On behalf of the BIC U.S. family, we want to express our deepest gratitude for Bishop Kenneth Hoke’s years of servant leadership in the denomination. Following six years as bishop of the Susquehanna Conference, Ken retired July 31, 2018, with Bob Beaty as his successor.
Ken’s retirement follows more than 20 years of service in BIC U.S. denominational leadership, and, prior to that, 27 years as a Brethren in Christ pastor. Note: While Ken has significantly influenced our international ministry and relationships with national BIC churches worldwide, our commemoration focuses on his domestic service as he continues to lead part time in BIC U.S. World Missions as a regional administrator.
While ministering at local, regional, and national levels, Ken had one unifying theme to his work: “At the heart of it all, I am a pastor.”
Over the last 47 years, Ken has guided the denomination with a shepherd’s heart: A peacemaker, Ken has anchored us in Christ during both smooth and turbulent times and pointed us in the way of the Spirit — toward healing, growth, and reconciliation with each other, in our congregations, regional conferences, and across the denominational body.
Though pastoral work has been Ken’s life calling, he almost did not pursue pastoral ministry.
Raised in India as a child of missionaries, Ken decided to attend Messiah College to become a missionary physician. While there, leaders recognized his pastoral gifts. Understanding that, ultimately, he desired to work with people — and that becoming a pastor would enable him to minister more quickly than going to medical school, he decided to follow a pastoral calling.
From 1972 to 1998, Ken served as pastor in three different BIC congregations, Sippo Valley BIC, Sippo Valley, Ohio; Ashland BIC, Ashland, Ohio; and Carlisle BIC, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, now The Meeting House – Carlisle Campus. At Carlisle BIC, he served 23 years, the final 11 as senior pastor.
While he loved the pastorate, Ken was offered the position to serve as general secretary of the BIC U.S. for six years beginning in 1998. National Director Alan Robinson observed, “Ken combined the heart of a pastor with the mind of an administrator, and he excelled at both.”
More recently, he has served the Church in a variety of leadership roles: as regional administrator in South Asia for BIC U.S. World Missions since 2003; as executive director of the International Brethren in Christ Association (IBICA) from 2010 to 2012; as a teacher for one of the four Core Courses; and, since 2012, as bishop of the Susquehanna Conference.
Throughout his ministry, Ken sought to bring people and the denomination together.
In 1999, Ken, in partnership with Warren Hoffman, moderator, orchestrated a meeting that ultimately led to the adoption of the BIC U.S. Core Values. They helped bring 50 lay individuals, pastors, and theologians together who first met in their respective regions to reflect and write about our BIC identity. Then, at Roxbury Holiness Camp, they came together to listen, dialogue and, sometimes, argue, to identify the foundational values of the Brethren in Christ.
Today, the Core Values are a cornerstone of the denomination.
“I believe that his desire for that meeting to not only bring together theologians but also lay people, helped contribute to a document and publication that has continued to be applicable and relevant over the past 25+ years,” said close friend of Ken’s Phil Thuma, founding director of Macha Research Trust (MRT)/Malaria Institute at Macha; senior scientific advisor at MRT; senior scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In the last six years, Ken has been the quiet force behind forging trust in a once fractured conference.
When Ken first arrived at the helm of Susquehanna Conference in 2012, the conference had experienced abrupt staff transitions, and trust was at an all-time low. Ken’s sensitivity to listening to the Spirit and the pastors he shepherded, his unflappable calm, and his unwavering commitment to the mission of the Church unified the conference.
“Ken has been instrumental in leading us through a season of crisis when he arrived and bringing stability to our conference,” said Layne Lebo, senior pastor of Mechanicsburg BIC (McBIC), Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who also serves on the Susquehanna vision team.
Ken began to invest in the conference’s leadership, freeing them to use their gifts.
Empowered to lead, conference leaders once again began to dream about possibilities to engage their mission. In the last few years, the Susquehanna Conference vision team felt called to invite about 25-30 pastors to help reimagine their mission. With greater ownership in the conference, pastors also established deeper connection and trust.
Thanks to Ken’s leadership, today the Susquehanna Conference is thriving relationally, poised for continual growth.
A Denomination Open to New Light
Championing reconciliation personally, Ken is convinced we the Brethren in Christ are uniquely positioned to offer an expansive, full-bodied faith to others.
Ken cited his Brethren in Christ mentor Owen Alderfer who said that as a denomination “we are always looking for new light.”
Throughout our history, we have recognized the Spirit can teach us new things. For example, our marrying of the Anabaptist, Pietist, Wesleyan, and Evangelicalism demonstrates our responsiveness to the Spirit’s ongoing work in us through history.
And our embrace of the Spirit’s new work in us is a strength of the denomination in a changing world, said Ken.
“That openness to something more [as part of the Brethren in Christ heritage] in our walk with Jesus, … I think that’s a phenomenal piece to give to the world today.”
For nearly 50 years, we as a Brethren in Christ U.S. family have been gifted with a leader who cares for the denomination with a pastor’s heart: Ken has helped to unify and bring reconciliation and healing at the local, regional, and national levels of the Brethren in Christ U.S. family. He has also mentored, walked alongside, equipped, and released many leaders and congregations to follow Jesus. Finally, Ken is celebrated for leading humbly and listening to the Spirit and to those he led.
Our Brethren in Christ family has been privileged to have been pastored by a spiritual leader who deeply loves Jesus, God’s people, and the ministry of the Church.
Ken noted, “Our world is looking for honest, true community. Many people don’t expect to find it in the Church, but it is what we as a BIC family can give to each other and to those around us.”
Thank you, Bishop Ken, for your years of faithful service extending the Kingdom of God.