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|Volume VII Issue 16 ||
2 September 2011
The energy and excitement from Sing A New Song continues in the office and across the country this week as we take time to reflect on this incredible gathering. There is much that could be said about Sing A New Song, and though it has now come and gone, perhaps it is best described in one brief phrase, "We're Still Singing!"
Indeed we are singing about all that we learned at workshops, plenaries and pre-day forums like MFSA's Dismantling Racism event. We are singing as we celebrate this year's recipients of the Ball Award: recipients who have led us to this place and continue leading us into the future. We are singing about the overwhelmingly positive response we received as our For Love of God & Neighbor Common Witness Coalition Statement was publicly unveiled for the first time. OnFire has been blogging about it and on Facebook we've begun a dialogue and invite you to join us by letting us know: Why are you still singing!?
No matter your reason for continuing to Sing a New Song, my favorite part of this story is that it doesn't stop just because Sing A New Song has concluded. Instead, we move forward with this energy into ways we can act! We are called upon to use our voice to support foreign students as we call upon Hershey to stop exploiting student guestworkers! The MFSA Chapter in North Carolina invites us to act and pray with them as they move closer to a day of voting on DOMA legislation, and we are invited to reflect on what it means to identify as LGBTIQ in a Muslim community.
With countless ways to act and endless reasons to keep singing, I look forward to moving into fall with a renewed vision of the hope we have for the future. I am more excited than ever for preparations as we move toward General Conference, and I hope you will continue to join in and pray alongside us as we move closer to this landmark event for all United Methodists. After all, I cannot shake those beautiful words spoken to us by Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians when he boldly proclaimed to us, "[United Methodists], you are next!"
Grace and peace,
Associate for Movement Building
|Sing a New Song|
We're Still Singing!
With nearly 700 people gathered at Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, Ohio last week, Sing A New Song was a great success!! The unmatchable community, rich worship and dynamic speakers are only three of the many things that made this weeks so powerful and meaningful. What were your favorite parts? MFSA Board of Directors' co-president Tara Thronson shared some of her favorite highlights from SANS here!
Throughout the event, one of the most common questions we've been asked is, "Can I get a copy of _______?" No matter how you fill in that blank - the answer is: "YES!"
As we return from the event rejuvenated by the energy and passion you brought, we couldn't be more excited to continue finding ways to share pieces of Sing A New Song with you - whether you were present in Ohio and wanting to see it again or have been waiting patiently from home for all this time. We are in the process of loading all of it - from pieces of worship and our Bible Studies to Bishop Sprague's Keynote Address, we want you to share it with you via the Sing A New Song website. So head on over there, where you'll find lots of blogs written throughout the event on the home page and all other multimedia under the "Multimedia" tab on the right!
The Lee and Mae Ball Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Methodist Federation for Social Action to individuals or organizations who emulate Lee and Mae's record of faithful and effective work for social justice.
Lee and Mae Ball were instrumental to MFSA through the 1960's and early 1970's, and were never content to remain within the walls of the church, because they knew we will only find Jesus in the company of the poor and oppressed of our world. It is in large measure due to the efforts of Lee and Mae that MFSA was there "when we needed it," and since 1975 MFSA has given the Lee and Mae Ball Award in their memory.
This year MFSA is pleased to honor two individuals with this award, which were presented last week at Sing A New Song.
Rev. John Collins
John has a long history with MFSA and was first invited to be part of this progressive United Methodist movement by Lee and Mae Ball themselves. John became passionate about the Federation and worked with Lee Ball and a few others to keep the federation alive in the post-McCarthy era, serving as a field organizer and helping develop and nurture new chapters. He was a major part of the civil rights movement and has been arrested multiple times in acts of civil disobedience while standing up for his convictions. John also has a long-standing history of helping to develop and track legislation to General Conference for MFSA.
Rev. Scott Campbell
Scott is one who we believe is leading MFSA not only in the present, but into the future. He is widely known for his work on full inclusion in the church, and yet he brings this passion and his gifts to many other justice issues as well.
Scott is the pastor of the Harvard-Epworth UM Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a Reconciling Congregation. His church partnered Cambridge Cares About AIDS to create "Youth On Fire," a drop-in center for homeless and at-risk youth. The center now serves more than 700 young people each year, providing a wide variety of social services, warm meals, hot showers, laundry facilities and safe space to this vulnerable urban population.
Scott is model for MFSA of how to influence the church through legislation, while caring for individuals and advocating for people's rights along the way. We are grateful for his service, and hope you will join us in welcoming him to the stage.
Dismantling Racism Pre-Day
Jill A. Warren
Energy filled the Dismantling Racism forum. Facilitators shared a continuum to identify where an institution might be between exclusive and inclusive to people of color. Where does MFSA sit on the continuum? We believe we're at stage where rather than opening doors to others, we need to remove the doors altogether!
What is racism? Racism is not the same thing as individual prejudice and bigotry; it's more than race prejudice. Systemic power turns race prejudice into racism. Stated as a formula: race prejudice + the misuse of power through systems & institutions = racism.
Does it add up at MFSA? At RMN? In the UMC? Part of our work together is to create a new formula: MFSA + RMN = dismantling racism. Or stated another way at dinner this evening by a member from N. Dakota, "What do you get when you add MFSA and RMN together? Justice!"
Everyone can help create the new formula. We can all learn from the example of our RMN colleagues who have made it a strategic, measurable process of growth and development. We thank Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing & Training facilitators Joy Bailey and Anne Stewart for their excellent work leading us towards action.
A Word from the Common Witness Coalition
|Sparks: OnFire in action|
OnFire is fired up following Sing A New Song!! The young adults were fierce and present, making up just over 100 of the nearly 700 people present!
SANS began on Thursday with the Pre-day forums, one of which was planned and facilitated entirely by young adults. Dialogue and community-building took place with the focus of intersections as we reflected on how our own stories come together and how Scripture shapes our understandings of them.
It was an incredible, fitting beginning to the week as Jamie aptly named in her blog about one simple, befitting, all-encompasng word: Family.
That's what we are, that's how we shape each other, and that's how we experienced the whole of Sing A New Song: as one giant, loving, ALL-embracing Family. For that, we are grateful and energized and able to continue the movement. How? Read more reflections about how different young adults experienced Sing A New Song on our OnFire blog!
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: www.umonfire.blogspot.com. If you are interested in contributing to the OnFire blog, please contact Shannon Sullivan
Hershey: Stop Exploiting Student Guestworkers
Hundreds of foreign exchange students paid to come to America this summer, expecting opportunities to learn English and experience American culture.
Instead, the exchange students found themselves forced to work in back-breaking, round-the-clock production lines packing chocolates at a Hershey's plant in Pennsylvania at low wages. When the students complained, Hershey's threatened to have them deported.
Now the exchange students are fighting back. On August 17, they walked out of the Hershey's plant and into the streets to protest the abusive conditions and to demand big changes to Hershey's deceptive "cultural exchange" program.
These students have publicly shared their story and the open letter they have written to Hershey, and now they want your support.
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DOMA In North Carolina
The North Carolina Chapter of MFSA is promoting two events to help keep their state from making anti-LGBT legislation a part of their state constitution. Anyone who is in the Raleigh, NC area on September 12-13 is welcome to come and lend their support!
There will be a candlelight vigil at 7pm on
September 12 at theBicentennial Plaza in downtown Raleigh. Additionally, at noon on Tuesday, September 13 there will be a rally outside of the state capitol to urge legislators to oppose North Carolina's proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.
These events will coincide with a predicted vote on House Bill 777/Senate Bill 106, the "anti-LGBT amendment," that would ban same-sex marriage (as state statute already does), as well as prohibit civil unions and nullify domestic partnership benefits.
If you can't be there, please hold the legislators and activists in your prayers.
For more information about these events, please visit equalitync.org.
Coming Out Twice:
Sexuality and Gender in Islam by Susan Henking
As scholar Scott Kugle knows well, to be both Muslim and gay means the possibility of having to "come out twice" - with the likely chance of encountering either homophobia or Islamophobia (or both), depending on the context.
But in recent years, a new discussion of Islam and sexuality has emerged, led in large part by professor Kugle, who teaches South Asian and Islamic Studies at Emory University. Having written many books on Islam, including Homosexuality in Islam: Islamic Reflection on Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslims (2010), he is currently working on a collection entitled Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslim Activists (forthcoming in 2012, NYU Press).
Susan Henking of Religion Dispatches Magazine interviewed Scott Kugle about his work. You are invited to keep reading that interview here.
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