UPDATE: Pastor asked to resign after police use church van in drug bust
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Chris Wilkinson, Hamlin mayor and police chief, has been asked to resign his other position as pastor of Morning Star Community Church after law enforcement officials used the church bus for a drug bust.
The drug raid took place last Thursday and Wilkinson said he got a call from a church member on Monday night asking for his resignation.
"One church member called and said some members were upset because I let them use the bus and they were complaining. I said 'what do you want me to do?' She said 'we want you to resign.' I said 'OK.' "
Law enforcement officers surprised operators of a methamphetamine lab in Lincoln County by descending upon the area in a borrowed church bus. J.J. Napier, chief deputy for the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, came up with the idea. Napier said officers received tips for several weeks about drug activity on Little Harts Road, located two miles off W.Va. 10 in Harts.
Napier said the culprits had lookouts tipping them off whenever officers arrived in cruisers. Using the church bus allowed police to have the element of surprise. Three people were arrested, including two on drug related charges and a third on trespassing charges linked to a previous warrant.
Nine law enforcement officers aboard the bus represented the State Police, Hamlin Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff's Department.
This marked the second time for the church bus to be used for police work.
"We had a similar situation three months ago when the State Police used it," he said. "There were no complaints. The church knew about it."
The last time also netted some drug arrests.
Wilkinson has served as pastor of the church for 10 years and held the positions of mayor and police chief for four years. He also oversees the cleanliness of the cafeteria at Lincoln County High School.
Before he was asked to resign his pastoral post, he said he was already thinking of leaving that position. He said membership had declined and he thought a new person might be able to build it back up.
"Membership has declined at a lot of churches around here," he said. "If you would put five or six of them together, it would make one good one."
He said the congregation at Morning Star has dwindled to about a dozen people.
"I've heard through the grapevine that they have already found a replacement," he said of the pastoral post.
He plans to write a letter to make his resignation official.
The 12-passenger church bus was purchased for $1,500 with money raised through donations, bake sales and other events. However, it had not been used for church functions for some time, he said.
"We've had it four or five years," he said. "The last time we used it was last Christmas for caroling."
When the church member called asking for his resignation he told her that he would be interested in purchasing the bus. He has not received an answer about that offer.
Meanwhile, he is considering a different direction with ministry.
"I've thought seriously about youth ministry," he said. "I work at the high school and I'm around teens a lot. Maybe I'll work with some young people."
Wilkinson, 56, is the father of two sons who are 20 and 23 years old. He is waiting to see what the next chapter of life holds.
"I am a firm believer that when God closes one door he opens another," Wilkinson said. "He'll have me doing something. I'll be fine. It will be all right."
Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at email@example.com or 304-348-1246.