h1-arrowArchivesh1-arrow

Interim Charges

When not in session, the work of the Texas Legislature continues. Though they convene at the capitol in Austin to pass laws for only five months in odd numbered years, interim charges help committees to continue their work. Each committee in both the House and Senate are assigned a set of questions to study prior to the next session. The questions are assigned by the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor and are often read as a good indication of what issues they feel are most important and should be addressed the following session. The committees convene, often outside of Austin, hear testimony from experts and the public, then publish reports of their findings.

The current interim charges for the House were released by Speaker Straus.  Several charges address issues of interest for the CLC, a few of which are set out below. The CLC staff will use this opportunity to interact with lawmakers and their staff and educate them about our policy positions. The entire list of charges can be found here.(PDF)

Hunger and Food-Related Poilcy

House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock & House Committee on Urban Affairs

  • Evaluate the role of community gardens and urban farming efforts that increase access to healthy foods and examine the possible impact that state and local policies have on the success of programs of this type. Determine the feasibility of policies to support these efforts, especially in high-population areas.

House Committee on Human Services & House Committee on Public Health

  • Identify policies to alleviate food insecurity, increase access to healthy foods, and incent good nutrition within existing food assistance programs. Consider initiatives in Texas and other states to eliminate food deserts and grocery gaps, encourage urban agriculture and farmers’ markets, and increase participation in the Summer Food Program. Evaluate the desirability and feasibility of incorporating nutritional standards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Monitor congressional activity on the 2012 Farm Bill and consider its impact on Texas.

Predatory Lending

House Committee on Pensions, Investments and Financial Services

  • Monitor the implementation of HB 2592 (82R) and HB 2594 (82R), regarding pay day lending.

Education and Literacy

House Committee on Appropriations & House Committee on Higher Education

  • Evaluate the funding, performance, and administration of the state’s adult basic education programs.

Though Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst has not released the Senate charges in full, a select interim charge on human trafficking has been issued, which includes the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, along with a separate joint committee study. Watch upcoming newsletters for a link to the full Senate charges when they are released.

Human Trafficking

Joint Interim Committee

  • Study the services available for victims of human trafficking provided by federal, state, and local agencies and non-governmental organizations, including the long-range need for safe houses and shelters and the best practices for public/private partnerships providing services to victims.  Review procedures and services available for youth that have been identified as sex trafficking victims, including analysis of the appropriate criminal penalties associated with prostitution.

Senate Criminal Justice Committee

  • Monitor the implementation of legislation relating to human trafficking in coordination with the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking.

Two Recent Reports on Domestic Human Trafficking Policy

Houston Rescue and Restore published its Report on Domestic Minor Trafficking in Houston

The report focuses on the three main pillars of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) prevention, protection and prosecution in Harris and Galveston County.  Researchers conducted field assessments in these two counties to have a better understanding on the scope of domestic minor child trafficking in the area.  According to the assessment, misidentification of victims continues to be a barrier to providing appropriate services to this population of victims.  The report provides a basic foundation for the formation of a comprehensive strategy in both counties in order to better serve the youth at risk of becoming trafficking victims.

A recent report published by Shared Hope International titled, The Protected Innocence Challenge: State Report Cards on the Legal Framework of Protection for the Nation’s Children (PDF), scores each state’s policy efforts to address the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking.  Based on their assessment, each state was assigned a letter grade in correspondence with its earned points.  The points were given in 6 categories for addressing:

  1. Criminalization of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking,
  2. Criminal Provisions Addressing Demand,
  3. Criminal Provisions for Traffickers,
  4. Criminal Provisions for Facilitators,
  5. Protective Provisions for Child Victims,
  6. Tools for Investigation and Prosecution.

Because of the legislature’s commitment to the fight against human trafficking during the 82nd legislative session, Texas is now the leader in its anti-trafficking policy efforts for domestic minors.

pepelogo1

Give to the PEPE Project

(This letter has been translated. It’s from Dora Isabel Alvarado de Collantes, National Coordinator of PEPE in Peru.)

Beloved brothers and sisters,
Once again, I share great news about the PEPE ministry (Programa de Educacion Pre Escolar)/Preschool Education Program in Peru. This program was started as a means of providing faith-based education to children that live in extreme poverty and whose access to education is very limited. By the grace of God we now have 38 PEPE units, more than 80 missionary volunteers who serve as educators as well as coordinators, 836 children, 554 families that have been ministered to, 166 adults as well as 454 children that attend Sunday school, 25 in discipleship, 9 baptisms and we hold a regional training every month. Full Story »

Suzii Paynter, Director, CLC

Knock, Knock.  Supreme Court.  Right outside the door

Church State law, especially cases that make it to the US Supreme Court, can seem distant and esoteric. But this month the US Supreme Court is waiting for you right outside your office door in its unanimous decision affirming “ministerial exception” in a broad way.

Who can the church  hire and fire according to ministerial exception?:
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, et al.
In this case the Supreme Court, for the first time, recognized an explicit “ministerial exception” to anti-discrimination laws at any level.  It did so, with considerable enthusiasm.  The Court returned a unanimous decision that churches have tremendous latitude over employment decisions if the person involved is in almost any way considered ministerially responsible.

“The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the court. “But so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.

The case was asking the government to punish a church school for a firing decision related to a religion teacher. The Court said that “requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision.  Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs.”  Such interference, it concluded, violates both the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and that Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The fact that the Court asserts violation of both tenets of the First Amendment is significant and outlines a strong line of demarcation.

The Supreme Court has long recognized a First Amendment right for religious organizations to control their own internal affairs, including the selection of their religious leaders — a history in which the Court has had a role since 1872 and in which the Founding generation was involved at least as early as 1806. But this case provides protection of the religious organization to make authoritative employment decisions even when the ministerial employee is someone who may not be serving in what would be considered a traditional role of clergy, like a pastor, but can extend to employees who are religiously trained and called to service, in this case a functioning teacher in an elementary classroom.

This decision has been lauded for its clear support of church autonomy.  This sounds affirming and great. But with great freedom comes great responsibility.

The decision is for near unfettered freedom for employment decisions, but the case is framed within charges of discrimination. The church is given the freedom to discriminate. Without the external requirements of standard discrimination protection to guide the church in hiring and firing decisions, what standards will churches, religious schools and religious institutions use?  All too often churches and religious organizations have been lax in clarifying employment processes and have been shoddy when it comes to establishing grievance procedures or clarifying pathways of resolution for difficult employment situations.

It’s “take stock” time for churches. Without the threat of government employment law, the church should be more fair, more judicious, more compassionate, more thorough than the secular world. Too many congregations and religious organizations are lax or, even worse, dismissive when it comes to processes for discerning call, hiring staff, managing employees and mapping the course for personnel transitions.

The call to servanthood is the high calling of Christ’s ministers, paid or unpaid, vocational or volunteer.  In Matthew and parallel passages in Mark and Luke, Jesus said we should not “lord it over” one another and that the greatest of God’s people must be servants rather than tyrants (Matt. 20:20-28). Christian leaders lead by serving.  Power in the conventional sense is, in effect, turned on its head, so that the greatness of leadership is not determined by how many lives we control, but by how faithfully we serve each life with whom God has entrusted us.

A Covenant Approach

Ministerial Ethics, a Covenant of Trust is a resource for you and your church to guide dialogue between ministers and congregational leaders. It provides guidelines to build a framework for basic ethical obligations for ministry, it helps to de?ne the ministerial profession as it is expressed in each congregation, and it serves as a support to protect the individual minister.  There are topical pages designed to promote reflection on the shared responsibility from both the congregation and the minister to consider how a congregation will interpret: the Call to Ministry, the Minister’s Relationship, Stewardship of Time, the Minister’s Health, Economic Responsibilities, Sexual Conduct, the Minister and the Community. This is not an employment document, but it is the beginning of a prompt for dialogue about the covenant of trust between a congregation  and it’s minster(s). A covenant that is too often unspoken and unaddressed until an employment crisis emerges.

Here are some of the basic considerations for churches and the minister:

For the church:

  • We will honor and respect the call of God in the lives of our ministers and count their service among us as a gift from God.
  • We will commit ourselves to forming relationships, time structures, and ministry activities so that our ministers can build wholesome family relationships.
  • We will respect our ministers’ families and honor them as vital parts of our ministry team.
  • We will commit to develop and nurture strong relationships within the congregation and show we are Christians by our love.
  • We will recognize our ministers’ need for rest and time to be away from work.  We will protect their time to have a day off and their family time.
  • We will recognize our own and our ministers’ needs for spiritual formation and physical well being.
  • We understand that workers are “worthy of their hire” and will compensate ministers with fairness and generosity.
  • We will commit ourselves to exhibiting faithful and wholesome sexual relationships among ourselves, within our families, and beyond the church family.
  • We shall endeavor to know and be known in the communities that we serve as witnesses to the love of Christ, who meets physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and to the world.

For the minister:

  • I will re?ect the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my ministry by leading the congregation to follow Jesus, so becoming the salt of the earth and the light of the world, loving our enemies, becoming agents of reconciliation, doing justice for “the least of these,” speaking the truth in love, loving God as we love one another, and serving God as we serve one another.
  • I will respond to the call of Christ with faithful obedience and count it a joyful privilege to be asked to serve in ministry.
  • I will be intentional in nurturing relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and members of the congregation.  I recognize the importance of building healthy relationships which are both open and honest and free from coercion, deception, manipulation, and the abuse of the power of my position.
  • I will be committed to the faithful stewardship of time.  I will be disciplined in my use of time, which includes not wasting time or working at all times.  I will take time for spiritual formation, study, prayer, family, and rest.
  • I will develop a healthy lifestyle which includes my spiritual, physical, and emotional health.
  • I will be ?nancially responsible, which responsibility includes paying my bills, avoiding ?nancial favors, living within my salary, contributing to the ?nancial support of my church and other ministries, and adopting a lifestyle consistent with biblical teachings concerning possessions and money.
  • I will clearly demonstrate a life of sexual  ?delity and integrity in all of my relationships and a commitment to the biblical standard of faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness.
  • I will participate in the larger community as the context of my ministry.  I will be committed to the issues of justice, compassion, reconciliation, and to the marginalized as I value all of God’s children.
  • I will be directed in all that I do by Jesus’ vision in the model prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  I will be dedicated to God’s sovereign role and reign in every area of my life and be faithful in announcing that God’s Kingdom has come in Jesus Christ.

The occasion of this Supreme Court decision gives the church a prime opportunity to tune and fine tune the processes within our congregations to maintain ethical and productive relationships.

Includes information from: Lyle Denniston, Opinion recap: A solid “ministerial exception”, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 11, 2012, 11:33 AM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/01/opinion-recap-a-solid-ministerial-exception/

group

Go Now Missions mobilizes students from Texas Baptist churches and Baptist Student Ministry (BSM). They are a ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. According to the mission statement, “The Baptist General Convention of Texas encourages, facilitates and connects churches in their work to fulfill God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself.” The following post is a reflection from a student missionary sent through Go Now Missions. To search for similar mission opportunities to get involved in go to texasbaptists.org/beonmission.

My name is Brianna Smith and I went on a Go Now Mission to Haiti. I went with a group of five from Tarleton and another group from Wayland Baptist University. This was my first time to be in a third world country and let me tell you…it changed my life. Full Story »

YOU’RE INVITED TO ATTEND ISAAC’S 2012 TRAINING SEMINARS AND SUMMER INSTITUTE

The Immigration Service and Aid Center is proud to announce its 2012 schedule of events.  If you and your church are sensing a call to minister to our immigrant population in Texas by offering legal services, the Spring and Fall seminars and our Summer Basic Immigration Law Institute are designed to provide all necessary training toward accreditation and recognition by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Our cadre of speakers for all events will consist of immigration lawyers and BIA-accredited staff from federally recognized ministries from all across Texas.  Although ISAAC’s training events do not result in automatic accreditation and recognition, all interested individuals seeking both must have at least 40 hours of training in immigration law knowledge and procedure.

The kind of training that offers basic immigration law training this thorough and taught by a highly qualified faculty and at an affordable price is not offered very often either at the state or national level. ISAAC’s training will be all that and more: our seminars and Summer Institute include hands-on components so that all participants can gain valuable experience in filling out forms and preparing a BIA accreditation/recognition portfolio.

  • The Spring Training Seminar will take place at North Dallas Family Church, located at Royal Haven Baptist Church in Dallas on April 27-28.
  • Iglesia Bautista Houston, located in downtown Houston, will host the Fall Training Seminar on September 21-22.
  • Our Basic Immigration Law Institute will by hosted by Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio on June 4-8.

You may register for all three events and save up to $100 if you pre-register.

View more information on our 2012 events.

Or contact:

Jesús Romero (210) 633-6257 or

Alicia Enríquez (214) 828-5192

It’s a New Year and most of us have set up some new years resolution.  Hopefully these new goals are still securely in place.  The folks at parents.com say that kids ages 7 to 12 are at the right age to learn to make resolutions and set goals for a new semester.

To get started, parents are encouraged to take the lead to set goals for the family and when appropriate share with your children the things you are working on and set the example by following through on your priorities.  It’s important to not set the goal for the child but let them personalize what they would like to achieve in such important areas as school, friends, church family etc.  A parent can help guide the child to decide on goals that are a balance of reachable and challenging.  Set some goals so that the child can feel like a winner in making changes and achieving goals.  Making resolutions can be a great way to bring families together to work as a team and create some new traditions.

So what are the 10 most common new years resolutions for kids: Reported by about.com.

  1. Get healthy
  2. Be happier
  3. Be a Better person
  4. Date someone
  5. Show more love to the family
  6. Do better in school
  7. Learn something new
  8. Be a better friend
  9. Be a role model
  10. Make some money

Prevention Resources and Bible Studies are available for churches at the CLC website.

Check out the Addiction Ministry Education Network page on Facebook.  Become a fan and you will receive updates about events and links to important news articles.

CLC Substance Abuse Ministry Podcasts

Pathways to Prevention:  A Substance Abuse Resource

Hazelden

ABORTION

ALCOHOL | ADDICTION

BUDGET

CHILDREN

CHURCH/STATE

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

EDUCATION

ENERGY

ENVIRONMENT

GAMBLING

HEALTH

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

HUNGER & POVERTY

IMMIGRATION

PAYDAY LENDING

REDISTRICTING

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

VOTER ID