Texas Forward Coalition – State Budget Lobby Day – April 12

TEXASForward is a coalition of organizations promoting a balanced approach to state budget decisions.
Read more:  http://txforward.org/home.html

LEADD: Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity

Training the next generation of citizen leaders

Texas Impact, iACT, the Interfaith Alliance and First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin are excited to bring the nationally recognized high school leadership program, LEADD (Leadership Education Advancing Democracy & Diversity), to Central Texas, May 6-8, 2011.

Students who attend LEADD become immersed in the history of the First Amendment, particularly its Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, and learn about current policy, legislative and legal issues regarding religious freedom.

Austin United Methodists Call on Churches Throughout Texas to Speak Out Against Budget Injustice

AUSTIN, TX — Leaders of University United Methodist Church of Austin have sent a letter to more than 350 Texas United Methodist churches urging pastors and church members alike to take action to help prevent the deep cuts to education, social services, and other state programs that legislators are considering in the face of a $27 billion state budget shortfall.

Reverend John Elford, Senior Pastor of UUMC, said he and church leaders sent the letter to all the churches in the Southwest Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, a regional denominational body similar to a diocese. Elford said UUMC felt compelled to alert other United Methodists to the “grave injustice” lawmakers are preparing to do in adopting a budget that cuts services to the neediest Texans.

“The United Methodist tradition preaches a theology of abundance and grace. We simply cannot stand by and watch as lawmakers embrace a narrative of scarcity and fear that produces suffering for millions of Texans,” Elford said. “The long-term costs of making these massive cuts would be enormous because of the damage they will cause to the future of Texas and Texans.”

Associate Pastor Susan Sprague said UUMC has a special responsibility to issue the call to action because it has close ties to the Capitol and is keeping close tabs on the state budget situation. “We know sometimes the details of the legislative session aren’t communicated as broadly outside Austin, and we want to be sure every church in the Southwest Texas Annual Conference understands what’s at stake for Texas in the proposed budget,” Sprague said.

The letter includes information about the budget shortfall, the proposed cuts, and strategies for church members to express their views on the budget to lawmakers.

For more information:  http://texasimpact.org/uumc_shortfall_letter_2011

University UMC (Austin) is now affiliated with RMN

On Sunday, February 21, University UMC members voted to affiliate with the Reconciling Ministries Network.  Of the 250 in attendance at the church conference, more than 90% voted “yes”.

This church, and so many other progressive communities, have helped to create a greater climate of acceptance, welcome and understanding for the LGBT community.

A Statement of Counsel to the Church – January 31, 2011

As reported in last month’s e-news, a group of 33 retired United Methodist bishops sent a “Statement of Counsel” to the Council of Bishops of the UMC.  In a formal statement, the Methodist Federation for Social Action “applauds the leadership, courage, compassion and faithfulness of those Bishops who have and will lend their names to the ‘Statement of the Counsel to the Church – 2011!’“  Through this Statement, the Bishops are asking us to change the way we relate to people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered.  Many if not all of these retired Bishops who signed the Statement are great friends of MFSA.  Cliff Ives is the immediate past Co-President, and Joe Wilson is an active participant in the Central Texas chapter in Georgetown.

The beginning of the Statement reads as follows.  The entire Statement can be read here.

Out of concern for the welfare of all God’s people, and, out of special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church, we, United Methodist Bishops – retired, believe The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”  ¶304.3

In February, the “Confessing Movement” issued a rebuttal to the retired Bishops’ Statement, refuting it in its entirety.  (The Renewal and Reform Coalition: The Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church, Good News, Lifewatch, RENEW, Transforming Congregations)  These groups are associated with the well-funded Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) and are intent on stifling movement toward progressive ideas, such as inclusion and social justice.  Refer to United Methodism @ Risk, 2003, by Leon Howell.

Immediately after the Confessing Movement issued their rebuttal, Rev. Wesley White (Mequon, Wisconsin) provided a progressive response to the religious right’s assertions.  You can read both the arguments here.

This is an issue that is certain to be a focus of our time and energy between now and Tampa (General Conference 2012).  Stay tuned.

Rev. Amy DeLong Trial Scheduled for April

(Repeated from last month – because it’s still relevant!)

A Wisconsin United Methodist Church panel has brought charges against a lesbian minister that could end in her removal from the clergy – but the same committee praised her courage and criticized the church laws that required that the charges be issued.

The case has helped inspire a letter from 33 retired Methodist bishops urging the church to drop its ban on “self-proclaimed practicing homosexuals” serving as ministers.

A church trial has been set for April in the case, the first of its kind ever in Wisconsin.

The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola, in northwestern Wisconsin, precipitated the case in 2009 when she agreed to preside at a holy union ceremony for a lesbian couple, and then separately registered with her partner of 15 years under Wisconsin’s Domestic Partnership Law. She reported both actions to the church’s Wisconsin Annual Conference, the governing body for the church in the state, as part of her annual accounting of her ministry.

She said she knew her actions would have consequences.

“I want to help the church to be true to its proclamations,” she said in an interview. “We don’t have to earn our way into God’s heart. We’ve already been accepted.”

The United Methodist Church, the nation’s third-largest denomination, prohibits ministers from performing same-sex unions and allows gay or lesbian ministers only if they’re celibate, or if they don’t reveal their sexual orientation.

Sing A New Song, August 25 – 28

Mark your 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/sing-a-new-song/

MFSA Needs Financial Support as We Prepare for Annual and General Conferences

Please join with us as we connect progressive United Methodists in putting faith into action!

Membership in MFSA is not predicated on ability to pay.  We do not have “dues”.  However, our Chapter and the National Office need funding each year for programs and activities.  Membership gifts and special giving are always appreciated.

MFSA is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization by the IRS.   Membership gifts to MFSA are tax deductible as provided by law.

Here are two simple 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 annual donation is $60, but any amount is welcome.  Thanks for your support!

Join us!