'Faith Leads Many To Learn More About Justice Issues'

Johnson and West

Rev. Cathy Sweeney of Arapaho UMC shares insights gained from attending UMW Texas Legislative Event

The 87th Texas Legislature kicked off Jan. 12 and will continue through May 31. And, for another year, Texas United Methodist Women and Texas Impact members will walk alongside that session, advocating for better laws on behalf of the people of Texas.

Cathy SweeneyWhile I have participated in this event before, I had not attended in person in quite a few years. Thankfully, the conference was streamed virtually over the three-day agenda. Even better, the event organizers planned for ample breaks and networking sessions. For this sometimes-wandering mind, that was a welcome relief!

Texas Impact’s Legislative Platform for 2021-22 will continue to be updated online. Texas Impact invites you to receive weekly updates via the Weekly Witness, which is released every Monday at noon.

The current Texas Legislature is prioritizing its agenda, and the top three issues appear to be the budget, pandemic response (including public education and health care) and redistricting. Each of these areas were covered in some way in the UMW Texas Legislative Event.

  • Sen. Nathan Johnson asked a simple question. “If we can cover a million uninsured Texans using 90% federal funding, what part of that could anyone object to?” as he encouraged us to advocate for expanded Medicaid in Texas.
  • We heard from Sen. Royce West, who spoke about The George Floyd Act, and the opportunity to reimagine policing, including proposals to restrict the use of chokeholds, to budget changes and how excess budgets could be repurposed within the system.
  • Cindy Andrade-Johnson, UM Deaconess, brought an impassioned update and plea to advocate for better and more humane immigration laws in Texas. She reminded us that many immigrants were traumatized in their country of origin and are being retraumatized in our country through the immigration process changes enacted in the prior administration. Dr. Marcia Griffin made a convincing argument to bring migrants (especially families with children) into communities where they can heal, mentally and physically. Rochelle Garza, staff attorney with the ACLU, brought an update about the status of immigration, calling on us to advocate for an end to border camps and to reverse many of the inhumane practices from the prior administration.
  • Beaman Floyd, an expert in public education policy and funding, shared lessons learned during the pandemic and what proposals should be considered. He even thanked both the House and the Senate for initially fully funding public education in their first budget proposals. Even so, he says, our advocacy can help “create sustainable funding” for public education for the future.
  • We heard from Josh Newman that “2022 Starts Now,” as we learned about the incredibly long lead time to prepare for the next voting cycle. And we heard from our own Bishop McKee, whose candid advocacy to address discrimination as one of the spiritual forces of wickedness was a refreshing call to the participants at the event.

Why participate? Why give up a half of your Saturday, what remains of your Sunday after worship, and most of Monday? You probably are not surprised to hear that faith leads many to learn more about justice issues in Texas and the world.

Cynthia Rives, a UMW member from First UMC Denton who also serves as a national UMW vice president, said what she hears from the speakers leads her to prayer because the issues are vast and complicated. Rives admits she needs God’s help in facing these issues. Through prayer and with the creative, supportive fellowship of United Methodist Women, she finds courage and strength to work for justice, to bang on the door of those in power, to get them up in the middle of the night and to insist on justice. (Luke 11:5-13)

Rev. Phil Dieke, a deacon in the North Texas Conference serving at White Rock UMC and a Texas Impact board member, shares this about advocacy: “Because of this event, I am encouraged about the future of The United Methodist Church. We may argue about theology (and we should), but our collective unity around seeking justice has encouraged me and inspired me. I hope and pray our denomination will be known for our advocacy and working for justice, the very things I experienced at the UMW Legislative Event.”

When Jesus says to love our neighbor, and loaded with information from Texas Impact, we can respond with hearts that show no geographical boundaries for defining who our neighbor is. My Texas neighbors spread from Dallas County to Hidalgo County, from Harris County to El Paso County. When Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, to provide shelter for the stranger, to care for the sick, to clothe the naked and to visit the prisoner, Texas Impact conferences and events give us practical and specific ways to live out the Matthew 25 lifestyle, in partnership with them during each legislative session.

Rev. Cathy Sweeney is an associate pastor at Arapaho UMC.

Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2021