BIC U.S. moderator Warren Hoffman offers a word of farewell
mechanicsburg, Pa. (june 26, 2013)—Warren Hoffman has served the Brethren in Christ Church in the U.S. as moderator since August 1998. On July 31, this leader's term of service will come to a close, as the new national director, Alan Robinson, begins his work on August 1.
As Warren Hoffman enters into his last weeks as moderator, he offers these reflections:
Before she shifted her attention to volleyball, our youngest daughter, Laurel, went out for track. So my wife, Connie, and I got to a number of junior high track meets. We saw that one of the critical moments in a relay race is passing the baton. As one runner finishes a leg of the race, the baton is exchanged in a well-coordinated movement, and a teammate sprints forward to continue the race.
It has been a significant responsibility for me to participate in the relay team of leaders who have served the Brethren in Christ Church. As I've thought about the caliber and stature of leaders who have run legs of this race before me, I have felt unworthy. Yet I have been heartened and helped by the contributions of our predecessors in earlier legs of the race.
As a teenager, I mowed the East Donegal Cemetery near Conoy Creek in Lancaster County, Pa., where Jacob Engle, the founder of the BIC Church, is buried. I am grateful that Jacob Engle and the other brothers and sisters who planted the seeds of what would become the BIC Church, instilled in every generation since that time a longing for a heart-felt experience of following Jesus. Because of their formative contribution, we Brethren in Christ approach the Christian life with the expectation of a vital, life-changing relationship with the living God.
In succeeding generations, our forerunners articulated the unique blend of biblical convictions that shape the message of the Brethren in Christ. Because of their contributions, we now proclaim the transformative message common to all true Christians, with an emphasis on the authority of the Bible, personal commitment to Jesus Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and earnest Christian living in company with God's people.
In another leg of the race, Church leaders over one hundred years ago were persuaded to make disciples of all the peoples of the world. At the urging of a sister named Rhoda Lee, they stirred to action and set out to share the Good News with people in every culture. Since that time, our energies as a Church have been directed outward as we have sought to be a redemptive influence in the world by means of evangelism, church planting, and world missions, and through sacrificial service and active peacemaking.
In the early years of the last century, the baton passed to leaders who concentrated on discipleship. In their zeal for obedience, they described the distinguishing marks of discipleship in specific and detailed ways. Some would say, in that leg of the race, that our obedience was too rigorous. Yet the earnest wholeheartedness of that generation in their desire to be fully obedient to Christ continues to speak to ours. We have not lost that fervor for obedience. I hope we never will.
In the past 60 years, a number of influential leaders led the Brethren in Christ into active engagement with the world. One step at a time, they led us out of relative isolation, and into active witness and sacrificial service in our communities and in our world. As a result, people in multiplying numbers are responding in saving faith and coming to Christ and the Church.
My immediate predecessors, general church leaders Harvey Sider and Don Shafer, made great contributions in preparing the Church for the next millennium. In a prophetic way, they looked ahead and, seeing what the Church would need to be and do in the coming years, challenged us to change in ways that equipped us to meet the opportunities of a new millennium.
And then the baton was passed to us. Not just to me; I mean to all of us. We have been the beneficiaries of all these contributions of our mothers and fathers in the faith. And, yes, the Lord has done great and wonderful things in and through us—all of us, together—in our generation.
Now, once again, the time has come to pass the baton. As is true in every generation, the coming span of years is an appointed time. For the people in our congregations, in our communities, indeed, for people everywhere in the world—this is the day of salvation!
God has shaped and prepared the Brethren in Christ for this day, as a jar of clay that contains the treasure of the transforming message and the all-surpassing power of God. God’s call now, as always, is to pour out this treasure, so that the fragrance of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God may spread everywhere.
As the BIC run the race in this generation, I expect there will be times of uncertainty and challenge. But we have good people, a great company of pastors, and a strong leadership team of bishops and executive directors. In Alan Robison, we have a leader who can relate warmly, think strategically, reason doctrinally, care pastorally, communicate articulately, and lead effectively.
And there is a great host of witnesses in the heavenly grandstands cheering. "Be encouraged!" they shout. "Fix your eyes on Jesus, and run with perseverance the race marked out for you!"
As a strong and vital community of believers, the BIC will worship and obey the triune God and proclaim His gospel to all people in this day. With the special character and abilities that God has entrusted to this Church, the Brethren in Christ will meet the opportunities and challenges in a new millennium. By the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit in this appointed time, this community of believers will press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.
—Warren L. Hoffman