By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The 2016 Oklahoma Conference of Churches (OCC) Annual Dinner will be held Thursday, November 10 at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Downtown Medical Center, 741 North Phillips Avenue, in Oklahoma City.
Registration and the reception will start at 5:15 p.m., with dinner and the program beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $50 each.
OCC is comprised of 16 denominations; 1500 local congregations; ecumenical, Interfaith, and community partners totaling more than half a million Oklahomans.
The event keynote speaker will be Allen D. Hertzke, the David Ross Boyd Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. He will discuss the topic “Why Religious Freedom Matters—Especially Now.”
Professor Hertzke is an internationally renowned expert on religion and politics, with numerous published works on the topic.
Hertzke’s most recent book, co-edited with Tim Shaw, is Christianity and Freedom: Historical Perspectives (2016 – Cambridge University Press). His earlier books on the subject are The Future of Religious Freedom: Global Challenges (2013) and Religious Freedom in America: Constitutional Roots and Contemporary Challenges (2013).
Between 2008 and 2010 Hertzke served as lead consultant for the John Templeton Foundation to develop strategic recommendations for advancing religious freedom around the globe. In 2012, he was selected by Pope Benedict XVI to the prestigious Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
“The Annual Dinner enables us to celebrate all that we have already achieved in 2016 and to look forward to making an even greater difference in the future for the whole community,” said the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, OCC Executive Director.
“OCC is vitally important in connecting, motivating, and empowering diverse groups to work together on issues such as combating racism, providing care for those affected by natural disaster, and opposing all forms of injustice,” Tabbernee added.
The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers, Senior Minister of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ, Oklahoma City, will receive OCC’s 2016 Bishop Floyd M. Schoenhals Distinguished Ecumenist Award. The citation is named after the former bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Bishop Schoenhals will introduce Dr. Meyers for the award.
Cardiologist and President of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, Dr. Carl Rubenstein will receive the OCC Interfaith Award. After a distinguished career in General and Preventive Cardiology in Oklahoma City, Rubenstein has devoted much of his time during his “semi-retirement” to projects that promote interfaith understanding and counter prejudice.
Rubenstein has been an active member of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City since 1972 where he has served the congregation in several capacities. Rabbi Vered Harris of Temple B’nai Israel will be presenting the award to Dr. Rubenstein that evening.
The recipients of this year’s OCC Community Service Award are Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh, co-founders of Home Creations. The Farzaneh brothers have contributed to Oklahoma by supporting higher education, religious organizations, and community projects. Dr. Imad Enchassi, Senior Imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City will present this award.
“Oklahoma is a much better place because of the vision and generosity of the Farzaneh family,” said the Very Rev. Justin Lindstrom, Dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and President of the OCC Board of Directors.
According to Dean Lindstrom, the OCC Board has established a new OCC Communion Leader Emeritus Award. It will honor “Heads of Communion” who have retired from office after serving at least five years as the Communion Leader of a member denomination.
The inaugural recipients are Bishop Edward Slattery, Tulsa Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church; Bishop Robert Hayes, United Methodist Church; and the Rev. Aaron Carland, General Presbyter of the Indian Nations Presbytery.
Tickets may be purchased on-line by visiting www.okchurches.org. For additional information, call 405-525-2928.