2010 – 2011 SWT MFSA Program Focus

While we plan to follow through with actions to address poverty this year, we will start a new year of study for the 2010-2011 program year.  Our focus will be on social justice issues and how we address them as people of faith.  We will examine the perspectives of the United Methodist Church, people whose lives have been impacted, and experts regarding the issues.  We will explore ways to be advocates for social justice and what legislative actions will impact social justice issues.  Join us on our journey as we seek to discern what God calls us to do as people of faith.

Next Chapter Meeting – Thursday October 14

“What is Social Justice?”

Social justice has come under public attack in recent months, with one popular commentator calling it a perversion of the Gospel and encouraging church members to flee their churches if they discover evidence of social justice there. How do we respond to our friends, family, and others in our faith communities when we’re faced with these views?

A presentation entitled “What is Social Justice?” explains social justice and why it’s important to a person of faith.  It brings clarity to a topic which can be complex and often misunderstood while delving into the social and theological aspects of this core attribute of Christianity.  The presentation also examines the important differences between charity and justice and why both are needed for all God’s people to live to their full potential.  “What is Social Justice?” explores the rich history and present-day involvement of the United Methodist Church in some of the most pressing social issues.

This program was developed and will be presented by Kerry Stevens, Chairperson of Bethany UMC’s Church and Society Ministry and a long-time advocate for social justice.  The material is designed as a curriculum for Sunday School classes and other interested groups.  Designed as two 45 minutes sessions, you may share this material with your adult Sunday School class or others interested in having a clearer understanding of this important topic, after seeing the complete presentation at this MFSA meeting.

Come at 6:30p for snacks and mingling.
The program begins at 7:00.

Join us!  Bring a friend!

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

The Austin TCADP chapter will hold its next event this Tuesday, September 28.  This will be a panel discussion about capital punishment featuring three individuals who view it from very different and unique perspectives.  The panel members include:

Professor Rob Owen, UT Law School and Co-Director of the Capital Punishment Center. Rob has defended people facing the death penalty at every level of state and federal court system, including arguing successfully at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reverend Sidney Hall, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church, Austin.  Rev. Hall leads a congregation that describes itself as inclusive and that is active in social justice issues.

Michael Heath, murder victim family.  Michael brings a voice and perspective to the issue of capital punishment that answers the challenge, “…but what if it were your family member…?”

This event will be held on Tuesday, September 28th, 7 PM, at St. John’s United Methodist Church, 2140 Allandale Road, Austin.

TCADP is a statewide grassroots organization working to end the death penalty in Texas through education and action.  MFSA supports the work of TCADP, and we welcome your participation in this work in any capacity.

Vigils to protest executions are held from 5:30p – 6:30p on the evenings of the executions on the south steps of the Capitol, 11th and Congress.

Upcoming executions scheduled:

October 14:  Gayland Bradford
October 21:  Larry Wooten

To learn more, go to TCADP.  Contact Anne Mund (ennadnum@aol.com) with questions.

You’re Invited to Celebrate with Trinity UMC

Trinity UMC is scheduled to move into the location of the former Hyde Park UMC (at Speedway and 40th) on Sunday, October 17th at 10:30 am.  They will celebrate beginning at the current location (600 E. 50th St.) and walk together to the new location (4001 Speedway) to finish up.   As you may know, this move is made possible by the donation of this building to Trinity, so in many ways this new home also belongs to all the conference United Methodists.  The new building is part of the Southwest Texas Conference’s and Austin District’s  vision of many local congregations pursuing unique spiritual journeys.  Trinity’s journey is open to everyone and attempts to see God’s love in every person and all things.  Please come share their new beginning!

(If you plan on coming let Deana Henry know and she will update you on the latest parking/shuttle plan.  512/784-2951)

Mission Trip to Galveston

Spots available on Saint John’s Adult Mission trip to Galveston, Week of October 24
Yes, there are still about 1,000 homes in need of repair from Hurricane Ike damage in Galveston (9-12-2008!) and this is the 4th trip that members and friends of Saint John’s are trekking south to do about a week of repairs on those homes belonging to the working poor, or those without insurance.  We coordinate our efforts through Texas Disaster Recovery and stay at the former Crockett Place UMC (50th and R) on the island, avoiding the typical 45 minute commute some groups have to do to nearby churches.  If you or a fellow church member have thought of doing this for your fellowship, class, congregation, etc., this would be a good chance to get some experience in this significant effort.

Please call or write Mike Renquist for details and/or to sign up, 512-663-9868 or mgrenquist@sbcglobal.net, but please be quick; there are some forms and communications to complete.

MFSA National Meetings

Deana Henry and Rowland Curry will be traveling to Des Plaines, IL in late October to attend national MFSA meetings.  Rowland is a member of the national Board of Directors of MFSA, and they will be meeting to finalize MFSA strategic plans and other critical issues.  Deana will be attending the MFSA Program Council meeting, where all the chapters share ideas and plans for programs and activities.  Both groups will also discuss plans for MFSA leading up to efforts at General Conference 2012 in Florida.

Report on Poverty is Available

As mentioned in our last newsletter, our chapter has completed our report on poverty, “In Search of a Better Understanding of Poverty.”

During our 2009-2010 study on poverty, our chapter attempted to better understand the challenges of poverty.  Poverty is a complex issue and our understanding of its root causes, contributing factors, and ways to alleviate it is incomplete. Our paper is a reflection of what we learned from speakers, documentaries, our experiences, and other resources addressing issues associated with poverty.  It is not intended to be a comprehensive work.  However, it can be an effective guide to help our members embark on an action plan to be in ministry with those living in poverty.

It is interesting to note that shortly after our report was completed, the US Office of Management and Budget reported that our nation’s poverty rate jumped to 14.3% in 2009, its highest level since 1994, and the 43.6 million Americans in need is the highest number in 51 years of record-keeping.  The OMB defined the poverty threshold level as less than $21,954 for a family of four in 2009 and $10,956 for an individual.

The MFSA report is available here (MFSA Poverty Report) as a PDF (652 KB).  Paper copies will be available at the next chapter meeting.

Amos Commission Workshop Nov. 6 – Economic Justice

Economic Justice – a Jesus Imperative

Workshop – Saturday, November 6, 2010
9 am – 4 pm
Parker Lane UMC
2105 Parker Lane, Austin

The Austin District Amos Commission will present its annual Workshop on Economic Justice featuring Professor Joerg Rieger of Perkins School of Theology, a renowned theologian who will bring a challenging message about the Gospel and the theology of biblical economic justice.

Learn how to put that Biblical justice to work.

He will be supported by Douglas Greco, Director of Austin Interfaith.  Greco will help us understand the power of community organizing and how it can provide our congregations with leadership and skills to become engaged with the poor.

Breakaway sessions will cover practical examples of ministries to the poor and the use of community organizing.

The Mission of the Austin District Amos Commission is to empower and equip members of each United Methodist congregation in the District to influence public policy in ways that are consistent with the Gospel and the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church.  The Amos Commission’s goal is to provide churches with resources to do advocacy and justice work.  The intent is to enable every United Methodist to become passionate about doing justice, going beyond charity, to change systems, and to bring God’s Kingdom here on earth.

For more information, go to http://www.amoscommission.org.

Mark Your Calendar – November Meeting – Texas Impact

Our November meeting will be on Thursday, November 11th, and will feature our friends from Texas Impact – “people of faith working for justice.”  Texas Impact is a grassroots network for Texas religious communities. Our members include regional and statewide religious organizations, local congregations and alliances, and individuals.

At the November meeting, we will hear from Texas Impact what they believe are the most likely social justice issues to be addressed by the Texas Legislature as it convenes its biennial session in January 2011.  Our MFSA chapter and its members will then decide which of these issues are the most consistent with our objectives, and we will examine how we can help as an organization and as individuals.

Calendar for AAIM (Austin Area Interreligious Ministries)

The Red Bench: Interfaith Conversations that Matter
All at First United Methodist Family Life Center – 13th & Trinity
Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6:00-8:00pm
Tuesday, Oct. 26, 6:00-8:00pm
Tuesday, Dec. 7, 6:00-8:00pm

A Night Under One Sky — AAIM’s Fall Fund-raising Event
Tuesday, Oct. 12, 6:30-9:00pm
Umlauf Sculpture Gardens – 605 Robert E. Lee Rd
A sacred evening of dining & dialog, celebrating the relationships we
have and those we hope to build.  Tickets are $50.

26th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service & Celebration
Sunday, Nov. 21, 3:30-6:30pm
Location To Be Announced
AAIM’s premier event, gathering nearly 1000 people each year!

Death Penalty Conference; Just for People of Faith, Nov. 16-17!!

UMC General Board of Church & Society

(from Bill Mefford, Director, United Methodists Against the Death Penalty)

One of the best parts of attending events and conferences, if not the best part, is connecting with like-minded people who share your values and passion.  The Kairos Conference, Nov. 16-17 in Atlanta will be that kind of event. It is specifically for people of faith working to abolish the death penalty.

Many of you have expressed an interest to me in wanting to better connect with other United Methodists from throughout the country.  United Methodists will be at the Kairos Conference!

Some of you have said that you want to connect with people of other faiths.  Other faiths will be represented!

And almost all of us have felt the need to be better trained so that our abolition work can be the most effective.  This event will incorporate excellent training!

I hope you will not only come to the Kairos Conference, but also bring your friends, fellow church members, and other abolitionists.  We need all of you to be there!

Register today!!

A Gathering of Progressive Texas Connections Readers

The following message is from Barbara Wendland, who publishes the Connections newsletter:

I continually hear from concerned readers who see the need for change in the church and the world. They see the need for churches to disseminate up-to-date information and views about Jesus, Christian history, and the Bible. They see the need for letting varied views be heard and for discussing openly what following Jesus may require in today’s world. They see the urgent need to promote justice actively and to oppose injustice actively, within the church and elsewhere.  Many of these readers, especially those who live in the South, tell me they feel alone in their local churches and communities because of having these concerns. For a long time, therefore, I’ve wanted to bring some of these kindred spirits together to meet each other and consider how to promote the changes they see as needed.

Finally I’m doing that.  I’m hosting a gathering of Texas Connections readers on Friday evening and Saturday, November 19-20, in Temple.  Keynote speaker will be Dr. Jim Rigby, pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin.

If you’re in Texas and want to consider attending this gathering, please let me know immediately, preferably by e-mailing me at bcwendland@aol.com. If space at the event is still available when I hear from you, I’ll send you details about its content, cost, and lodging, along with an opportunity to register. (If you got my e-mail message about this event and you’ve told me you’re interested, you don’t need to let me know again. I’ll send you the details when they’re available.)

For more Connections information, see www.connectionsonline.org.

Sing A New Song, August 25 – 28, 2011

Mark next year’s calendar for the RMN/MFSA Convocation, “Sing a New Song”.
(Reconciling Ministries Network mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.)

Join hundreds of United Methodists singing of and organizing for justice and inclusion for all God’s children as we celebrate in joyful worship designed by Mark Miller and Tanya Bennett.

In word and song, at rest and play, through action and organizing, being church together, “We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve on another, to walk humbly with God!”

Sawmill Creek Resort
400 Sawmill Creek Drive West
Huron, OH 44839

For more information, see http://www.rmnetwork.org.

MFSA Still Needs Your Financial Support!

Please help us continue and improve the programs and activities of MFSA through your generosity!

There are several easy ways to join or support MFSA.  You can log onto the national MFSA website, http://www.mfsaweb.org and follow the instructions there (you can safely use a credit card).

Or, you can mail a check made out to “SWT – MFSA” to our Treasurer, Janice Curry, at 1509 Mearns Meadow Blvd, Austin 78758.  The suggested donation is $60, but any amount is welcome.  Thanks for your support!

SWT MFSA Poverty Report

Here is our SWT MFSA Poverty Report.