I am at a loss as to my current position since I am no longer a United Methodist according to the action taken against me by the Bishop of Arkansas. I am not a member of the Methodist Church in Tanzania and don’t want to become one and get embroiled in the politics of the church. This means I am no longer clergy of any kind since an honorary bishop is not a real designation. There is nothing I can do from here especially since I have never heard from the Bishop of Arkansas before he fired me and have heard nothing since. He doesn’t have a boss to whom I can complain, and if there are legal challenges, I can’t do them from here and don’t have the money to hire an attorney in Arkansas in any case. The main thing is that we will continue to serve God, feed and teach orphans, provide clean, safe drinking water, continue to teach sanitation and hygiene, work with solar projects, train pastors and lay pastors, provide Swahili Bibles and mosquito nets—in other words continue our mission which is still a United Methodist Mission as my wife is still a certified United Methodist Individual Volunteer Missionary, and, unless they have removed her, is still a member of Central UMC in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My son, John, is also still a United Methodist, so we will continue to do our work in the name of the church no matter what the bureaucracy of the church does about me. The Anglican Bishop here has always hinted about my joining them and since Wesley was an Anglican, maybe that’s the way I’ll go, although I would rather remain as a retired clergy member of the United Methodist Church. I’m still too down and depressed to do much of anything about my position at the moment, especially since we have orphans to feed and schools to run. I do want to thank Mike Flanagan for the letter he wrote to the bishop on my behalf, but he has had no reply either (see letter below). I have also just recovered from surgery on my jaw to remove a malignant melanoma and then a month-long acid treatment on my face to burn off as much of the skin cancers there as possible. Two days ago, I started the acid treatment on my arms, so pain and I have become good friends since early December when I got the letter defrocking me from the church. It has not stopped my work however, as I continue to blog, and meet with people about the schools, biosand filters, and pastor education. We will be having a big meeting here at the end of the month to consecrate some new bishops (real ones, elected as members of the church here) and will have at least six bishops staying with us here at the mission. Shaban has been gone for four days to go to the wedding of his half-sister in his home village near Dodoma. He should be back today and we will be back to work. No rest for the weary, but happy to be serving God and His children here. The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few, at least here in Africa. God bless all of you who love the Lord and are doers of His word and not just hearers only.
Letter from Mike Flanagan, VP of the One Book Foundation:
I would like to express my deep disappointment in your decision to remove Rev. Wiggins from the UMC. His selfless service of others with no support from the UMC should be commended – not punished. For years he and his family have done nothing but give of themselves in the effort of spreading Christianity in Africa. Every day the family looks to God to direct them and help make the difficult decisions of who they can help and who they must turn away.
I have read the Blog that Rev. Wiggins has written for years. I marvel at how one man can make such sacrifices while we sit in our comfortable homes and purport to be living as Jesus would have us. I believe that Rev. Wiggins and his family are more in line with the directives of Jesus than you or I. To now make such a rash decision as you have because a group of people that have seen fit to bestow an honorary title as a sign of respect is reprehensible. If I were to publicly declare you an honorary member of a group that I created – would you then be subject to repercussions? From what I have been able to gather from the documents, there were no communications with Rev. Wiggins prior to the summary judgment. No request for clarification of the “charges” and no option to rectify the concerns.
This appears to me just one more example of the church operating as a business and turning a blind eye to the efforts and results of a servant of God and instead looking to the rules and regulations created by imperfect men. I wonder if Jesus were to appear before you would you cite paragraphs from your handbook to direct his efforts?
My confidence in the UMC is shaken. I am sure that this letter will have little effect on your decision to penalize this wonderful man but know that I have now been pushed further away from the belief that one of my church’s primary concerns is that of helping others less fortunate.
Vice-President, One Book Foundation