January 7, 2024

By Bishop Lynn Thrush, Great Lakes Conference

Scripture meditation: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

I chair the board of directors of Mile High Ministries, two camps (Mile High Pines Camp and Alpine Retreat and Camp) situated in the mountains of Southern California. At our most recent board meeting I requested time to address the matter of identity. Since Alpine Retreat and Camp is a recent addition, we now have new staff and board members on our leadership team, and I wanted to talk about the identity of Mile High Ministries and its Brethren in Christ theological heritage.

I began my board session by tracing our theological heritage through the key beliefs of Pietism (experiencing life-change), Anabaptism (God first: God’s kingdom over the world’s kingdom), and Wesleyanism (filling of the Spirit that leads to taking responsibility for serving the world). We Brethren in Christ also include Evangelicalism in our publications describing who we are. That movement galvanized us to practice communicating our faith to others, and in so doing linked us to the evangelistic histories found in Pietism, Anabaptism, and Wesleyanism.

Sharing with these new leaders was a significant reminder that we cannot assume that the people, agencies, and congregations of the Brethren in Christ will know our identity. Our identity must be taught, repeatedly as part of the catechizing and membership processes.

Not only must identity be taught, but identity must be recognized and appreciated, especially by pastoral leaders. Proverbs 22:28 counsels, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” All of us stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and that includes theologically informed actions of faith. In my role as bishop, I have witnessed leaders who, in my view, “move ancient boundary stones,” by believing that they somehow can ignore historical identity, leave that history of faith, and unilaterally establish a new identity.

The call to know and teach identity is not a call to “keep farming with horses rather than tractors,” as once was BIC practice. However, it is a recognition that failure to teach identity leads to institutions and movements that gather around least-common denominators. Further, leaders who step away from matters of identity perpetuate “one and done” leaders: those leaders who follow will have been catechized similarly as the founding leader who embraced independence and shepherding toward a different identity.

It was identity that was on the mind of the Lord when he instructed in Deuteronomy 6:4, that we are to impress matters of identity (anchored, of course, in the truth of God) on our followers; talk about them regularly and make them visible in such a way that they inform what we do and how we think.

Our Core Values are rooted in our history and doctrine. I call us to regularly teach our theological roots. That’s identity in action!


Father, I pray that Brethren in Christ people would embrace the scriptures, honor ancient boundary stones, and catechize new persons in the stewardship of our identity. Amen.