June 2012 SWTX Annual Conference Wrap-Up: Volunteers Make “The Compound” Possible

Your SWTX MFSA Chapter volunteers were very active during the recent SWTX Annual Conference in Corpus Christi.  We established a “compound” of tables in the AC exhibit area, which provided a hub of conversation and information.  There was a book fair, where your donated books were offered in exchange for contributions.  There were exhibits on our MFSA chapter and General Conference events.  We sold Equal Exchange chocolates and MFSA water bottles.  We sponsored an exhibit of the Shower of Stoles, witnessing to the exclusion of GLBT ministers.  And we shared space with our SWTX Reconciling Ministries group.  We gave away pens, pins, candy, and over 150 stoles!

Many of our MFSA chapter members and supporters were delegates, and we had at least 20 other volunteers who contributed their time and travel expenses to be a part of this powerful witness.  Thanks to all who helped with this effort!

See many more pictures on our Facebook Page, Southwest-TX-Chapter-MFSA…

2nd Annual Luncheon A Success!

Almost 200 people attended the luncheon entitled  “Growth Through Justice,” sponsored by the Conference Board of Church and Society, SWTX MFSA, and SWTX RMN.

The program began with a presentation by Audrey Krumbach, national organizer for the Reconciling Ministries Network, who told us, “Why I Have Hope:  Grassroots That Keep Growing!”
The cross centerpiece was draped with a prayer strip from the tabernacle at General Conference.

MFSA Building a Just Community Awards

Three Building a Just Community awards were given by the MFSA chapter.

The Genesis Award was given to Rev. Carole Lahti for work done by Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) of South Texas program.  This program, sponsored by UMCOR, provides free, high-quality immigration services, education, and advocacy.

The Community Achievement Award was given to Rev. John Elford and the University United Methodist Church of Austin.  University UMC conducts a large number of social justice and assistance programs, and became affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network in 2011.

MFSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Jo Anne Wilshusen, 84, of Corpus Christi.   Throughout her life, her involvement in local, district, conference, national, and international activities has been paramount and reflective of her focus on social justice and “all of God’s children.”  She has been elected a delegate to five different General and Jurisdictional Conferences, and was the first Chair of the Conference Committee on Status and Role of Women.

More photos can be found at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Southwest-TX-Chapter-MFSA/208934022460155?sk=photos

Peace With Justice Grant Recipients

In addition to the MFSA chapter awards, the Conference Peace with Justice Coordinator Susan Aguilar presented three of the recipients of Peace with Justice Grants.  Rev. Carole Lahti of Pharr UMC was again recognized for their efforts in the Justice for Our Neighbors program that provides advocacy and assistance to our immigrant neighbors.

Rev. Kent Kinard was recognized for the Green Bridges Community Youth Garden at Chapel Hill UMC in San Antonio.  This valuable program aids youth so that they can work in the garden and develop positive experiences with creation and the community as they perform community service hours assigned to them by the Juvenile Probation Department.

Additionally, the SWTX Conference is supporting a restorative justice program that provides meaningful employment to ex-offenders of the law. This worthwhile program, Redemptive Employment, is associated with Parker Lane UMC in Austin.  Rev. Abby Parker was on hand to describe this program to the gathering.

Jim Winkler Calls for an Emphasis on Social Justice in Our Denomination and in Our Nation

The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society.  Mr. Winkler called for an emphasis on social justice in our denomination and in our nation.  According to Jim, “…we’re terrific at feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless.  But when it comes to calling for a living wage, health care for everyone, and affordable housing—addressing systemic injustice, that is—we fall short not as a denomination, but in most of our local churches. The thing is you see, we don’t like to make people unhappy.  We think justice is not spelled j-u-s-t-i-c-e but j-u-s-t-n-i-c-e.”  Mr. Winkler concluded, “But, if our children and grandchildren will have a decent future it will be because we changed the very direction of the United States to one committed to cooperation, justice, and peace.  I am committed to that struggle and I ask you to join me in it.”

Witnessing – “Do No Harm”

Many of our MFSA members and supporters continue to be appalled at the mean-spirited cloud that surrounded the recent UMC General Conference in Tampa.  There was a need to recognize the pain that was created there, particularly toward our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters, but also to all who believe God’s love extends to all persons.  We continued at Annual Conference with the “Southwest Texas Love Your Neighbor Fellowship”, providing intentional witness through wearing of stoles and sharing resources between our conference MFSA and RMN teams.On Friday evening, over 45 of us gathered (over some great seafood) to share our concerns for our church family.Then on Saturday morning, Rev. Georjean Blanton and Rev. John Wright conducted a communion service of “Lament and Hope” that was very meaningful.

Before Saturday afternoon’s business session, a Justice Candle liturgy included the following: “We remind ourselves that all are children of God, regardless of age, race, creed, economic status, sexual orientation or ideological position. We seek the assurance of your love as we remember those who feel excluded by our denomination because of their sexual orientation, and we humbly seek to be in a dialogue of love and understanding to resolve the hurt that prevails on all sides. Our challenge is to be reconciled with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Following the report to the Annual Conference by the delegates to General Conference, Mr. Jeff Sturgeon of Travis Park UMC-San Antonio asked to speak as a point of personal privilege.  Mr. Sturgeon spoke of the hurt and pain he personally feels as a result of GC2012, and asked all the delegates assembled “How will you express God’s love?  What will be your Christ-like response to my family and those like me?”  (full text)  Then the Bishop offered a prayer asking for healing.  During much of the afternoon session, our SWTX Coalition stood in quiet witness with signs expressing our concerns.

Holding Up The Mirror

During Annual Conference, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) and the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCRR) sponsored a program of “Holding Up the Mirror”, with the goal of providing leaders with constructive data toward intentional, invitational inclusivity during the conference sessions and worship.  MFSA members comprised a large part of the team that performed this “mirroring” function.  Thanks to Deana Henry and Pat Stewart for their leadership in arranging this justice project.