Friday, August 9, 2013
"Do all the good that you can." -- John Wesley
As of now, the Methodist Church in Tanzania has two bishops (Monto and myself), 24 churches (scattered throughout the Mara and Mwanza Regions--near Lake Victoria), a handful of pastors (only a few of which have been through any type of seminary), several Evangelists (lay pastors), and around 4,000 members. By September15th of this year (a little over one month away), we will have five bishops, over 130 churches, an official office, a school of theology in Arusha, around 100,000 members, and will have churches in Dar Es Salaam, Dodoma, Shinyanga, Arusha, Mwanza, Musoma, Bunda, Tireme, Iriniga, and several other parts of Tanzania--pretty much covering the whole country having merged with the Tanzania Methodist Church. We will all be members of the World Methodist Council, and Bishops Wiggins and Monto will be teaching (for a week at a time) several times a year at the school of theology in Arusha. In addition, starting in September, eight of our pastors and evangelists will be attending the school of theology in Arusha with their tuition and fees paid for by Korean Methodist Churches, and all evangelists who want to become pastors will also be able to attend the school of theology with all fees paid. I have never attended a meeting where so many strangers met, yet all left as brothers bonded by the call of God and wrapped in the love of the Holy Spirit. We had planned to meet for two days, but after a devotional that left most of us in tears of joy, it only took four hours to agree to everything and establish the basic ground rules and seven areas of cooperative work: evangelism, theological education, church plantings, mens and women's issues and ministries, youth ministries, conferences to deal with issues challenging the church, and conferences to deal with new ideas for ministry and the expansion of God's Kingdom. We will have a joint Synod meeting in September where we will consecrate two new bishops with Bishop Monto and myself participating as those consecrating as well as having preachers and speakers from both former groups who are becoming one. The names "Methodist Church in Tanzania" and the "Tanzania Methodist Church" are now seen as one, indistinguishable title. As of today, we all accept that we are one and accept each other's pastors (with emphasis on adding more women pastors) as well as bishops, and other church leaders. At future meetings, we will be inviting other Methodist groups such as Free Methodists and United Methodists to join us if not in full participation then at least in joint association and respect. Announcements will be sent to the World Methodist Council, the World Council of Churches, the Association of African Christian Churches, and other African and World bodies that there is now one, united, unified, and active Methodist Church in Tanzania autonomous from direction or oversight of any churches in any other countries. We can and will stand alone and united and work as one Body of Christ. There will not be any professional clergy--every evangelist, pastor, and bishop will be responsible for raising their own funds to operate and yet sharing funds donated by bodies outside of Tanzania for projects and buildings with close accounting and mutual agreement over how to use the funds donated. We have let the Methodist Church of Kenya know that no longer can funds intended for use by Tanzanian Methodists first go through Nairobi or need their approval or disbursement. We will invite them to join us in special projects as we have no enemies, but have established ourselves as the brothers and sisters of Christ who will be serving Tanzania as part of the Methodist Church following the polity and theology of John Wesley who founded Methodism in the 1700's. The face of Methodism in Tanzania has changed and will be a fresh, new face with the glow of excitement from unity of purpose and members now of one family of God in service. Wesley believed, as do we, that there is no personal holiness without social holiness, so we will continue to establish hospitals, dispensaries, do work with water filters (now needed in prisons as well), and teaching sanitation and hygiene as well as establishing preschools in churches. If you could see me, I have a smile that I can't and don't want to remove.