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Religion Professors Selected for National Presentation

A religion professor and the director of the addiction prevention program from Oklahoma City University were selected to make a presentation at the annual meeting of the Religious Education Association in Atlanta this November.

Wimberly School of Religion assistant professor of religious education Leslie Long and Addiction Prevention Studies Director Peter Messiah will present their workshop titled “The Church as a Change Agent During Times of Social Injustice.”

 The workshop stems from Long’s and Messiah’s ongoing research on the role of churches in community development and social justice and is intended to answer the following:

* Is the church outwardly welcoming to the community?

* Does the church have the capacity through programs, financial resources and human capital to meet the needs of its local community?

* Does church leadership have the social and professional capacity to lead local mobilization efforts, in conjunction with local law enforcement, creating safe environments for children and families to grow?

* Do they express a demonstrated readiness and willingness to make the necessary changes to help mobilize their constituents in an effort to reduce local crime rates?

The professors are expecting the study to make at least three contributions to the areas of community mobilization and local crime reduction. First, the study will contribute to the expanding knowledge base of faith-based organizations as community change agents. As more is known about the relationship of faith-based organization’s roles in creating social and communal change, it will be possible to more clearly understand the meaning of their infuence as community leaders.

Second, the study is believed to be the first attempt to directly relate faith-based organizations and crime impact across several cities. They expect the study to contribute toward a better understanding of the need for this type of effort to be replicated, and whether it can be replicated in various city sizes.

Finally, the ultimate issue underlying the study is quality of life. It is anticipated that the study may identify ways through which community mobilization can contribute to the meaning of life for constituents across geographical boundaries. While the professors say that this would be an enormous undertaking, the study could prove to be a major step in that direction.

The OCU professors were pleased to have their presentation accepted for the conference, which received 116 proposals after averaging just over 40 per year.

“This topic certainly deserved some careful study,” Messiah said. “We know that church-based programs can have significant impacts on communities, and we hope this study shows how great those affects can be.”