By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
This year the Oklahoma Conference of Churches (OCC) will hold their Annual Dinner on Thursday, November 12. The event will be held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 222 N.W.15th Street in Oklahoma City. Check-in will start at 5 p.m. with dinner and the awards program beginning at 6 p.m.
“OCC is vitally important in connecting, motivating, and empowering diverse groups to work together on issues such as providing care for those affected by natural disaster, combating racism, and opposing all forms of injustice,” said the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, OCC Executive Director.
“The Annual Dinner enables us to celebrate all that we have already achieved in 2015 and to look forward to making an even greater difference in the future for the whole community.”
The keynote speaker will be religious scholar Professor Martin E. Marty, whose topic will be, “Ecumenical Difference Verses Spiritual Indifference.”
Marty said, “The main problem we see in our culture today is spiritual indifference. People organize their lives without faith. To overcome this apathy, churches must and can find creative ways of dealing freely and frankly with our difference along the path to greater unity.”
“Professor Marty is one of the most prominent interpreters of religion and culture today,” said the Very Rev. Justin Lindstrom, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, OKC, and President of OCC.
During the event, Marty will be honored with the 2015 OCC Bishop Floyd Schoenhals Distinguished Ecumenist Award. Schoenhals, the retired bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will present the award to his long-time friend and fellow Lutheran.
Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he has taught for thirty-five years. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including the National Humanities Medal and eighty honorary doctorates.
“Martin Marty is the most accomplished and widely known scholar on religion in America,” said the Very Rev. Justin Lindstrom, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral Oklahoma City and President of the OCC Board.
Marty has written more than 50 books and over 5,000 articles.
“Almost every Christian minister has read at least one of Marty’s columns in the Christian Century, making him one of the best-known professors in the country,” said Tabbernee.
This year’s OCC Interfaith Award will be presented to Adam Soltani, Executive Director of CAIR-OK (Council on American–Islamic Relations) for his outstanding work in building bridges of understanding between the Islamic community and the community at large.
Soltani serves as the chair of the Religions United Committee, the group that conducts an Interfaith Youth Tour. This fall, almost 300 teenagers participated in the annual event aimed at mutual understanding across religious and cultural divides.
A member of the planning committee for OKC’s Jewish-Muslim Film Institute, Soltani is a former board member of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, and a former member of Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City Executive Committee.
Tabbernee added, “Mr. Soltani has endless patience in helping people understand that they have nothing to fear from their Muslim neighbors, who like all Oklahomans, seek to live peaceful and productive lives.”
The 2015 Community Service Award will be given to Terri L. White, commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Through her leadership in mental illness and addiction, ODMHSAS has become nationally known for its children’s behavioral health services, community-based treatment programs, technological innovations such as “telepsychiatry,” and the integration of behavioral health care into primary healthcare settings.
“Commissioner White was a speaker at our Day at the Legislature earlier this year and she helped all of us realize how seriously mental illness and substance abuse are impacting Oklahoma’s community,” said Tabbernee.
Lindstrom said, “In part as a response to what Commissioner White has been teaching us, OCC has decided to add ‘Health and Wellbeing’ as an additional focus area for our ministry.”
OCC is comprised of 16 denominations; 1500 local congregations; ecumenical, Interfaith, and community partners totaling more than half a million Oklahomans.
For dinner reservations or more information, visit the OCC website or contact the OCC offices at 405-525-2928.