietist movement and Dunker tradition, and accepted trine (thrice) immersion as the proper mode of baptism. Among the first to be immersed in this manner were Jacob Engel and Peter Witmer. The original group of about 14 met in the upper room of Engel’s home in Stackstown, Pennsylvania.

Soon after this meeting, organization was effected and Engel was elected bishop. Trine immersion was a central feature. Doctrine was otherwise drawn from the Anabaptist-Brethren consensus, but with an emphasis on Pietism. Later, it was also positively affected by the Wesleyan Holiness Movement, which taught a doctrine of sanctification that included the belief that individual believers could become and should expect to be made perfect in love in this earthly life. In the mid-nineteenth century three groups emerged from the original one because of doctrinal and accommodationist differences. The three groups were the Brethren in Christ, the Old Order River Brethren (earlier called the Yorker Brethren), and the United Zion’s Children, later called United Zion Church.

The Brethren in Christ represented the largest wing of the River Brethren. The name was adopted and registered with the federal government in 1863, though the church was not incorporated until 1904. Through migration of members in search of better economic opportunities, the church spread across the United States and Canada. Since the 1950s the church has tripled through its evangelistic efforts.

The Brethren in Christ Church is congregationally organized, with eight regional conferences and a general conference to carry out churchwide programs. A Board for World Missions oversees work in 23 countries, among 70 groups. The church operates Evangel Press, located in Nappanee, Indiana, and publishes books as well as other Brethren in Christ literature. Two retirement centers, Messiah Village in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and Upland Manor in Upland, California, are supported by the church. Ministries to the marginalized include Lifeline Women’s Shelter in Upland, California, and Paxton Street Ministries in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Several camps are operated regionally. The Brethren in Christ Church is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the Mennonite Central Committee.

Membership

In 2008 the church reported 27,000 members, 301 congregations, and 545 clergy.

Educational Facilities

Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania.

Periodicals

In Part • Shalom! • Brethren in Christ History and Life.

Sources

Brethren in Christ. www.bic-church.org/.

Hostetler, Paul, ed. Perfect Love and War. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1974.

Sider, E. Morris. Reflections on a Heritage: Defining the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House, 1999.

Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978.

Church of God in Christ, Mennonite

420 N Wedel, Moundridge, KS 67107

At age 21, John Holdeman (1832–1900), a member of the Mennonite Church, had an intense religious experience that changed his life. Following his baptism, he began a period of serious study of the Bible and of the writings of Menno Simons (1496–1561). As a result of his studies, he came to believe that his church had departed from the true way. Holdeman emerged as a young powerful leader and visionary.

He began to hold meetings at his home, and spread his concerns through the writing and publishing of his major books. He felt that the Mennonite Church had grown worldly and departed from the true faith; did not rigidly screen candidates for baptism to ensure that they had been born again; was not strict enough in their avoidance of the excommunicated; and neglected the proper training of children. He also objected to choosing ministers by lot and felt it was wrong to receive money on loans. While he found much agreement with his observations, few would join him in reformative action.

Growth of his church was slow until the late 1870s when he encountered the German-speaking immigrants who had just arrived from Russia. In 1878 the first church was built, and the first conversion of many people to his church occurred in the Lone Tree township of McPherson County, Kansas. Holdeman became the first minister to successfully introduce revivalism into a Mennonite framework. Revivals accounted for much of the rapid growth of his movement in the late nineteenth century, especially in the immigrant communities of Kansas and Manitoba, Canada. A slow and steady growth period followed through the early twentieth century, followed by a rapid expansion in both North America and abroad after World War II (1939–1945). The greatest concentration of members is in Kansas and Manitoba.

The church follows the Anabaptist-Mennonite doctrinal consensus with strong emphasis upon repentance and the new birth, a valid believer’s baptism, separation from the world, excommunication of unfaithful members, a humble way of life, nonresistance, plain and modest dress, the wearing of the beard for men, and devotional covering for women.

The church is headed by a delegated general conference, which meets when the need arises. It is composed of unpaid ministers, deacons, and lay people. Its decisions are binding on the congregations. It oversees the Gospel Tract and Bible Society, Gospel Publishers (the publishing arm of the church), three mission boards, and numerous other functions. There are congregations in 31 states, eight Canadian provinces, Brazil, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Latvia, Malawi, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, the Ukraine, and Zimbabwe. Most North American congregations have an elementary parochial school attached to them. The church supports one hospital, seven nursing homes, and four children’s homes.

Membership

In 2001, the church reported 12,754 members in the United States and 4,289 in Canada. There were a total of 19,269 members worldwide in 227 congregations and approximately 60 mission stations.

Periodicals

Messenger of Truth. • Christian Mission Voice.

Sources

Hiebert, Clarence. The Holdeman People: The Church of God in Christ. South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1973.

Congregational Bible Church

Community Bible Church, 331 Anderson Ferry Rd., PO Box 180, Marietta, PA 17547

The Congregational Bible Church was formed in 1951 at Marietta, Pennsylvania, as a result of a conflict between John S. Hiestand and the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Hiestand supported the use of radio broadcasts as a tool for evangelism, but the Lancaster Mennonite Conference considered this a violation of its Rules and Discipline. On Easter 1951 Hiestand went ahead with his program, the Crusade for Christ Hour, after which he was relieved of his position. He invited anyone who was interested to join him for future services at the Marietta Community House, and the Congregational Mennonite Church was born. The name was changed to the Congregational Bible Church in 1969, a reflection of its gradual movement away from its Mennonite roots. The original members of the church were from six congregations of the Mennonite Church. The statement of faith is at one with Mennonite belief, but includes a statement on anointing the sick and emphasizes separation from the world. The group has an aggressive evangelistic ministry. The church is organized as a fellowship of like-minded churches and has a congregational government. The bishop or pastor is the chief officer.

Membership

Not reported.

Sources

Congregational Bible Church. www.cbcpa.org/index.html.

Conservative Mennonite Fellowship (Nonconference)

PO Box 36, Hartville, OH 44632

The Conservative Mennonite Fellowship (Nonconference) was the result of a protest movement in the main branches of the Mennonite Church in the mid-1950s. The conservatives were concerned that Mennonites were conforming to the world (e.g., women were neglecting to cover their hair or were letting it fall down to their shoulders instead of being tied into a knot), not resisting the military strongly enough (e.g., the young men were joining the Army as noncombatants instead of staying out of the Army), and becoming too involved in civil affairs (e.g., they were voting or holding office or becoming policemen). The conservatives were also concerned about the growing acceptance of neoorthodox theology in Mennonite circles. The fellowship was formed in 1956. It added to the prior disciplinary standards (such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Dordrecht Confession of Faith, and the Schleitheim Confession) the Christian Fundamentals, which emphasize strict discipline and separation from the world. These were adopted at a fellowship meeting in 1964.

Membership

Not reported. In 1967 there were 23 congregations with 980 members and an additional 50 cooperating congregations with 2,400 members.

Markham-Waterloo Conference (Mennonite)

c/o Clare Frey, Rte. 2, Elmira, ON, Canada N3B 2Z2

The Markham-Waterloo Conference (Mennonite) came into being in 1939 as the culmination of a modernization movement among some of the members of the Old Order Mennonites of Ontario. Among their concerns was the purchase of automobiles by members of the order. Such members were known as the “black bumpers,” as they painted over the chrome on the cars to avoid any sign of ostentation. However, a second issue arose in the person of Bp. Jesse Bauman (1897–1974), a leader who had been chosen by lots. Bauman’s preachings attracted many, but disturbed others who had little appreciation for his adoption of a more evangelical style, which he hoped would keep the younger people from straying to nearby non-Mennonite churches. In 1939, in the face of growing criticism, Bauman withdrew from the group. About the same time, the black bumpers in Markham and Waterloo, Ontario, joined forces and created a new conference.

The Markham-Waterloo Conference continues as a very conservative Mennonite group, but less so than the old order, which does not allow the use of cars and telephones.

Membership

In 1997 the group reported 10 congregations, 1,250 baptized members (and an additional 600 constituency), and 28 ordained preachers, deacons, and bishops.

Sources

Epp, Franklin H. Mennonites in Canada, 1920–1940: A Peoples’ Struggle for Survival. Toronto, Ontario: Macmillan of Canada, 1982.

Lichdi, Diether Gotz. Mennonite World Handbook 1990: Mennonites in Global Mission. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1990.

Mennonite Church, USA

722 Main St., PO Box 347, Newton, KS 67114-0347

Alternate Address

500 S Main St., PO Box 1245, Elkhart, IN 46515-1245

The largest of the Mennonite bodies in North America, the Mennonite Church USA was formed in 2002 when a merger process between the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church that began in 1989 was completed.

Initially, the organization of Mennonites in America was a slow process because each congregation tended to be autonomous. In 1725 a conference of Pennsylvania congregations was called to consider, among other things, an English translation of the Confession of Dordrecht. Other conferences were called in particular regions to deal with various controversies. Formal conferences began to emerge in the nineteenth century. Through the twentieth century, a biennial General Assembly met as an advisory body for the entire church, whereas district conferences counseled local congregations.

In the mid-nineteenth century, John H. Oberholtzer (1805–1895), an educated young Mennonite minister, encountered trouble soon after entering the ministry in the Franconia District (located in Pennsylvania) when he began protesting the plain, collarless coat worn by most ministers. Oberholtzer argued that the coat was an arbitrary requirement originating from outside the Mennonite creed. He next asserted that the Conference of the Franconia District should adopt a written constitution so that proceedings could be conducted more systematically. The result of Oberholtzer’s agitation was a parting of the ways. He withdrew from the Franconia District in 1847 at the same conference that proceeded to expel him. With 16 ministers and several congregations, he led in the organization of a new conference. A major thrust of Oberholtzer’s movement was the union of all Mennonite congregations. New practices and standards were initiated, including a more liberal view of the ban (or shunning, the practice of avoiding contact with those who have withdrawn or excluded from the fellowship), open communication, intermarriage with persons of other denominations, and, within a short time, a salaried clergy. Oberholtzer proved a zealous advocate and founded the first Mennonite paper in America, the Religioeser Botschafter (later Das Christliche Volksblat).

Meanwhile, with the influx of thousands of Mennonite immigrants in the mid-1800s, other leaders were emerging and bringing into existence new churches. Daniel Hoch (1805–1878), a minister to several Mennonite churches in Ontario, Canada, had joined hands with an Ohio congregation led by Rev. Ephraim Hunsberger (1814–1904) to form, in 1855, the Conference Council of the Mennonite Communities of Canada-West and Ohio. In Lee County, Iowa, two congregations, finding themselves isolated, banded together, and called for united evangelistic efforts among members who had settled at some distance from the main body in the East. At a meeting in 1860 in Iowa, representatives of some of the above groups met and invited Oberholtzer to attend. He was chosen chairman and the General Conference Mennonite Church was organized. Their vision was the union of all Mennonite congregations in the United States and Canada.

BELIEFS

The belief of the General Conference is in accord with many other Mennonite bodies. The “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective” was adopted by the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church in 1995. This 24-article confession affirms the church as a Trinitarian body in the mainstream of Christian belief relative to affirmations on biblical authority, creation, salvation in Jesus Christ, and the church of believers. It describes three ordinances: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and foot washing. It also retains the traditional position of the Mennonites as a peace church and emphasizes the role of the family.

ORGANIZATION

Polity is congregational and congregations are located in 21 regional conferences. The various national church commissions that oversaw publishing, support of work in other countries, education, home missions, social concerns, and congregational life in the two former churches have been merged. They carry on a vast mission program with congregations on every continent. In the United States, home mission work is conducted among Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, the Spanish-speaking, Asian refugees, and the deaf. There are four church-wide ministry agencies: Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Publishing Network, and Mennonite Mutual Aid.

Membership

In 2005 the Mennonite Church USA had approximately 114,000 members in 943 congregations.

Educational Facilities

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana

Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Bluffton University, Bluffton, Ohio

Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana

Hesston College, Hesston, Kansas

Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas

Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Periodicals

The Mennonite. • Mennonite Historical Bulletin. • Mennonite Quarterly Review.

Sources

Mennonite Church, USA. www.mennoniteusa.org/.

Dyck, Cornelius C. An Introduction to Mennonite History. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1967.

Horsch, James E., ed. Mennonite Yearbook. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, n.d.

Kaufman, Edmund G. General Conference Mennonite Pioneers. North Newton, KS: Bethel College, 1973.

Kraybill, Donald B., and C. Nelson Hostetter. Anabaptist World USA. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001.

Krehbiel, H. P. The History of the General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America. 2 vols. Newton, KS: Author, 1889–1938.

Old Order (Reidenbach) Mennonites

c/o Henry W. Riehl, Rte. 1, Columbiana, OH 44408

During World War II (1939–1945), the issue of the draft was of great concern to the Old Order Mennonites. There was a consensus that all the draft-age youths should be conscientious objectors. However, among the Old Order (Wenger) Mennonites, there developed a group who felt that prison, not alternative service (such as medical work and so forth) should be the only course in reaction to the draft. This group further insisted that those youths who accepted alternative service should be excommunicated.

This group was not supported by the majority of the Wengerites (as they were collectively referred). Thirty-five members of the group began to build a separate meeting house near the Reidenbach store in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (hence the name). They remain the most conservative of the Pennsylvania Mennonites. They still use candles instead of coal oil for lighting. Rubber tires on carriages are prohibited. They are the only Pennsylvania group that currently opposes the use of school buses.

Among the Reidenbach Mennonites, there are a number of specific regulations to keep them separate from the world. Farm equipment is restricted; for example, manure spreaders are not allowed. Children go only to the one-room school and not beyond the elementary grades. The group has only one congregation.

Membership

Not reported. There is only one congregation, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Old Order (Wenger) Mennonites

c/o Henry W. Riehl, Rte. 1, Columbiana, OH 44408

Among the Old Order (Wisler) Mennonites of southeastern Pennsylvania, several schisms have developed over the continuing issue of accommodation to change. In the 1930s, the use of the automobile on a limited basis was advocated by Bp. Moses Horning (1870–1955). Bp. Joseph Wenger rejected the idea, believing automobiles should not be used for either occupational transportation or coming to worship. Wenger’s group became the more conservative wing of the Old Order Mennonites. The group holds no evening services and uses only German in the pulpit. Jail, rather than alternative service, is advocated for boys of draft age.

Membership

Not reported. There are an estimated 1,000 members in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Old Order (Wisler) Mennonite Church

c/o Henry W. Riehl, Rte. 1, Columbiana, OH 44408

In the 1860s the Yellow Creek congregation of the Mennonite Church, located near Elkhart, Indiana, found itself caught between two vocal leaders. Daniel Brenneman demanded a progressive policy and the adoption of such innovations as English preaching, Sunday schools, protracted meetings, and four-part singing. He was opposed by Jacob Wisler (1808–1889), who opposed all innovations and deviations. Wisler began to ban anyone from the congregation who deviated from traditional standards in favor of modernism. Wisler’s arbitrary manner of enforcing his ideas resulted in a church trial and he was removed from his office. He then took his followers and formed a new congregation in 1870.

During the following decades, other churches of like perspective were founded and then these united with Wisler’s group. A group in neighboring Medina County, Ohio, was the first. A Canadian group headed by Bp. Abraham Martin from Woolwich Township, Waterloo County, Ontario, who opposed speaking in English, Sunday schools, evening meetings, “falling-top” buggies, and other modernisms, formed a separate church and later allied itself with the Wislerites (as they were collectively referred). In 1901 followers of Bp. Jonas Martin and Gabriel D. Heatwole (1834–1922) formed a church; this church later joined the Wislerites. Bishop Martin had been the leader of the Mennonite Church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, until controversy arose about installing a new pulpit in the church. Martin opposed the new pulpit because he was against innovations. He eventually would leave the Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania with one-third of the congregation following his lead. A separate group of Mennonites in Rockingham County, Virginia, led by Heatwole, joined Martin’s group and would eventually align with the Wislerites.

As a group, the Old Order Mennonites remain among the most conservative in dress, forms of worship, and social customs. They are very close to the Amish in their thinking, but meet in church buildings instead of homes and do not wear beards.

Membership

Not reported. In 1972 they reported 38 congregations, 8,000 members, and 101 ministers.

Old Order (Yorker) River Brethren

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Old Order (Yorker) River Brethren separated in 1843 from their parent church, the River Brethren (now known as the Brethren in Christ), protesting what they saw as laxity in matters of nonconformity to the world and nonresistance to the military. The group was led by Bp. Jacob Strickler Jr. (1788–1859) of York County, Pennsylvania (hence the nickname). It was joined in the 1850s by a Franklin County group headed by Bp. Christian Hoover (1793–1867), who had been expelled from the brethren for being overly orthodox.

The Old Order (Yorker) River Brethren remain the smallest of the river brethren groups, having only four congregations, all in southeastern Pennsylvania. Three small independent congregations have split off at various times in disputes over modes of transportation. All worship is conducted in members’ homes, not in churches. The Old Order (Yorker) River Brethren are also agriculturists.

Membership

Not reported.

Sources

Breckbill, Laban T. Doctrine, Old Order River Brethren. Lancaster, PA: Breckbill & Strickler, 1967.

———. History of the Old Order River Brethren. Lancaster, PA: Breckbill & Strickler, 1972.

Reynolds, Margaret C. Plain Women: Gender and Ritual in the Old Order River Brethren. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.

Reformed Mennonite Church

602 Strasburg Pke., Lancaster, PA 17602

The oldest splinter group from the Mennonite Church still intact dates from 1812. It grew out of a previously existing Separatist congregation headed by Francis Herr, who had been expelled from the church for irregularities in a horse trade. After Herr’s death, his son John Herr (1782–1850), never a religious man, took up his father’s faith, became convicted of sin, was baptized, and soon rose to a position of leadership. He was then chosen bishop. John Herr and his associates immediately began to issue a set of pamphlets charging the Mennonite Church with being worldly and corrupt. They complained of laxity in enforcing discipline and separation from the world. Based on Herr’s ideas, the Reformed Mennonite Church was created.

In relation to the Mennonite Church, the Reformed Mennonites emphasize the exclusive claims of their particular faith, practices, and community. All who are not Reformed Mennonites are considered to be of the world and members are to distance themselves from such persons. They dress plainly and tend to live in plain surroundings. Membership is located primarily in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Membership

Not reported.

Sources

Bear, Robert. Delivered unto Satan. Carlisle, PA: Author, 1974.

Christianity Defined. Lancaster, PA: Reformed Mennonite Church, 1958.

Funk, John F. The Mennonite Church and Her Accusers. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Publishing, 1878.

The Reformed Mennonites: Who They Are and What They Believe. Lancaster, PA: Reformed Mennonite Church, n.d.

Stauffer Mennonite Church

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Jacob Stauffer (1889–1987), a minister in the Mennonite Church at Groffdale, Pennsylvania, was the leader of a group in a progressive-conservative split. The issue was what conservatives viewed as a lax approach in the banning of unworthy or corrupt members from the church, which Stauffer and colleague Joseph Wenger, of the Old Order (Wenger) Mennonites, believed should be applied more strictly. About 40 members withdrew from the Mennonite Church, demanding that there should be no communion between the church and the offender after the ban is used.

The Stauffers (as they are collectively referred) have continued in their conservative ways. They are part of the “horse and buggy” culture but, unlike the Amish, are clean-shaven and will ride trains on long trips. They prefer the one-room school and refrain from politics (even voting). Though never large, and hurt by one major schism, the group has grown steadily by maintaining a rather high birth rate.

Membership

Not reported.

United Zion Church

181 Hurst Dr., Ephrata, PA 17522

The United Zion Church, originally known as United Zion’s Children, originated in 1855 following the expulsion of Bp. Matthias Brinser from the River Brethren (i.e., the Brethren in Christ) for building and holding services in a meetinghouse. Other than the attitude toward the use of church buildings, there were no doctrinal differences. The United Zion’s Children was strengthened within a few years by the absorption of several churches formed by Henry Grumbein and Jacob Pfautz. These groups accepted Brinser because of a revelation, but remain a separate unit within the church. They constitute one of three districts that send representatives to the church’s annual conference. As with the Brethren in Christ, the government of the United Zion Church is congregational. Mission work is supported through the Brethren. One home for the aged is maintained.

During the twentieth century, several attempts have been made to improve the relationship between the United Zion Church and the Brethren in Christ, and even to look toward a future reunion. In 1967 the Brethren in Christ passed a resolution asking for the forgiveness of the United Zion Church for the action of the church’s council in 1855 and for a continued lack of humility on their part that has kept the two groups apart. The next year the United Zion Church issued a formal statement offering complete forgiveness. These resolutions became the basis for cooperative action on the mission field and in higher education. A member of United Zion Church currently sits on the board of the Brethren in Christ–founded Messiah College.

Membership

In 2008 the church reported five affiliated congregations.

Educational Facilities

Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania.

Periodicals

Zion’s Herald.

Sources

United Zion Church. www.unitedzionchurch.org/index.htm.

A History of the United Zion Church, 1853–1980. N.p. 1981.

Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978.

Weaver Mennonites

1259 Scalp Ave., Johnstown, PA 15904

The one schism affecting the Stauffer Mennonite Church was occasioned by the issue of the strictness of the ban. In 1916, the son of aged Bp. Aaron Sensenig married outside the faith. The girl was received into the Stauffer Mennonite Church but later returned to her earlier heritage. The church was split over the strictness of the ban to be applied to the girl. The lenient group, led by Sensenig and John A. Weaver, left and began a new congregation and constructed a meeting house near New Holland, Pennsylvania.

Membership

Not reported. There is one congregation of approximately 60 members.

Weaverland Conference Old Order (Horning or Black Bumper) Mennonites

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Bp. Moses Horning (1870–1955) established a liberal wing of the Old Order (Wisler) Mennonites. His followers were allowed to use automobiles, but only for necessary purposes. The car must be black and without frivolous trim. Most of the members cover the chrome with black paint to avoid further ostentation.

Membership

Not reported. There are five congregations, all located in southeastern Pennsylvania, and approximately 1,700 members.

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