Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Letter to UMC Colleagues in the SWTX Conference of the UMC

Last week, I sent this letter out to over 350 churches in our Annual Conference. The project was a collaboration with Texas Impact, and it was signed by leaders of University UMC in Austin, Texas. Texas Impact is an advocacy group that many UMC churches support and they have been working tirelessly in this legisltaive session for a budget that does not mortgage our future with senseless budget cuts. Feel free to use any or all.

Dear Colleagues in Ministry,

Along with University UMC leaders, I write to you today to urge you to speak out as United Methodists against the grave injustice the Texas Legislature is preparing to inflict on millions of Texans through a series of desperate budget cuts.

As a United Methodist church in Austin, with deep connections to state government, we feel a calling to observe the activities of the
Legislature and report them to our sisters and brothers who share our concerns for the welfare of Texas. As I’ve listened to stories from parishioners on the impact of these cuts, I was moved to write this letter and underwrite its cost.

Texas is facing an historic budget shortfall, precipitated not only by the global economic downturn but also by tax cuts and other funding decisions the Texas Legislature made in recent years that are now proving unsustainable. In the face of this shortfall,
lawmakers propose to cut vital services and programs. Just a few examples of the cuts being proposed include:

 A nearly $10 billion cut to local school districts that would eliminate funding for teacher incentive pay, high school completion
programs, technology, and pre-kindergarten grants, and could cost more than 100,000 public school teacher jobs and another 140,000 private-sector jobs.
 Ten percent payment cuts for nursing homes, doctors and hospitals in the state’s Medicaid program, resulting in loss of health
care for millions of children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
 Ten percent cuts to community college and state universities, complete de-funding of four community colleges, and a dramatic
reduction in student financial aid.
 Eleven percent cut in the adult prison system (Texas Department of Criminal Justice)—coupled with a 21 percent cut in
community supervision funding that would eliminate much of the recent progress made in funding treatment initiatives and other
alternatives to incarceration.
 Child abuse prevention would be cut by 84 percent, and paid prison chaplains would be completely eliminated.

Many lawmakers and legislative leaders would have us believe that these draconian cuts are made necessary by a scarcity of resources—but in fact the cuts simply perpetuate longstanding inequities in our state. Texas ranks 46th out of the 50 states in per capita tax revenue, and 47th in per capita tax expenditures. We don’t spend much on meeting even basic human needs, because those of us who are blessed with abundant resources have not been asked to share that abundance for the common good.

University United Methodist Church stands ready to provide additional information to any churches inside or outside of our
annual conference who wish it. Feel free to copy and distribute the enclosed fact sheet from Texas Impact. We also can offer resources to help your church be an effective advocate, such as providing volunteers to help escort your members to the Capitol for legislative visits.

Above all, I strongly urge you to call on members of your congregation and visit your state senator and representative. They need to hear your voice, the voices of their constituents, calling for a courageous budget strategy that includes, among other things, using the “Rainy Day Fund,” and raising additional revenue. And they need to hear our support that we will cheer them on in the face of critics whose only vision for our state is more cuts.

As United Methodists, you and I live out of a tradition of abundance. God’s inexhaustible gifts, God’s boundless love, God’s enduring vision for humanity far exceed our imagination. May you and I become part of a new wave that calls us away from scarcity thinking, and back to the inexhaustible gifts of God, the rich blessings of God that we know first-hand as citizens of this great state and the sacred
obligation of caring for our most vulnerable, for the ones who will be most hurt by these projected cuts.

With Peace and Hope,

John Elford, Clyde Bennett, Linda Nichols, Patty Arnold, Melody Chatelle, David Woodruff, and Diane Ireson



  2. We must speak out and set priorities. This is not a time to target our youth or our elderly.

    This is a time to clean out all the inequities in tax loop-holes, fraud, waste, and hold accountable those on Wallstreet for mortgage crimes.

    Thank you for standing up and speaking out.
    Irene Norman

  3. This letter speaks so clearly. I will share with friends.
    Thank you for writing these truths to illustrate the injustices which will result from the budget cuts. God bless the children, the elderly, disabled, and the teachers!
    Carolyn Saathoff