The new leader of a state religious group said his organization has been busy trying to address social concerns within the community-at-large.
The Rev. James Dorn said the Progressive Oklahoma Baptist Convention also plans to meet in the coming days to discuss many ongoing initiatives.
Dorn, the convention's president, said the organization's annual conference is set for Monday through Wednesday at Faith Memorial Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. A pre-conference youth explosion event will be held Saturday, and a musical is set for Sunday, both at Faith Memorial.
The Progressive Oklahoma Baptist Convention is the state affiliate of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, based in Washington, D.C. Dorn said the Oklahoma convention includes 16 churches across the state, including the church where he is senior pastor, Mount Triumph Baptist, 1716 Abram Ross Ave.
Dorn said he recently was elected to serve a four-year term as the state convention's president. He said in recent months, the convention's churches have already begun several initiatives targeting health care and education in the predominantly black communities they serve.
“Especially in the African-American community, the church is still that central focus point where people receive information and where information is dispersed. It is still a major asset in our community,” Dorn said.
He said he spoke to other state convention clergy about the need to address major concerns in those communities.
“One of the things that I have said to our pastors is that we have a lot of services. Fellowship is great, but when we've got problems in our community where we are the highest community in heart disease and teen pregnancy and dropouts and unemployment, as a faith-based community, we are spiritual leaders that I feel in my heart God has called us, purposed us and empowered us to address those issues.”
As part of the Progressive Baptists' education initiative, many members of churches within the convention have become volunteers in their local schools to mentor students, provide test monitoring, hall monitoring and other services. He said clergy members have been particularly concerned about bullying and have worked with students at Douglass High School on that issue.
Dorn said the convention also has partnered with AmeriCare Institute to offer short-term career training for people in the community who are underemployed or unemployed. “It's short term so that folks can get trained and get on the job sooner,” he said.
Also, high school students are being offered resources and support to help them become successful whether they plan to get vocational training or attend college after high school.
With a focus on health care, the convention partnered with the state Health Department's Office of Minority Health to look at ways to address health disparities in the metro area ZIP codes where many of the convention's churches are located. He said the convention joined with other faith groups to partner with a university's school of nursing for health visits to elementary schools and churches.
Also, Dorn said several churches have adopted programs designed to educate members about living a healthier lifestyle.
“Where we had doughnuts out before, we have fruit and veggie trays out now,” Dorn said.
He said the convention's outreach is sure to expand as clergy and their congregations look for solutions to community concerns.
“We as a faith community have to go outside the walls of the church with what God has blessed us with to provide solutions and strategies so that we may overcome some of those disparities,” Dorn said.
Fellowship is great, but when we've got problems in our community where we are the highest community in heart disease and teen pregnancy and dropouts and unemployment, as a faith-based community, we are spiritual leaders that I feel in my heart God has called us, purposed us and empowered us to address those issues.”
The Rev. James Dorn,