Tuesday, July 12, 2016

IS MURDER BECOMING FREE SPEECH?


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UNITED METHODIST WOMEN
SOCIAL ACTION, NC DISTRICT
JULY 2016

My dear sisters in Christ,

My last handout was about death in Orlando. Now multiple deaths are here among us.

Once again two of our nation’s greatest challenges  

            Racial injustice
            Gun violence

It seems that we are on the way to protecting the right to own guns (as understood from the Second Amendment) to the point that murder may become free speech (part of the First)!

All of us are praying for the families of those who are dead and for the survivors and their families…and for the community of Dallas as they recover and try to become a stronger and better place…and for ourselves, because, in truth, we are all one.

It is more true than ever that we need to contact our legislators and share our thoughts and suggestions about these issues with them. It’s very easy to do. If you have access to a computer, by typing the names of your legislators into your browser you can get the emails and telephone numbers. That’s true for State and U.S. legislators.

For those of you who don’t have computers, the phone numbers below will give you the switchboards for the respective bodies; I couldn’t find a central number for the U.S. House.

            Texas Senate--(512) 463-0001
            Texas House--(972) 224-6795
            U.S. Senate--  (202) 224-2934
           
Please contact these people, if only to let them know you are praying for them and for their best efforts in their work.










GOD BLESS AMERICA,
            Land that I love,
            Stand beside her and guide her
               thru the night with a light from above….
           
God, bless us with your spirit of love that we may live together as your children, as one family;

Bless us with your spirit of joy that we may come to relish each other and your creation;

Bless us with the gift of tears that we may truly know the sorrow of the grieving and the fear of the marginalized;

Bless us with the spirit of patience that we may learn to wait upon you;

Bless us with the spirit of kindness so we may treat others as we want to be treated;

Bless us with the spirit of goodness that we may share equally the immeasurable bounty you have placed on this earth;

Bless us with the spirit of gentleness born of the desire to serve;

Dear God, bless us with the gift of self-control that we may become individually and collectively instruments of your peace.

                        In the name of the Prince of Peace,

Amen 

Friday, June 17, 2016

ORLANDO: HATE, GUN VIOLENCE, MENTAL HEALTH

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UNITED METHODIST WOMEN

SOCIAL ACTION, NC DISTRICT

JUNE 2016, 2nd edition

 

I’m sure all of you are well aware of the tragedy in Orlando, Florida: the worst mass murder in our nation’s history.

 

Politicians, theologians, political scientists, rhetoricians—professionals of all kinds—are talking about the various ways discussion of this event can be framed. I am certainly none of these. But I am a United Methodist woman of some years of age and Methodism, and this I know: Our Christian mandate is always to show love to our neighbors. We may disagree with them vehemently, but our charge is to love them anyway.

 

I also know that, inasmuch as none of us can know the heart of another, we need always guard our own hearts and seek to stay in love with God. So we of the UMW join thousands around the world in mourning the senseless and violent deaths of so

many people and the untold grief and pain of their families and the survivors.

 

It seems clear that one of the motives in this tragedy was hate of “the other.” Regardless of our personal opinions about the LGBTQ lifestyle, I’m certain all of us understand our faith and our Biblical command to love one another… and certainly our very clear commandment of “Thou shalt not kill.”

 

I understand that our General Conference has decided to study the issue of homosexuality further. We can rest assured that the result will be in line with our avowed position of loving one another and “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”

 

In addition to the hate-filled prejudice evident in the killing, we still have the issue of gun accessibility. One of the guns in this event was an AR-15, an automatic assault rifle. According to lawyer Josh Koskoff, the AR-15 "was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did this morning: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease. That is why the AR-15 has remained the weapon of choice for the United States military for over 50 years. It is the gold standard for killing the enemy in battle, just as it has become the gold standard for mass murder of innocent civilians."

The AR-15 is the same style of weapon used to slaughter 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. Earlier that year, James Holmes used an AR-15 to murder 12 people and wound 70 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

 

The CEO of Sturm, Ruger, and Co., one of the nation's leading manufacturers of firearms for the commercial sporting market, assured shareholders a month ago that, although demand for their product was “easing,” they should anticipate higher gun sales during the election season, as the “rhetoric from both sides” will “[keep] consumers aware and thinking about their firearm rights.” He added that “If the political environment in this election year causes one or more strong spikes in demand, we may stretch our capital expenditures budget to take advantage of the opportunities presented.” In other words: Yes, words matter. They raise fears—and they help to increase profits! 

 

Semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 were, at one time, banned nationwide. The 1994 federal assault-weapons ban prohibited most versions of the rifle from being sold in the U.S. The gun re-entered circulation after Congress allowed the ban to expire in 2004. Subsequent efforts to renew the ban, or create other legislation that would limit assault weapons, have been unsuccessful.

Surely we need to re-evaluate the process for buying at least assault weapons like this.

And it may be that the Orlando event concerns mental health issues. At the UMW Legislative Event of 2016, an issue of our final Agenda included “mental health and preventive health services.” We need to be proactive and urge our state and national legislators to move aggressively in all areas of health care.

Contact your legislators to let them know of your concern in these areas: hate crimes, gun accessi-bility, and wholistic health care.

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Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation regulating payday lending to some degree. I’m sorry I don’t have details. I hope the legislation is close to the resolution introduced by the CFPB, that I mentioned in my last handout. Contact your senators to urge them to pass this legislation when it goes to that body.                       *************

UMCOR, PAYDAY LENDING AND MISSION U

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UNITED METHODIST WOMEN

SOCIAL ACTION, NC DISTRICT

June 2016

 

We all know of the continued rains and the flooding in Texas. We need to continue funding and/or preparing UMCOR kits to help those who have lost so much—if not everything.

 

And mentioning UMCOR reminds me: General Conference renamed the traditional One Great Hour of Sharing. The day of special offering (traditionally the fourth Sunday of Lent, but can be observed as a church decides) will now be known as UMCOR Sunday. UMCOR has no source of revenue for administration except from One Great Hour of Sharing (now UMCOR Sunday). One hundred percent of gifts designated to UMCOR go to the cause stipulated. UMCOR receives no money from the apportionments paid to the general church by congregations. Other denominations will continue to use the name One Great Hour of Sharing.. 

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The UMW was able to make some very small changes in the Texas law regarding payday lending. But the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has within the last several days released a proposal that will regulate payday lenders at a federal level for the first time. Many borrowers end up paying an effective annual interest rate over 300%. “Too many borrowers seeking a short-term cash fix are saddled with loans they cannot afford and sink into long-term debt,” said the Bureau’s director, Richard Cordray. “The harm done to consumers by these business models needs to be addressed.”

The long-awaited proposal includes provisions that would (1) require lenders to determine that borrowers can repay their debt by assessing their credit history and means. (2) It would restrict the number of short-term rollover loans borrowers can take in succession to prevent what’s known as a “debt spiral.” (3) It would also require borrowers to be notified when a lender plans to deduct funds from their bank account and rein in a lender’s ability to repeatedly attempt to deduct those funds.

The rule is an attempt to address what many regard as an exploitative industry that has arisen to provide credit to people unable to get traditional loans, but it

 

doesn’t do much to address the underlying issue. Payday lending is, after all, an ugly and costly symptom of a much larger and more systemic problem—the financial disenfranchisement of America’s poor. It’s estimated that 12 million Americans use payday-loan products, and most of them earn less than $30,000 per year.

The CFPB has tried to keep the need for small-dollar, shorter term loans in mind in the creation of their rule. “We recognize that consumers may need to borrow money to meet unexpected drops in income or unexpected expenses,” Cordray said in his statement. “We recognize too that some lenders serving this market are committed to making loans that consumers can in fact afford to repay.” To that end, the new rule encourages options for longer-term loans that would mirror credit unions’ payday alternatives, such as an interest rate capped at below 30 percent with application fees of only $20. Some advocates of the new federal curbs criticized the rules, saying the complexity and tight strings would discourage banks and others from entering the market.

Contact your US legislators and ask them to support this proposal.

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HAVE YOU REGISTERED FOR MISSION U? You may do so online at umwnorthtexas.org. Remember: it’s at Faith UMC in Denton, 6060 Teasley Lane, July 15-16.

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In the June issue of The Atlantic magazine. a huge commercial company sponsored an ad which contains this line referring to infants being cared for in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit: “our most fragile, precious patients.” If an entity whose very existence depends on ‘the bottom line’—read ‘dollars’—recognizes our children at this tenuous stage of their lives as our most precious patients, surely we and our elected officials can acknowledge that evaluation—and do everything in our power to give them a good start and provide reasonable and faithful support for their development.  

 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

SOUTH CENTRAL JURISDICTION QUADRENNIAL 2016

Last weekend was the SCJ meeting in Oklahoma City and I was able to go. It was superb! The Team planned an inspirational series of workshops and worship services. The guest speakers gave us information and spiritual renewal. You can get more information at the Facebook page: South Central Jurisdiction of United Methodist Women." What follows here is mostly my notes and is a very short summary of part of the proceedings. The document is prepared to be put into narrow margins, two columns and printed back-to-back, then cut vertically down the center.
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“A FRESH WIND BLOWING”

South Central Jurisdiction Quadrennial

UMW 2016

 

“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

 

What a grand experience! A fresh wind was indeed blowing across the Oklahoma plains, from New Mexico and Texas to Missouri and Louisiana and through Kansas.

 

The pinwheel was the logo for the weekend, and was conceived and designed by Sue Sidney of Rio Texas and Mark How, an artist. Sue explained: “At one of my first UMW Schools of Christian Mission we were asked to describe ‘repentance.’ Another young woman and I decided that a pinwheel would be our symbol—turning around.” The pinwheel is clearly another manifestation of the huge windmills used for ages to harness the power of the wind and now more and more visible over the Texas plains in our quest of power-producing electricity. So this “fresh wind blowing” through UMW is the power born of the Spirit with whose power we must try to change discord and discrimination and diseased minds and bodies. Harriet Jane Olson put it well: “The UMW is the wind turbine, making the wind of the Spirit into power.”

 

From start to finish, we were immersed in American Indian culture, led primarily by members of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. The music was led by Marcus Brigg-Cloud of the Maskoke Nation. He is a scholar, activist and international lecturer. I encourage you to look him up online. He sang ethnic hymns and led us in our traditional hymns with an American Indian twist. He also brought us native dancers, who were absolutely beautiful. The drums and his native vocalizing added immensely to our services.

 

We also had a good smattering of African American music! Our current president of the board of directors (Yvette Richards) and our SCJ president (Edna Brown Hickman) brought their African American heritage to us with their lively spiritual personalities that are so endearing and exciting.

 

Although the entire gathering was enriching and exciting, the unquestioned highlight was the Bible study led by the Rev. Dr. Janet Wolf! What a powerful study she presented  of the John passage. I’ll just list here some of my notes, not in any order.

 

“The enough-ness of God’s grace….The new American apartheid is the school-to-prison pipeline…The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but about 25% of the world’s known prison population…Our problem is our distance from the poor and our proximity to Caesar...Wesley saw that we would need the rich to keep up our buildings!... ‘A Womanist is a Feminist of color.’ <Alice Walker>… We should do theology from the margins…It isn’t people who are unclean; it’s the system. Not children who are failing; it’s the school systems…Criminalization is that churches are sitting on the side…There is no neutral position… Our charity is handing out backpacks but not addressing the system.”..… Dr. Wolf brought us to our feet with her litany of “We are the church when…”  Her main point here was that we are the church when we move outside the building to address the brokenness of the worldwide systems.

 

Yvette Richards reminded us “We always need an action plan.” Yvette also reminded us of our worldwide presence and power. She and Harriet attended the meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in one of the Koreas, and one of the speakers made the mistake of allowing that women should not be so visible and outspoken. Whereupon Harriet asked permission to speak and quickly but quietly let the group of mostly men know of the work of the UMW. And Yvette added, “At the end of that meeting those people knew three more initials: WCC and UMW! The mighty, mighty UMW!” (Reminded me of Texas Sen. John Whitmire’s statement:” The UMW are powerful women and you want them on your side.”)

 

As for the business: We elected four new Board members. Cynthia Rives, Central TX Conf;  Lynn Baker, AR Conf; Stacie Hawkins, TX Conf; and Daryl Junes-Joe, NM Conf.

 

And our bishop and his wife attended, along with two others. One said, “Once I attended a UMW meeting—and church broke out!”!

 

 

Friday, March 4, 2016

NATIONAL WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH...WORLD DAY OF PRAYER....ONE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING


Although the actual dates for two of these events are past, we can still observe them, particularly One Great Hour of Sharing. This observance is vital for UMCOR to meet the needs we address all over the world. As usual, narrow margins, two columns, back to back and trimmed down the center, vertically.
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NORTH CENTRAL DISTRICT

UNITED METHODIST WOMEN

SOCIAL ACTION MARCH 2016

 

Already it is March—and that means it’s National Women’s History Month! And it also is time for the convening of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. United Methodist Women is an active participant in this annual global gathering, especially through its Church Center for the United Nations.

Because women are central to development at all levels, women’s experience must be at the core of decision-making and policy-making at all levels. The experience of women, as well as their strengths and participation, must move society toward ending women’s exclusion and address women’s needs. This must be at the center of all development work. There is no issue to which this does not apply. Further, because of women’s historic exclusion, their inclusion would be the single biggest advance for the entire development agenda. It is clear that women play an essential role in the workforce, production, consumption, education, care work and environmental conservation, yet they continue to be underrepresented in policy-making and development policy.

This year for CSW 2016 United Methodist Women will focus on economic empowerment. United Methodist Women will bring in more than 20 delegates from the following countries: Ukraine, Santo Domingo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Israel, Honduras, Japan, Bangladesh, China, Russia and the United States of America.

 

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March 4 is the World Day of Prayer, a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service. It is a movement initiated and carried out by women in more than 170 countries and regions, and it is symbolized by an annual day of celebration – the first Friday of March – to which all people are welcome.

 

 

It is a movement which brings together women of various races, cultures, and traditions in closer fellowship, understanding, and action throughout the year. Through World Day of Prayer, women around the world affirm their faith in Jesus Christ; share their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, their opportunities and needs…Through the World Day of Prayer women are encouraged to become aware of the whole world and no longer live in isolation; to be enriched by the faith experience of Christians of other countries and cultures; to take up the burdens of other people and pray with and for them; to become aware of their talents and use them in the service of society.

Through World Day of Prayer, women affirm that prayer and action are inseparable and both have immeasurable influence in the world.  

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One Great Hour of Sharing is March 6. Together, through these gifts, we reach children, families and communities who have experienced devastation in the wake of disaster. Think United States, Haiti, Japan, Syria: Wherever there is great human need, UMCOR is there by way of our gifts.

One of six church-wide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, One Great Hour of Sharing calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God’s love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR’s “costs of doing business.” This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on One Great Hour of Sharing, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now. You may make your gift through your church or UMW; just put UMCOR in the notation.

 

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WATER FOR LIFE: North Central District Day of Social Action


WATER FOR LIFE

On March 19, 2016, United Methodist Women of the North Central District of the North Texas Conference will sponsor WATER FOR LIFE, a day to consider our Christian stewardship of the God-given phenomenon we know as water: two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen, neither of which we can create nor simulate.

We will gather at Wylie UMC, 1401 FM 1378, Wylie. Registration starts at 9 a.m.; event will conclude at noon.

The Rev. Sam Brannon, director of the Water Captains Program for the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy and Texas Impact, both in Austin, will be the keynote speaker.

The event will include a silent auction of items brought by the women of the District. Women attending are asked to consider bring items for the auction: art/craft items, jewelry, table linens, home d├ęcor knick-knacks, etc. Items don’t have to be new, but should be like-new.

Offering and proceeds from the auction will go to Water for Life in Liberia.

About 75% of Liberians do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. The few wells that still exist in Liberia are contaminated, broken, or overused. Many villagers are forced to draw water from stagnant, bacteria-infested ponds and swamps, and they defecate in bushes, rivers, and creeks, the open, etc. As a result, water-borne diseases are common and villagers die of dysentery, cholera, infectious hepatitis.

All women who are interested in facts about our water situation in north Texas are invited to share this day with us.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

NORTH CENTRAL DISTRICT REPORT ON SING-A-RAINBOW

I attended the Central Texas Conference Racial Justice event on February 20. As always, it was a really good meeting: good information, good fellowship and good food! This report is inadequate but it will perhaps give you an idea of the day's content.  Narrow margins, two columns, two sides, halved vertically.

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Report on CTC’s “Sing a Rainbow”


UMW SOCIAL ACTION NEWSLETTER


North Central Texas District


Sing a Rainbow, sponsored by the Central Texas Conference UMW,  was another day with a powerful program! The event was tightly run with strong speakers and wonderful fellowship among 125-plus women! This UMW conference clearly has a heart for racial justice.


The theme for the day was Mass Incarceration and the injustice therein. Since 2002 the U.S. has had the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Blacks—particularly young black males—make up a disproportionate share of the prison population. An article from the Prison Policy Initiative puts it this way: “Over the last four decades, the U.S. has undertaken a national project of over criminali-zation that has put more than two million people behind bars at any given time….Nationally, Blacks are incarcerated five times more than Whites are, and Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to be incarcerated as Whites.”


In Texas in 2010, while 768 white people from a base of 100,000 were incarcerated, 2,855 black people were incarcerated. Although Blacks are only about 14% of the total population, they represent 32% of the prison population.****************


Pat McGee explained the “Prison Entrepreneurship Program.” PEP works to prepare inmates so that, once they are back in society, they have the tools, skills and support structure to pursue healthy, fulfilling and productive lives. PEP clients are immersed in a proven program comprised of one-on-one training with executive volunteers, business plan mentoring with seasoned professionals and a highly competitive business plan competition.


Mr. McGee was the son of a 16-year-old rape victim and was imprisoned at 17 for selling drugs. While in prison he acquired his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Besides his textbooks, the only other book he was allowed to have was the Bible—and David became his hero. For more information, go to www.pep.org. ******************


The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner is a pastor at St.  John’s UMC Downtown in Houston. Since Sandra Bland’s death, Rev. Bonner has been keeping vigil in Hempstead, where Ms. Bland died. She and many others are asking for a full investigation into the death. Rev. Bonner gave many new pieces of information about the event that lead me to join her and hundreds of others in this demand. At one point, the sheriff has told Rev. Bonner to go “back to the church of Satan that you run,” and has made threats against her and those accompanying her. Rev. Bonner is a small woman physically, but she has a deep Christian commitment to racial justice. From one of Rev. Bonner’s articles online:

“Until we dismantle systems of injustice and white supremacy, the backpack <of white privilege> will be ours to carry; attached to us regardless of how we feel about it, because it clings to us as tightly as the skin we are in. Yet, it will become increasingly more heavy as we come to a deeper understanding of why it contains what it contains. Once you realize and accept that what is in your backpack was acquired through blood and death and rape and cruelty; through slavery and the massacre of indigenous peoples; through the theft of bodies and the theft of land; what we were once told was an inheritance we will come to know as an inheritance of others, stolen through the blood of their ancestors.”  Hard words…Since Ms. Bland, seven more women of color have died in police custody. For more information, simply type Hannah Adair Bonner into your browser.******************

 

Gary Randle is co-founder and executive director of HOPE Farm, Inc., Helping Other People Excel. HOPE is a leadership program guiding at-risk

boys to become Christ-centered men of integrity.

The two campuses in Ft. Worth, provide a variety of activities for inner city boys, addressing the spirit, the mind and the body. .

HOPE takes five-year-old boys whose mothers or grandmothers are the only parent, and work daily with each child’s caretaker and teachers in order to maintain accountability and consistency.

Recognizing the importance of a collective effort, HOPE Farm has a partnership parenting curriculum known as Parent Involvement Program (PIP). PIP assists the parents of HOPE Farm boys with spiritual development, inspirational encouragement and provides structural tools to help them partner with HOPE Farm.  For further info, look at Hope Farm, or HOPE online. ****************