For Cross-Examining

The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (Holdeman)

Those who are transitioning from hyper-fundamentalism to mainstream Christianity often have so many questions—good questions—more than we can answer with our content alone. In an endeavor to help you find quality content to read and consider, we’ve compiled the following directory of resources addressing frequently asked questions.

There is a lot of information here. If you’re still in the process of disentangling faith and hammering out what you believe, this page may quickly become overwhelming. Please don’t feel pressured to find all the answers in a day. God sees where you are, He is pleased that you are seeking His truth, and He cares about you. If you find yourself becoming mentally/emotionally exhausted, it’s okay to take a step back, breathe, relax, and come back at a later time when your mind is refreshed and able to focus. If at any point you need someone to talk to, feel free to reach out! We’re here for you and are happy to listen, as well as connect you with likeminded believers.

Please note, we may not be in complete agreement with all the content, authors, and organizations we recommend. If a resource made our list, then we believe it contains valuable information that is worth taking into consideration. We pray that iron will sharpen iron as you disentangle from harmful teachings.


Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (Holdeman)

Exiting from a high-control group can feel incredibly isolating. That is why this directory starts with personal stories of those who have disentangled from the Holdeman Mennonite teachings. They are able to share their stories of disentangling and what they’ve learned along the way.

It is important to have background history of John Holdeman, the founder of the Holdeman Mennonites. He broke away from the Mennonite church in the mid-1800s, feeling called to restore the church. It is especially interesting to note how his mother opposed his creation of the church, and how his personality played into its emphasis on purity. In the 1970s, a process of “paneling” occurred, referred to by some as “The Purge.” This process was initiated by some ministers to identify those members who appeared to be in agreement with the church but refused to completely conform. One entire church in Colorado ended up being excommunicated, except for four members. It is also interesting to note that in the Holdeman Mennonite churches in Belize and other countries, the practices of the church differ from those of the churches in Canada and the U.S.

Holdeman Mennonite teachings are touched on in the following section, including the “one true visible church” doctrine, the holy kiss, and head coverings.

What Is The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (Holdeman)?

Personal Stories


    Cross-Examining The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (Holdeman)

    “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”


    — John 14:6 —


    The Incarnation

    The Bible

    The Gospel


    Faith And Works

    Bible Doctrines and Practice (a publication of the Holdeman Mennonite church) states, “So much of nominal Christianity looks at the standards and teachings of the gospel in a superficial way. […] We are saved by faith, and not by works, they say.” This idea is clarified with another statement: “Some teach justification through ‘faith alone,’ which is not a Scriptural principle.” A section titled “man not saved by faith alone” argues that “justification through ‘faith alone'” is equal to antinomianism, which is not true.

    These statements blatantly suggest that the Holdeman Mennonite doctrine holds to the idea that faith + works = salvation, which is not the gospel. Please see the following resources and commentaries on the book of James, for more clarity on the roles of works and faith:

    • Is Salvation By Faith alone, Or By Faith Plus Works? by Got Questions
      • “This question is a key difference between biblical Christianity and most of the cults. Is salvation through faith alone or through faith plus human works? Stated another way, am I saved by trusting in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and, in addition, do certain things?”
    • What’s the Deal with Faith and Works in James? by The Gospel Coalition
    • Regarding James 2: 24,“—Observe that St. James says a man is not justified “by faith only,” putting the adverb in the last and most emphatic position. He never denies Justification by Faith; but that fancied one of idle, speculative, theoretic faith, with no corresponding acts of love.” —Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

    • What is Antinomianism?
      • “Jesus Christ freed us from the burdensome commands of the Old Testament Law, but that is not a license to sin. […] We are to strive to overcome sin and cultivate righteousness, depending on the Holy Spirit to help us.”

    It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

    — Ephesians 2: 8-9 —

    “Holdeman people teach that they are the ‘true church’ coming through a long succession of ‘the faithful’ (a holy remnant) from New Testament times on. For this reason variation of viewpoints held by members within their own ranks is intolerable.”

    —Clarence Hiebert, The Holdeman People

    While some take this [the holy kiss] saying of Paul’s as a command that needs to be done, most agree that we do not ‘literally’ need to be giving other believers a ‘holy kiss.’ I believe Charles Hodge explains well what Paul likely meant: ‘It is not a command of perpetual obligation, as the spirit of the command is that Christians should express their mutual love in the way sanctioned by the age and community in which they live’ (Hodge – An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians). In other words, as said above, today in our culture, a handshake or hug might suffice for ‘Christians to express their mutual love’ for each other. One other way this ‘could’ be interpreted is like if I wrote a letter and ended it with, ‘give your family a hug’ or ‘tell your wife hello.’ This doesn’t mean that ‘everyone’ is now commanded to do this, but instead I, just like Paul, am simply speaking specifically to the people I am writing the letter to (See: Rom 16:3-15).”

    —Steve Shirley, “What is a ‘Holy Kiss'”


    Historical Overview


    • The Holdeman People by Clarence Hiebert (borrow for free at link; or read more about it here)
      • Steps to borrow for free:
        1. Create a free account at link
        2. Click “Borrow for 1 Hour”
    • Eat Honey, My Son by Elizabeth M. Free (historical fiction)
      • From Preface: “This story is not about the man who came to persuade my forefathers and whose teachings inspired my father. There is already a great deal of information about John Holdeman and his writings. This story is about his mother, Nancy, a woman who dared defy him.”


    • “Life and Legacy of John Holdeman” on Our People: Holdeman Mennonite Stories; listen on Apple or Spotify
    • “The Holdeman Church Through The Early 1900s” on Our People: Holdeman Mennonite Stories; listen on Apple or Spotify

    1970s Paneling/”The Purge”

    “A process was initiated that would eventually be designated by those who experienced its consequences as ‘The Purge.’ […] Connected with this temporary practice was an event that, at least in my lifetime, had not happened before. An entire congregation, with the exception of four families, was excommunicated. This congregation, located in Greeley, Colorado, was led by a well-respected minister who had been a popular revival preacher throughout the conference. […] However, he had allowed, even encouraged, his church members to begin home Bible studies, a practice that now came into question. For more conservative members, the idea of studying the Bible just as lay people together and without the guidance of an ordained minister was risky. What if they came to different conclusions than the prescribed church doctrine?” – Leona Koehn Nichols, Other Loves All Flee

       Holdeman Mennonites in Belize

      “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’


      — Romans 10:9-13 —