MFSA Meeting on Thursday, February 9

“Changing Perceptions & Surviving the Texas Legislative Session”advocacy

Want to know more about effective legislative advocacy here in Texas? Join Rio Texas MFSA on Thursday, February 9 at Saint John’s UMC, 2140 Allandale Rd.  Dr. Melody Chatelle will present “Changing Perceptions and Surviving the Texas Legislative Session”, ideas about effective advocacy and other tips about making a difference in the 2017 Texas Legislative session.

Dr. Chatelle is a well-respected and effective veteran of the national and state legislative arenas. Prior to forming Chatelle and Associates, her own political and communications consulting company in 1999, Melody worked for 12 years as Director and Vice President of Government Affairs for Mariner Post-Acute Network, the second largest post-acute health care company in the country. Before joining the health care industry in 1987, Melody served for 10 years in the Texas State Capitol as a legislative aide to a former Texas State Senator now serving in the United States Congress, as well as the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. Melody and her husband Eddie Zamora are members of University UMC.

Join us at 6:30p for snacks.  The program begins at 7p.  All are welcome.

Texas UMC Bishops Respond to Immigration Order

An Open Letter to United Methodists in Texas and All People of Good Will

We, the United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas, greet you in the love of Christ. We call upon those who claim the title “Christian” to remember that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, began his life as a homeless refugee, fleeing with his family to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). Just as the Holy Family was forced to flee their homeland and seek safety, too many flee for their lives in our violent, terror-plagued world.

In the face of such human tragedy in our world today, we, the bishops of The United Methodist Church in Texas, call upon all United Methodists to see Christ in the refugees of today, regardless of their nationality and/or social, religious, economic, or political background.

We share with others a common sense of frustration, hopelessness, and confusion as we view the unfolding images of today’s refugees in the news. We desire to welcome the sojourner, love our neighbor, and stand with the most vulnerable among us, while also being concerned for the security and well-being of our communities, state, and nation. It is legitimate and proper to be concerned about the safety of our neighborhoods and our country. It is also proper and right that we reflect Christian compassion and values in our response. Jesus was explicit in his teachings when he said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).

We cannot let fear rule the day; we must let love champion our actions. We are a nation founded on immigration and forged by the courage of shared values to be a “light on the hill” and a beacon of hope in a broken world.

As Christians and as Texans, our values are grounded in respect and hospitality toward strangers. We recognize that these are difficult and complex times that call for the best of America’s values and our highest witness as followers of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we call upon President Trump, Governor Abbott, and the leaders of our nation and state to seek a more compassionate response to immigrants and refugees. Joining with those who desire a safer America, we pray for a just and caring response to those most in need of our help and love.

Yours in Christ,

The United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas

Bishop Earl Bledsoe, The Northwest Texas Conference (Northwest Texas-New Mexico Area)

Bishop Scott Jones, The Texas Conference (Houston Area)

Bishop Mike Lowry, The Central Texas Conference (Fort Worth Area)

Bishop Mike McKee, The North Texas Conference (Dallas Area)

Bishop Robert Schnase, The Rio Texas Conference (San Antonio Area)

– See more

Refugee Services of Texas

Statement by Aaron Rippenkroeger, President & CEO, Refugee Services of Texas

(Friday, January 27)

We are gravely disappointed by the Executive Order issued today by President Trump to scale back the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, including a complete stop in refugee arrivals for the next four months.

History has shown us time and again that America has been at its greatest when we have welcomed refugees to our shores, and at its weakest when we have shut our doors out of fear.

The horrific humanitarian consequences of this action cannot be overstated.  Some refugees will be at risk of losing their lives – including some who may do so following their service to the U.S. military and other U.S. actions overseas.  Some refugees, already approved for resettlement in the U.S., have sold all of their few remaining belongings in preparation for travel and after having already undergone up to two years of security vetting.  They will now be left in limbo, waiting for a refuge once promised to them that now may never come.

Over 70% of these refugees are women and children, and over 70% of these individuals are coming to the U.S. to join family members who already live here. Separating families needlessly is cruel and un-American. They are not dangerous, and to claim otherwise is not only false but morally wrong.

By definition, refugees are people who face a threat to their safety in their former homes – they are distinctly non-violent.  They personally know the horrors of violence and, like all Americans, they first want to be safe and secure.  Being tough on terrorism does not require being tough on refugees.  Even so, the U.S. has already in place the most stringent refugee security vetting process in the history of the world by any country and refugees are by far the most heavily vetted of all the individuals traveling to the U.S.  This political action will leave Americans less safe, not more.  It also undermines America’s principles of fair and equal treatment of all people around the world regardless of race, religion or country of origin – core tenets of the U.S. Constitution and the founding of our country.

This is why the enormously successful U.S. humanitarian refugee program has received significant bi-partisan support for decades – through many Presidents of both parties.

Because of its welcoming nature, Texas has been highly successful integrating refugees for many years. Over 85% of refugees resettled by Refugee Services of Texas achieve self-reliance within six months to become tax-paying contributors to their local communities and our country, and eventually American citizens.

We urgently request that President Trump rescind this Executive Order and demonstrate that America is not afraid of refugees. We respectfully ask him to show leadership and compassion for human rights and refugee protection during the current global refugee crisis—the largest of its kind since World War II.


Visit to see how you can help!

On Sanctuary Cities Legislation

UMC Bishop Joel Martinez Highlights Faith Communities’
Opposition to Sanctuary City Legislation

On January 25, 2017, Retired Bishop Joel Martinez joined the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Mexican-American Legislative Caucus to speak out against new proposed immigration policies. You can watch the entire press conference on Youtube.

iACT Vigil of Commitment Monday, February 6

iSpeak – February, 2017       

Dear Friends of iACT,

As we move into the second month of the new year, a number of challenges and difficulties face those of us who wish to welcome and have compassion for all of our neighbors. In the face of recent executive actions that have targeted the human rights of our immigrant, refugee, and Muslim brothers and sisters, the iACT Board of Directors has issued the following statement:

“It is often in times of challenge that we find ourselves at a loss for words, therefore many shout, scream or resort to violence in an effort to articulate their fears or anger. It is with this in mind that iACT intentionally chooses to use words. Words that heal. Words that unite. Words that renew our hope in humanity and the strength we find in our faith. We pray for all families and individuals who are challenged by uncertainty. We pray for the consolation and comfort of all who are displaced, and we embrace those who are isolated and alone. May we stand together, side by side, as we speak words of life, healing and love over the persons whose hands we hold. Amen.”

With this statement in mind, iACT and St. James’ Episcopal Church will be holding a Vigil of Commitment on Monday February 6 to show our solidarity with all of those who have been or will be affected by these newly established discriminatory mandates. The vigil will begin at 7pm at St. James’ (1941 Webberville Rd, Austin TX, 78721). Please share this event with your community, and be sure to RSVP.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand together as one community in love of our fellow human beings. With your support, iACT will continue to speak up for those who are most marginalized in our society. We thank you for standing with us. Stay strong.
See more.

Advocacy and Resistance Events from Progress Texas

Since the new administration has come into power, Texans across the state are taking action to stand up for social justice issues — we have come together, resisting the politics or fear and hate. We have seen a regressive legislative agenda in Texas in the past, but it seems even more hateful this year.

On Thursday, hundreds of people showed up at the state Capitol in organized resistance to testify against the Texas Legislature’s anti-immigrant, racial profiling legislation Senate Bill 4.  And we need to keep up the fight.

Join the resistance and show the opponents in our Capitol this session that they don’t represent our values. Find an issue that’s important to you and register for an advocacy and resistance event (and tell your friends):

One example that you should be aware of is this:

No Ban, No Wall Rally at Texas State Capitol

Saturday, February 25 at 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

TCADP 2017 Annual Conference

The TCADP 2017 Annual Conference – a must-attend event for anyone interested in ending the death penalty in Texas – will take place at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin on Saturday, February 18, 2017.  Take advantage of pre-registration rates until February 8, 2017.

If you can’t join us for the full day, consider purchasing a ticket for our awards luncheon and keynote address by Brian Stolarz. Stolarz served as habeas corpus counsel to Alfred Dewayne Brown, who was exonerated in June 2015 after spending 10 years on Texas’ death row. Stolarz’s book about his relationship with Brown, Grace and Justice on Death Row: The Race Against Time and Texas to Free an Innocent Man, is a Washington Post best-seller.  Brown is the recipient of our 2017 Courage Award.

Here’s a preview of some of the workshop sessions we’ll be offering during the conference:

  • The national death penalty landscape
  • An in-depth look at wrongful convictions
  • Mobilizing networks to create change
  • Legislative advocacy
  • The intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system

 Online registration is now open!  Take advantage of pre-registration rates between now and February 8, 2017.

Sponsorshipvendor opportunities and program advertisements are also available. Click here for the conference flyer.

Executions Scheduled in 2017
February 2: John Ramirez
February 7: Tilon Carter
March 7: Rolando Ruiz
March 14: James Bigby
April 12: Paul Storey
June 28: Steven Long
July 19: Kosoul Chanthakoummane

March 28: Join TCADP and Texas Impact at the State Capitol in Austin for our second Faith Leader Advocacy Day on the Death Penalty.  Together, we will make sure legislators hear the loud and growing chorus of voices in opposition to the death penalty. Register online today.

Sara Hickman Benefit Concert

Join Senator Wendy Davis

& Representative Donna Howard

with Women Partners in Health for a



Uganda Fistula Fund of Seattle, is partnering with Terrewode, a non-profit organization in Uganda, to build a dedicated women’s hospital and rehab/education center to help prevent and end the suffering caused by obstetric fistula.  Please join us to hear Sara sing and to learn more about this hospital, the first of its kind in Uganda.  Alice Emasu, the co-founder of Terrewode and Sharon Howe, the co-founder of Uganda Fistula Fund, will both speak.  We will watch a brief documentary about a similar hospital in Ethiopia: “A Walk To Beautiful.” 

Our goal is to fund the surgical building with Texan donations. 

Friday – February 17, 2017

7:00PM to 9:00PM

Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church ~ 1725 West 11th Street ~ Clarksville

(small reception to follow)


or contact for more information.

iACT – Austin CROP Hunger Walk

CROPLogo2010HiRes-300x195February 26
Camp Mabry, 2200 West 35th Street

Thank you Austin – more than $78,000 raised in 2016.
Help us hit our $82,000 Goal in 2017!

February 26, 2017
Camp Mabry

2200 West 35th Street

2:00 pm Registration
2:30 pm Step Off

The Austin CROP Hunger Walk is sponsored locally by iACT.  The Austin CROP Hunger Walk celebrates interreligious participation from six world religions in 2012—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist, and Druze communities. Neighbors of different ages, faiths, and backgrounds—walking together.  It is a beautiful testimony of what makes Austin great!


Register and raise funds online—it’s easy! Go to to sign up.

iACT Red Bench

Texas Impact Weekly Witness: Mondays at the Capitol

The 2017 legislative session promises to be a time of high stakes and hard choices.  It’s never been more important for people of faith to be informed and engaged.

Texas Impact Weekly Witness is your opportunity to put faith into action and advocate for the common good at a time when your state needs it! Here’s the game plan:

Every Monday at noon starting on January 16, Texas Impact will hold a short, focused advocacy training in Murchison Chapel at First United Methodist Church, Austin. We–and often colleagues from our partner organizations–will present timely, insider information on a “focus issue of the day,” as well as updates and next steps on other issues that are on our legislative agenda.

Following the training, participants will make scheduled or unscheduled legislative visits with their own legislators and other key members, and sometimes attend committee meetings or take advantage of other timely opportunities.

Weekly Witness will take place in Murchison Chapel at First United Methodist Church, Austin (directions).

Check out the 2017 Texas Impact Legislative Priorities –

Weekly Schedule:

  • February 6: Immigrants, Refugees and Human Trafficking
  • February 13: Foster Care and Domestic Violence (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Legislative Event)
  • February 20: Public Education — Webinar RSVP
  • February 27: Climate, Water, Energy, and Other Environmental Issues — Webinar RSVP

We will provide additional issues for emphasis in our next newsletter, or get them online.

From Third Coast Activist…


Date: February 6, 2017

Time: 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

“The Truth About Truth,” a four-session writing class at the new Austin Underground Graduate School, will investigate the meaning of truth in the age of “alternative facts.” Why write in a society that some call “post-literate”? In this class, instructor Eric Imhof will help students develop writing and editing skills to present logical arguments and critique the narratives that support the dominant systems that shape our culture.

The class will meet on Mondays, February 6, 13, 20 and 27, from 7:30-9 pm. There is a $50 fee. More information on the Facebook event page.

Location: Soma Vida, 2324 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin



Date: February 10, 2017

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm

This University of Texas Opportunity Forum Lunch Series program will focus on the latest research on charter schools followed by a critical dialogue. Government funding and other support for charter schools is controversial. Opponents express concerns about accountability and reallocating resources from traditional public schools. What does research say about the effectiveness of charter schools? What are the pros and cons of charter schools?

The keynote address will be by Huriya Jabbar, professor of Educational Policy Studies. Moderator Kevin Cokley (Educational Psychology) will be joined by panelists Edmund Gordon (African and African Diaspora Studies and AISD Trustee), Larkin Tackett (IDEA Public Schools), Sarah Cotner (Magnolia Montessori For All), and Ken Zarifis (Education Austin).

The event is free, with lunch provided, but seating is limited and an RSVP is required.

Location: Francis Auditorium in Townes Hall, University of Texas School of Law, 727 E. Dean Keeton St., Austin



Date: February 12, 2017

Time: 8:30 pm to 9:00 pm

Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch, will appear in several settings at University United Methodist Church. In addition to speaking at both the 8:30 and 11 am worship services and at the 7:45 pm service focused on college students, he will also be available for conversation during a pot-luck luncheon at 12:15 pm.

SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that stands in solidarity with the people of Latin American and the Caribbean, continuing to work to expose the U.S.-based school, once called School of the Americas, and its role in training Latin American soldiers in repressive tactics and deploying them throughout the region.

Location: University United Methodist Church, 2409 Guadalupe, Austin, 78705



Date: February 14, 2017

Time: 11:45 am to 1:00 pm

Janelle Orsi will discuss the rapidly changing state of the sharing economy as well as ways in which the sharing economy could be, and in some case is already, a transformative force for social and environmental justice. Orsi is executive director and cofounder of the Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland, which facilitates the growth of more sustainable and localized economies through education, research, and advocacy.

The event—sponsored by the William Wayne Justice Center and co-sponsored by the UT Opportunity Forum and Texas Law Civil Rights Clinic—is free and lunch is provided, but seating is limited and an RSVP is required.

Location: Eidman Courtroom, University of Texas School of Law, 727 E Dean Keeton St., Austin, 78705



Date: February 16, 2017

Time: 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

The Citizens Climate Lobby is sponsoring an open-ended discussion on climate change over beverages and food at ABGB. Gather outside at the Earth photo at a table down the hill, and bring a question or topic to put on the discussion list. The climate group is buying the first pitcher of beer and cheese pizza.

For more information, contact Jeff Baker , or (512) 751-2154.

Location: Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., 1305 West Oltorf, Austin, 78704



Date: February 19, 2017

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Brandi Clark Burton will discuss the Mayors Summit 2016 in Mexico City, which advanced urban responses to climate change.

The event is part of the First Unitarian Universalist Church’s Public Affairs Forum series and the church’s Green Sanctuary Committee. More information online.

Location: First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave., Austin 78756



Date: February 21, 2017

Time: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Historian David Roediger will speak on “Reconsidering Race and Class,” drawing on his forthcoming book Race, Class, and Marxism to think about how we can productively write, think, and organize at the intersections of race and class in the United States, past and present.

Roediger currently teaches history and African American Studies at the University of Kansas. He also has taught labor and Southern history at Northwestern, University of Missouri, University of Minnesota, and University of Illinois, and he was an editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers at Yale University.

Roediger has written on U.S. movements for a shorter working day, the history of radicalism, and the racial identities of white workers and immigrants. His books include The Wages of WhitenessHow Race Survived U.S. History, and Towards the Abolition of Whiteness. He is the former chair of the editorial committee of the Charles H. Kerr Company, the world’s oldest radical publisher, and has been active in the surrealist movement, labor support, and anti-racist organizing.

The event is sponsored by the University of Texas’s Social Justice Institute, with cooperation from the Humanities Institute, Senior Fellows honors program of the College of Communication, and departments of Journalism and American Studies. For more information, contact Robert Jensen,

Location: University of Texas, Belo Center for New Media (BMC 1.202), 300 W. Dean Keeton, Austin



Date: March 3, 2017

Time: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

The First Unitarian Universalist Church’s Green Sanctuary Committee will screen the documentary “Sand Wars,” which details how the worldwide construction boom fueled by emerging economies and increasing urbanization has led to intensive sand extraction on land and in the oceans, with damaging environmental impacts.

A discussion group will follow the film. For more information, contact or (512) 288-4080

Location: First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave., Austin 78756

Texas Faith Leaders for Equality – Press Conference

Join religious leaders from diverse faith traditions speaking out in support of full equality for LGBT Texans — and denouncing efforts by state leaders to pass hateful legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community.

Press Conference:
Texas Faith Leaders for Equality
Thursday, Feb. 9, 1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m.
First United Methodist Church (Austin) – Murchison Chapel

Opponents of equality in Texas use religion to justify anti-transgender legislation (“bathroom bills”), discriminatory laws masquerading as “religious freedom,” or other attempts to treat the LGBT community as second-class citizens.

This event will make clear that Texas faith communities reject this misuse of their faith and expect our state to treat ALL Texans equally under the law.

Clergy are encouraged to wear robes, stoles or other liturgical vestments. Lay people are also encouraged to attend to show support.

To learn more about efforts by Texas faith leaders to promote equality, visit

From The League Of Women Voters

League of Women Voters:  STOP VOTER SUPPRESSION

Across the country, there has been a concerted effort in many states to stop some voters from voting, or to make it much harder for them to participate – and there promises to be more to come in 2017. Legislators and election officials have purged existing voters from the rolls, made cuts to early voting, reduced polling places, put in place strict voter photo ID laws and levied onerous voter registration restrictions.

All of these actions have been made easier by the Supreme Court’s decision to gut key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The 2016 election was the first presidential election in 50 years without full protection of the right to vote.

The League remains committed to fighting suppression tactics that threaten our democracy and the right to vote. In addition, throughout 2016, the League worked to make sure voters impacted by new laws were aware of these restrictions. In Ohio, the League made thousands of phone calls to inform voters about that state’s purge. In Virginia, the League conducted outreach so voters knew how the state’s new voter photo ID law might affect them. In Kansas, the League fought tirelessly to protect the rights of voters caught in the crosshairs of the state’s illegal and discriminatory attempts to restrict voter registration Across the country, thousands of League volunteers served as non-partisan poll observers, staffed voter protection hotlines, and made sure get-out-the-vote phone banks reached as many voters as possible.

The League is gearing up to take a stand in Congress, statehouses and courtrooms nationwide to ensure no voters are left behind. Stand with the League in our fight to ensure our elections are always free, fair, and accessible.

Hope Food Pantry

Join us on Sunday, April 2, 2017, 5:30p.m., Trinity Church of Austin for a dinner and silent auction to support the pantry and its mission to help alleviate hunger in our community.  Tickets will go on sale in February/March 2017.

If you have a silent auction item to contribute please contact Stephanie at email below.

Other ways to help:
1. Volunteer once a month or more on Thursday or Friday a.m.
2. Coordinate a Food Drive through a group/work/community.
3. Randall’s Remarkable card holders: place #3830 on your card and donate to Hope.  A Randall’s employee can help you.

Contact: Stephanie at