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Sing a New Song

In Loving Memory of 

Dr. W. Astor Kirk

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Volume VII  Issue 15           

  17 August 2011




After talking about it for months on end, the time has finally arrived: Sing A New Song kicks of next week!! For those of you who are coming: we can't wait to meet, greet, and connect with you! For those who are unable to be with us physically, make sure you check out ways you can follow along from home! We don't want anyone to miss out on the fun!

As we celebrate and learn to Sing New Songs together, this week we are also humbled as we remember the songs of those who have sung before us. This week, we grieve the loss of Dr. "Bill" Kirk: a friend and ally to all of us committed to FULL inclusion in the church, beyond any categories. Dr. Kirk truly was one who understood the phrase, "all means all" - and lived his life in joyful obedience of the One who calls us to work toward such inclusion.

As much as the sudden passing of Dr. Kirk saddens us, and as much as his presence at Sing A New Song will be missed, we also know that he would want us to keep on fighting the good fight. So in honor of Bill, we will do just that. We will gather and worship and Sing Songs both new and old at Sing A New Song. We will greet old friends and connect with new ones. We will be reminded that the movement will move on as our young adults also gather, rally and energize us with their deep passion for justice and equality in the church.

We will also be encouraged by reminders around us that work continues beyond SANS. Today we share a list of events coming up in the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. We are reminded of the importance of Why Unions Matter, and given an example as we are called to support workers of Hyatt Hotels. The work we are called to is unceasing, some with immediate results and others, such as working to protect ourselves and our loved ones from toxins, will offer less tangible and immediate but equally important results.

Wherever your passions lie, and whether you are joining us from home or meeting us in Ohio, this week, we choose to find reasons to celebrate in the midst of sorrow. Won't you be a part of this New Song being sung, perhaps moreso now in honor of the heroes before us who have worked to prepare the way?

Grace and peace,
Jen Tyler
Associate for Movement Building
NatUpdateNationalNational Update

In Gratitude for the Life of Dr. W. Astor Kirk:
A United Methodist Hero for Inclusion 

Last Friday, United Methodism lost a true hero for inclusion in the life of our Church! Dr. W. "Bill" Astor Kirk died at Washington Hospital in DC at the age of 89. Bill Kirk was a "first" for inclusion in so many areas of his life. "He earned a doctorate in political science at The University of Texas at Austin  - the university's first Ph.D. awarded to an African-American." He was also one of the first black staff at the General Board of Church and Society (as a director of the public affairs department from 1961 to 1966), which helped to lead to the desegregation of a "white's only restaurant" that used to be on the premises. As a United Methodist Layperson, he later went on to serve as the board's interim top executive in 1987 and 1988.


It was Bill Kirk as part of the "Committee of Five" in the early and mid 60's; the author of what became known in 1964 as "the Kirk Amendment"; and, in arguing before the Judicial Council in 1965, he helped lead the Methodist Church to end it's shameful history of segregation through the Central Jurisdiction.


Bill's work for a fully inclusive church never stopped! Even now, he had prepared an omnibus resolution to end discrimination against sexual minorities, to be presented at the upcoming 2012 General Conference. He was also scheduled to be a workshop leader at this month's Sing a New Song  national conference being co-sponsored by the Reconciling Ministries Network and Methodist Federation for Social Action. Bill's workshop was to be on "Ending Discrimination in the UMC: How Can the Past Inform the Future?"


Bill Kirk was a gift to the United Methodist Church and Blessing to all those who work for a church in which God's love for all people is made manifest. We at the Methodist Federation for Social Action want to join hearts, minds, and prayers with everyone deeply saddened by United Methodism's loss this week; and especially with Bill's family! Yet we, like so many, are also deeply grateful for Bill's determined leadership, inclusive faith, and prophetic witness. As any true hero, Bill Kirk's legacy is that his life will continue to inspire, encourage and we hope... embolden us all to live, love and work for a UMC that one day will lovingly embrace the gifts and graces of all of our members.


To read more about the inspiring life and gift of Dr. "Bill" Kirk, please check out the following articles:


BlackMethodists for Church Renewal's, Death Notice and Reflections by the Rev. Dean Snyder and the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell


"Civil rights pioneer W. Astor Kirk dies" by the Rev. Dean Snyder 


"Austin civil rights leader William Astor Kirk dies" by Ben Wear


SANSSing a New Song
Follow From Home!


Not able to come to Sing A New Song? Don't worry, there are lots of ways to follow from home!!


Make sure you're following MFSA on Facebook, where you'll find links to  many blog updates from MFSA folks in attendance! Or check out the Sing A New Song Facebook page for updates from all of our coalition partners!

Not on Facebook? No worries! There are lots of ways to follow along! Whether you're on twitter, a reader of blogs, or just looking for an all-in-one live updates of pictures, blogs, stories, video clips and more: there is a way for everyone to stay "in the know" during Sing A New Song. You can read all about them here!

SparksSparks: OnFire in action
 Ready to go! 


It has been a busy summer for OnFire!

Did you know that the newly developed leadership of OnFire has been out and about, attending multiple events this summer? From Annual Conferences to Student Forum to the United Methodist Campus Ministry Association Conference, OnFire is doing its best to get out and represent MFSA's Young Adults! Do you know of an upcoming event OnFire should be represented at? Contact us! We'd love to be there, engage with you, and tell you more about us!


Of course, if you are at Sing A New Song, we'd love to greet you there. In addition to the all-day forum and Affinity Groups, OnFire will also have plenty of fliers and sign-ups for more information readily available. Looking for a more personal interaction? Look for someone on the OnFire leadership team: you'll know who we are because we'll all be wearing red bandanas throughout the event!


Who is OnFire?  We are United Methodist young adults reclaiming our Wesleyan heritage of spiritual and social transformation. We are empowering young adults to impact our church and our world. OnFire organizes as the young adult chapter of MFSA.  Check out our blog at:  If you are interested in contributing to the OnFire blog, please contact Shannon Sullivan.
ChaptersChapters and Partners

Southwest Texas Chapter
Dates & Opportunities 


The Southwest Texas Chapter of MFSA has a series of events coming up over the next few months, and would like to invite you to attend! We've listed only a few of them here, but encourage you to visit the Chapter Website  for more information and dates to save!


Thursday, September 8 - 7:00 p.m

Interfaith Pride Worship Service - UUMC

Save the date for this special Interfaith Pride Worship Service, including a large Shower of Stoles installation and reception in Fellowship Hall following the evening service. 


Saturday, September 10 - 10am-12:00pm

Austin Pride Parade - Downtown Austin

MFSA will carry our banner along with a number of Austin churches, a classic convertible, and possibly a float?  Join us as we confront a serious issue and have fun doing it!


Friday, September 23

Michelle Alexander, Associate Professor of Law at The Ohio State University, and author of The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, will be speaking in Austin.  She is sponsored by University UMC & Methodist Women, NAACP, Wesley United Methodist, Center for African American Studies/non-violence project at UT, and other groups.  There are two events, both on Friday, September 23.

2:00 pm at University UMC - A coffee with Professor Alexander and local clergy and others.  She will speak briefly, and there may be a panel discussion.

 7:00 pm at Wesley United Methodist - Professor Alexander will talk about her book and relevant topics about incarceration.

TakeActionTake Action


Hyatt: Greed vs. Workers' Needs 


What makes your hotel room sparkling clean?

Ask housekeepers at Hyatt's hotels, who scrub bathroom floors on their hands and knees every day.


The pain can be excruciating. Some workers even become permanently disabled.

A California bill that will be voted on within weeks would require companies to adopt a few common-sense practices to protect housekeepers from getting hurt. It could be as simple as providing mops and fitted sheets: simple tools proven to reduce injuries on the job. Workers say it could change their lives.   

But Hyatt has publicly opposed the bill that would make a huge difference for the health and safety of their housekeepers. 


Fight back! Click here to tell Hyatt to drop their opposition to this common-sense bill!    


Protect Familes from Toxins  


We all talked about it and know its true. We have been present and we have listened for years as incidents of childhood cancers, miscarriages, birth defects, developmental disabilities, asthma, and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases have increased. We listen with heavy hearts, knowing that along with diet, exercise, genetic factors, and better diagnosis, exposure to toxic chemicals in everyday products may contribute to these conditions.    


The toxic trespass on our communities and all of God's Creation must end. Therefore, as Congress considers national chemical policy reform, we call on our representatives to protect God's people and God's creatures from harmful toxic chemicals by testing current chemicals as well as new chemicals before they enter the marketplace. We ask policymakers to eliminate or reduce toxic chemical exposure to vulnerable populations such as children, women, the elderly, and communities of color and to invest in research to find safer alternatives. By committing ourselves to these principles we can work to heal our broken relationships with Creation and with each other, strengthening and renewing the entire body of Christ.


Join Christian chaplains, pastors, lay ministers, and health workers in a
call to Congress to protect the health of the families you serve.  Click here to sign a letter to your Representative that will be hand-delivered at the end of August.
ProgressivePonderingsProgressive Ponderings


 Why Unions Matter  

by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones  


A new study attempts to quantify the effects of unionization on income inequality by using a rigorous regression analysis of census data

The study comes from Bruce Western and Jake Rosenfeld and was published this month in the American Sociological Review. The authors use a model that accounts for both individual membership in unions as well as overall unionization rates in specific industries and regions. It also controls for education, age, race, ethnicity, and gender, which allows them to estimate the effect of unionization both between groups (e.g., the evolution of income inequality between high school dropouts and high school grads) and within groups (e.g., the evolution of income inequality within the entire subset of high school grads).


Keep reading about this new study and analyzation of the importance of unions here. 

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