After a nationwide search, William Tabbernee has been appointed new executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches (OCC).
Dr. Tabbernee, formerly president of Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, has had extensive experience in ecumenism and interfaith dialogue.
He was moderator of the Australian Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith of Order before coming to the U.S.A. in 1991. For more than 20 years, he also served on the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order. From 2005 to 2009, he co-chaired the International Bilateral Dialogue between the Disciples of Christ and Roman Catholic Church.
In 2006, Tabbernee received the Interfaith Understanding Award presented by the Islamic Society of Tulsa, the Jewish Federation, the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice (OCCJ), and Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry (TMM). In Tulsa, he served on the OCCJ and TMM boards. In the early 1990s, he served on the OCC board.
A prolific author, over 40 of his publications relate specifically to ecumenical and interfaith issues.
In accepting the appointment, Tabbernee said, "The Oklahoma Conference of Churches has long been the vehicle by which the voices of the churches of Oklahoma have been able to be heard on crucially important issues—especially in the areas of faith and social justice." The organization receives Oklahoma United Methodist support through the Apportionments.
Tabbernee emphasized the time is now to build on OCC’s current programs, such as the annual Day at the Legislature, and develop a new vision of how the organization can best serve the churches and communities of Oklahoma.
He said, "My aim is to make sure that OCC becomes truly an Oklahoma-wide, not merely Oklahoma City-based, organization taking on challenges such as poverty, immigration, an aging population, and issues associated with health care, the criminal justice system, and rural and urban life."
Tabbernee also stressed that ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, while important, is not enough.
"Sensitivity to each other’s theologies and practices," he stated, "must translate into common action and engagement, even with people with whom we differ theologically—including people of different faiths.
"Interfaith dialogue needs to become interfaith engagement and ecumenical discussion needs to result in interchurch action," he concluded.
Tabbernee may be contacted at the OCC offices, 301 N.W. 36th St., Oklahoma City 73118; phone 405-525-2928 or 918-237-7810; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.