May Chapter Meeting – Thursday, May 9

May Meeting Focus:  Immigration

“The US immigration detention system is in deep crisis. In recent years it has expanded dramatically and at great cost to principles of universal human rights and the rule of law. Since 1994 the number of detention beds has grown from 5,000 to over 33,000 with more than 1.7 million individuals passing through the system since 2003. This dramatic growth in detention is indicative of the unjust immigration enforcement system in this country.”  Source:  Detention Watch Network.

detention watchOn Thursday, May 9, Alejandro Caceres, an immigrant from Honduras, will be our guest speaker.  Alejandro represents Texans United for Families, which is part of a Detention Watch Network campaign to close the Polk County Detention Center near Houston.  He will talk about his personal experience with immigration and show the documentary,  Punishment and Profits: Immigration Detention, a film that investigates detention centers and the powerful private prison industry.

Come to Saint John’s UMC, 2140 Allandale Rd in Austin, at 6:30 p.m. for snacks and mingling; the program begins at 7p.m. Invite your friends and neighbors – all are welcome.

MFSA Recycling Event at Crestview UMC a Success

DSC04067Thanks to Crestview UMC and the Crestview UMM for their help to make the April 20 BOPA Recycling Event Successful.  We loaded three trailers and three pickups with 1,335 gallons of paint, 26 gallons of oil, 10 gallons of antifreeze, and 225 pounds of batteries, and took them to the South Austin Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

Thanks to the 20 volunteers from Crestview UMC and SWTX MFSA Chapter that participated, to everyone who did their part to protect the environment on this weekend before Earth Day (April 22), and to Anne Mund for her wonderful coordination of the event.


Bonhoeffer: A Voice for Reason, Love and Justice

There is still time to register for the study, song, and dramatic presentation about the life and witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  ThisDietrich Bonhoefferevent is sponsored by University UMC Austin, First UMC Austin, and SWTX-MFSA.


Friday & Saturday, April 26 – 27, 2013

University UMC, 2409 Guadalupe, Austin


Dr. David Jensen, Professor in the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Chair of Reformed Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Rev. Susan Schnelle, Associate Pastor, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Austin

Al Staggs, Minister, Author, Performing Artist, One-person dramatization – “A View From the
Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cost $30, includes Saturday lunch

Contact:  Susan Sprague, UUMC,

Hill Country Ride for AIDS – April 27

hillcounrty rideCreated in 1999, The Hill Country Ride for AIDS is an annual cycling and running event that rolls through the beautiful Hill Country of Texas, just west of Austin. Participating riders, volunteers and donors raise money for local non-profit organizations that support thousands of Central Texans living with HIV/AIDS.

In 11 years, The Ride has not only raised over $4 million to provide life saving care for thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS, but has also become one of the most loved events in the region.

If you haven’t already donated, please consider going to and donating to this worthy cause.

Austin District Free Store Is Open!

Thanks to all that have been involved with opening FreeStore Austin!  It has been a great success so far. We have already been able to serve over 180 people, and we’re just getting started!

At least 15 churches have been represented among our volunteer base.

We are so grateful for your continued help. You can view the full wish list here.  Please visit to let us know you want to keep volunteering or donate! In the meantime, celebrate all God is doing with our collective efforts!

Mwangaza Choir at Northwest Hills – April 26

Free Mwangaza Children’s Choir Concert


Northwest Hills UMC – 7050 Village Center Dr. -Austin, TX 78731


April 26th Friday at 7:00pm in the Sanctuary

The Mwangaza Children’s Choir is an inspiring group of hopeful and talented children, ages 8-12, who admirably represent the orphaned and poverty-stricken youth of Uganda. Mwangaza is a Swahili word for “shining light”. Their special message of hope is shared through original Ugandan song and dance, don’t miss this wonderful opportunity! For more information email

iACT Hope Awards – April 30


“Service – A Life’s Journey” The Hope Awards                

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

The Four Seasons Hotel (98 San Jacinto Blvd)

Reception for Honorees and Sponsors- 6:00 PM

Public event – 6:30 PM, the Silent Auction, dinner & awards

Tickets – $175   Click Here to Purchase Tickets!

Annual Reconciling Service – Austin FUMC

Dear friends,

As we have done for the past ten years, our church is again hosting a Reconciling Service of Celebration and Affirmation with communion on Sunday night, May 5th which many in our community find affirming and healing.  Below is the information and attached is the invitation flyer regarding this year’s service:

Reconciling “We Are Family” Celebration

FUMC Sanctuary

Sunday, May 5th @ 6:30 p.m.

As you know, many from the LGBT community attend this service and in more recent years, many clergy, as well as members from other churches, have attended.  Because we will be joining our Sunday night “Life in the City” worship team, this year’s service will be more contemporary/less formal.

UMCOR Responds to West Emergency

April 19, 2013—After a powerful explosion Wednesday night at a fertilizer factory in Texas flattened homes and caused dozens of casualties, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) approved an emergency grant to the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church to assist in relief efforts.

While needs are still being assessed, those who would help are being urged not to go to West, the tiny town, population about 2,500, where the disaster occurred.

Instead, they may channel their assistance by donating blood at a local center or to assembling cleaning buckets, which will soon be in great need, and health kits. These relief kits can be shipped to any of the eight depots in the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network.

For updated information about how to help going forward, please call UMCOR’s toll-free number: 1-800-554-8583. Those who would help are urged, again, not to telephone the conference directly so that personnel there can attend to the needs at hand.

Your donation to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, will support UMCOR’s efforts to bring relief to the survivors of this and other disasters.

Make Plans to Join MFSA in Corpus Christi at the Southwest Texas Annual Conference, June 6-8

Group ArleneThe Southwest Texas MFSA and Reconciling Ministries Team will partner again in the vendor area of the annual conference to provide information, a book fair, special RMN exhibits, and provide a safe place for our progressive friends to gather.  Join us as we meet, mingle, learn, and provide witness to social justice at this event.  If you can’t join us in Corpus Christi, we ask for your prayers, your books (below) and your financial support to help make this happen.
Annual Conference information reservations: you cannot attend, you can support MFSA by donating to help defray the costs of the luncheon and education efforts at Annual Conference at

We Need Your Books!

Annual Conference Book Fair

For several years, SWT-MFSA has sponsored a Book Fair at Annual Conference.  Members and friends box up their gently used religious and spiritual books, and we haul them to Corpus Christi.  It becomes like a treasure hunt at our tables!  People contribute to us according to what they think the books are worth to them.  It has been quite successful for the past 4 or 5 years, but to make it happen, we need your books!  Contact Rowland Curry ( and we will arrange to pick them up.


Living on the Edge

Friday, June 7, 2013 – Noon


American Bank Convention Center
Garrett Pre-Conference Room
Corpus Christi, Texas

A Peace & Justice Luncheon Sponsored by

Southwest Texas Conference Board of Church & Society

Methodist Federation for Social Action, SWTX Chapter



 Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith

Rev. Andrade-Smith is a UMC pastor, who is living on the streets in solidarity with the poor.  Her mission is to minister with the poor and marginalized, advocating for systemic changes.  You can follow her ministry journey on Facebook at:

Join your friends for this on-site luncheon.  In addition, we’ll honor the recipients of the MFSA “Building a Just Community” Awards.

Luncheon Registration Information

Cost:   $12.00 in advance (by June 1) – Check or cash

$15.00 at the door (limited number available)

Or, pay by credit card* –

For the full luncheon invitation, go to our website link.

SWT Reconciling Ministries Team News


The Southwest Texas Reconciling Ministries Team is working hard to advance the cause of opening hearts, minds and doors.RMN logo

Video Project: Each United Methodist Church that is affiliated with RMN in our Annual Conference is making video  featuring church members telling what it means to them personally to belong to a Reconciling congregation or community. These videos are very effective because they feature individual testimony, which is very moving.  We need to pull together Travis Park UMC volunteers to make our own video. We especially need folks with video editing experience and access to better technology than a cell phone camera. Are you called to be in ministry through this project? Contact Rachel –

BullySewing Stoles for Annual Conference: We are working to make the Reconciling movement more visible by making rainbow -colored stoles to distribute at Annual Conference, which meets in June in Corpus Christi. Two years ago, many Travis Park UMC volunteers helped with this hands-on community project and had a great time working together. People are needed to trace, cut, sew, iron, provide food for the crew, etc. On-the-job training provided!  Please email Rachel Jennings – – to express interest in volunteering on Saturday, April 27, noon – 1:30pm.

Bullying:  Planting Seeds of Change

Bullying is a term so common to our schools and culture that its consequences are often overlooked or avoided. For many of our young people who are bullied or who bully, this is a mountain so high it cannot be walked over and so wide it cannot be talked around.

On Sunday, April 28th, several youth groups around the Austin District will gather at St. John’s UMC from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. to plant seeds of change. With parents, youth, and other community supporters, we will view and discuss “Bully,” a documentary exploring personal stories of those touched by bullying.

Dinner will be provided; a love offering will be appreciated. To RSVP for this event, contact Mary Ann, Youth Director at University UMC, at To watch the trailer or for more information about “Bully,” visit

Austin District JFON

Plans are underway to establish an Austin District Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) site.  The Development Team has been working hard under the leadership of Brian Heymans.  The JFON Board has been selected, and they will begin meeting in May.  The Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors (ARJFON) will fall under the general jurisdiction of the national JFON (NJFON) organization and is part of the San Antonio Episcopal Area JFON (SAEJFON).  Updates will follow when a site has been selected.

News from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Five executions currently are scheduled to take place in late April and May. The current dates are listed below.  Stay tuned to TCADP for more information and any action requests regarding these cases.

April 24: Elroy Chester
April 25: Richard Cobb
May 7:    Carroll Parr
May 15: Jefferey Williams
May 21: Robert Pruett

The TCADP 2013 Spring Newsletter is available online.

Amnesty International Releases Worldwide Death Penalty Stats for 2012

Amnesty International has released its annual report on death sentences and executions for 2012. Worldwide, 682 people were executed this past year, compared to 680 in 2011.  Sentencing fell from 1,923 death sentences in 63 countries in 2011 to 1,722 in 58 countries in 2012.  Amnesty International asserts that the global trend is towards abolition, and the U.S. figures certainly give such an assertion some validity.  The United States is responsible for 43 executions, essentially the same as in 2011; however, only 9 states carried out executions compared to 13 in 2011. The number of new death sentences (77) was the second lowest since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, and only occurred in 18 of 33 states retaining the death penalty.  Notably, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty!

Texas House Committee Considers Racial Justice Act

On April 16, 2013, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee considered House Bill 2458, which seeks to prohibit the imposition of a death sentence or execution under any judgment that was sought or obtained on the basis of race.  TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé testified in support of the bill in front of the committee, as did Yannis Banks, Legislative Liaison for the Texas NAACP and Cindy Eigler, Policy Specialist for the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy.  Former Texas Governor Mark White and Linda Geffin, one of the trial prosecutors in the 1997 Harris County case of Duane Buck, provided written testimony in support of the bill, as well.

Several groups registered support for the bill, including the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas Fair Defense Project, the ACLU of Texas, Texas Defender Service, and the Texas Catholic Conference.  HB 2458 was left pending in the committee.

Smart Enough to Die

In the April 19 edition of the Austin Chronicle, reporter Jordan Smith presents an article about Elroy Chester, a death-row inmate now scheduled to be executed on June 12, 2013.

Chester pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death in 1998 for the fatal shooting of Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman III.  Ryman was killed when he tried to stop Chester from raping his two nieces.

The Chronicle article is based on a key issue that Chester is mentally retarded, according to his attorney Susan Orlansky.  This circumstance should make him ineligible for execution, based on a 2002 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court barring execution of the mentally impaired as cruel and unusual punishment.  “He has a compelling case for mental retardation,” she says.

The article asserts that Chester was placed in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Mentally Retarded Offenders Program during his previous stays in prison.  Nonetheless, the courts have repeatedly determined that Chester has not proven he is mentally retarded, and is thus eligible for execution.

Upcoming May TCADP Meetings

1:    Webinar: Addressing the Needs of Victims in Death Penalty Cases: The Role and Responsibility
of the Defense

7:    Scheduled Execution – Carroll Parr

14: The New Jim Crow in Texas w/ Michelle Alexander,
King of Glory Lutheran Church, Dallas 1:00pm

15: Scheduled Execution – Jeffery Williams;
Dallas Religious Organizing Committee 6:00pm, Chapter meeting 7:00pm,

20: El Paso Chapter Meeting, 7:00pm,

21:  Scheduled execution – Robert Pruett

Texas Impact Update

The Hot List!

With 40 days left in the 83rd legislative session, it’s time to get some great bills moving on through the process (and stop a couple of not-so-greats). Following are priority issues for Texas Impact. Click through for more details and ways you can take action.

Health Care 

Lawmakers are debating insuring adults in Medicaid or a “Texas Solution.” Texas Impact SUPPORTS HB 3791 that could be the way forward. Watch the video from the April 16 hearing. Bills to help Texans navigate the new health care exchange are moving. Texas Impact SUPPORTS SB 1795 and HB 459.

School Breakfast

Bills to improve access to breakfast for Texas kids are making progress. Texas Impact SUPPORTS SB 376 and HB 296.

Payday Lending

The session’s big payday lending bill would save 330,000 borrowers money, protect low-income Texans, and more. Texas Impact SUPPORTS SB 1247.

Water Rates

Affordable water for all Texans is important. Texas Impact SUPPORTS SB 567, HB 1307, and HB 1456 that would keep water rates reasonable and ensure transparent ratemaking. We OPPOSE HB 3857 and HB 1663 that would cut off ratepayer options.

Renewable Energy

On-site renewable power increases electric reliability and helps the environment. Texas Impact SUPPORTS SB 1239 that would encourage renewables through net metering.

Administrative Segregation

Bills that would review how Texas handles “AdSeg” (solitary confinement) and protects inmate mental health are moving. Texas Impact SUPPORTS SB 1003 and HB 1266.

“Religious Law”

Anti-Muslim groups want legislation passed that they can describe as “anti-Sharia.” The legislation is useless, and religious bigotry needs to be squelched. Texas Impact OPPOSES SB 1639.   Watch the video

MFSA Members Participate in Medicaid Rally



On Monday, April 1, MFSA members, Anne Mund, Al Lindsey, and Rowland and Janice Curry  rallied in support of Medicaid Expansion at the Texas Capitol during a press conference with Gov. Perry, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator John Cornyn.