They Stuck Us In The Back Of The Hall, But We Still Made A Joyful Noise!

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Dozens of MFSA supporters from the Southwest Texas Conference traveled to Corpus Christi last week to witness at the SWTX Annual Conference meetings.  MFSA again partnered with the Reconciling Ministries team, forming a “compound” with safe space for conversations and information.   There was a book fair, where your donated books were offered in exchange for contributions.  There were exhibits on our MFSA chapter, Equal Exchange chocolate sales, and give-away pens, pins, candy, and bumper stickers.  We also provided space for information provided by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP).

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…

 

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Supporters gather to give the “thumbs up” with Rev. Lorenza Andrade-Smith in the exhibit hall.

DSC04942Exhibit Area Information and Displays

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Friends at the Compound

3rd Annual Luncheon Is A Success!

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Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith provided a powerful witness, speaking to about 175 persons gathered for our annual luncheon, co-sponsored by the Conference Board of Social Action.  Rev. Smith provides a passionate voice on homelessness, poverty, and immigration issues. 

In response to the theme of homelessness and poverty, MFSA was able to donate $500 from luncheon proceeds to the Corpus Christi Metro Ministries, which is “helping create a community that is free from hunger and homelessness” through their programs.   In addition, luncheon attendees donated $200 in Walgreens gift cards to Rev. Smith, which she uses to purchase items for her homeless companions.  If you would like to know more about Rev. Smith’s ministry, join her on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/lorenza.andradesmith/photos

MFSA Justice Awards

Four awards were given at this year’s luncheon.  Each award recipient receives a plaque and a certificate, and a $50 donation is made to the National MFSA Office in the name of the honoree(s).DSC04878The Genesis Award recognizes individuals who have recently begun her or his journey creating a more just community, or who have created a new way to do so, and who have quickly made an outstanding contribution.

This year’s award recognizes a couple who have recently started a restorative justice program in the Eagle Pass region, for teenagers who have gotten caught up in the drug trade that flourishes on the Texas-Mexico border.   This year’s award is given to Reverend Becky Baxter Ballou and Mr. Bruce Ballou for their work in helping establish the Border Hope Residential Center, which serves Maverick County, one of the poorest in the nation.

The Congregational Award recognizes a congregation which has made a substantial contribution to creating a more just community.  This year, MFSA recognizes two congregations for becoming affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network – which only a handful has done in the Southwest Texas Annual Conference.  A Reconciling Community is one which makes space at the table for all God’s children by explicitly welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and striving to transform the church into a full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.

DSC04888In 2011, Grace UMC, in the Austin District, began its journey down the pathway of righteousness. Through Bible study, congregational conversation, and other forms of dialog and communication, Grace discerned they were being led to publicly show their support for those who have long been marginalized, by becoming affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network.  The award was presented to Rev. Linda Kessie representing the Grace UMC congregation.

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Travis Park UMC, in the San Antonio District, began its journey in the year 2000 to become a Reconciling Community.   After setbacks and further discernment, their congregational emphasis shifted from just welcoming all persons, to being advocates for justice and policy change, the Church Council overwhelming approved becoming a Reconciling Community in 2008.  This award was presented to Rev. Monte Marshall, representing the Travis Park congregation.

DSC04910The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to someone who has demonstrated a lifetime of service to the world through the church.  This year’s honoree is Ms Dalila Cruz of Austin Saint John’s UMC.  Dalila grew up in the Rio Grande Conference.  She has worked for the UMC General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Council on Ministries, MARCHA (Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa Hispano Americana – the Hispanic Caucus of the UMC), and the National Women’s Division of the UMC.  Dalila also served for two quadrennia for the National Council of Churches USA and also for the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns for a number of years.  After retiring from the Women’s Division in 1996 she returned to San Antonio and became very active with her local home church of La Trinidad, working with the local Metro Alliance.  Dalila served most recently in Office of the General Secretary of the 2012 General Conference.

Grace Interrupted

mary ann kaiserMary Ann Kaiser is a recent graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She has a passion for working in the intersections of church and society. Her love for religious approaches to questions of ethics, particularly in the realms of race, gender, and sexuality, led her to internships at WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) in Silver Spring, MD and Texas Freedom Network in Austin, TX. She has also worked for the Wesley Foundation and as a hospital chaplain. She currently serves as Youth Director and Justice Associate at University UMC in Austin.

Mary Ann was a certified candidate for ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church.  Her home district committee voted to certify her earlier this year.  Her ordination journey was halted abruptly on June 6 when The Southwest Texas Conference Board of Ordained Ministry recommended to the clergy of the conference to revoke her certification because Mary Ann identifies as a lesbian.  The vote narrowly passed, temporarily pausing Mary Ann’s process.  Proper procedures in the UMC’s own rule book, The Book of Discipline, were ignored by the conference.  Furthermore, simply identifying as a lesbian is not grounds to remove someone from the ordination process.  Rules were broken.  Harm was done.  What’s more, the Board of Ordained Ministry has not met Mary Ann.

Rev. John Elford, the pastor where Mary Ann serves as Youth Director and Justice Associate at University UMC in Austin, spoke on behalf of Mary Ann on the floor of Annual Conference, asking Bishop Dorff for a ruling of law as to whether a Board of Ordained Ministry can decline to consider the candidacy of a certified candidate for ordained ministry who has been appropriately recommended by a District Committee on Ordained Ministry.

MFSA proudly stands with Mary Ann in her struggle with the inequality and unfairness of the UMC.  To read more on this important story – and to learn what you can do to help – go to:

http://www.rmnetwork.org/southwest-texas-annual-conference-update-mary-ann-kaiser/

MFSA Chapter Planning Retreat

The SWTX MFSA Chapter’s Executive Committee will meet in July to plan our programs and focus for the upcoming year.  If you have ideas for program focus or for individual meeting topics, or if you are interested in serving as an at-large member of the Executive Committee, please contact Deana Henry at deakenhenry@yahoo.com.

Girl Rising To Be Shown On CNN

CNN will be airing the film Girl Rising this Sunday, June 16 at 8 p.m. CT.  World Vision is a film partner, and the CNN version will feature the story of a World Vision-sponsored girl: Azmera from Ethiopia.   Azmera is one of several girls from around the world featured in Girl Rising, a film highlighting the obstacles girls face in the pursuit of education.  Named one of the “hottest cause documentaries in years” by the New York Times, Girl Rising is directed by Academy Award nominee, Richard E. Robbins, and includes the voice talents of Hollywood stars Liam Neeson, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keyes, and Kerry Washington.

More information about the film available at:  http://girlrising.com/see-the-film/

iACT Red Bench – June 18

June 18 – “Education – What is Education For?”

Does education have a moral purpose or is it merely about training for a career? What do we expect from our educational systems?

 

The Red Bench: Interfaith Conversations that Matter is a dialogue program centered on moderated small group discussions that are genuinely respectful and safe. No one has to be an expert – individual participants are invited to share from their personal experiences and listen with their hearts.

The Red Bench meets at the “Family Life Center” of First United Methodist Church at 1300 Lavaca Street in downtown Austin. A light meal is served from 6:30-7:00 PM and the conversation runs from 7:00-8:30 PM. http://interfaithtexas.org/dialogue/the-red-bench/more-info/