Leaders at Olivet Baptist Church, located at 1201 N.W. 10th in Oklahoma City, refuse to abandon a neighborhood they see as in need of help, providing literacy instruction and sports leagues to neighborhood children, toys for the children of incarcerated parents, as well as food and clothing to the poor in their neighborhood.
Olivet's senior pastor, Steve Kern, is married to Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City. His wife has been a lightning rod of controversy in the past two years because of her statements about gay people and terrorists, her affiliation with Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, and her "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality," which blamed the country's economic distress on immorality, including homosexuality.
Steve Kern is a member of "The Black Regiment" pastors, an online directory of U.S. pastors started by conservative radio host Chuck Baldwin of Pensacola, Fla. Baldwin sent an appeal to American pastors in 2007, asking them to contact him if they supported the principles of freedom embedded in the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
His original appeal read: "When the colonies broke free from the shackles of the Crown, it was the moral and spiritual strength of colonial pulpits that helped lead the way. These revolutionary preachers became known as The Black Regiment, due to the long, black robes they were known to wear in the pulpit."
Baldwin asked preachers around the U.S. to sign up to be Black Regiment preachers so he could direct his radio listeners to Black Regiment churches in their cities. Kern was one of four Oklahoma pastors to sign up.
"I agreed with the basic premise that Baldwin was espousing," Kern said. "It was the pastors, who, prior to the Revolutionary War, preached freedom and the principles of liberty who lit the spark that became the fire of the revolution."
Kern was introduced to The Black Regiment by Paul Blair, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist in Edmond. Blair entered the ministry after a career in the NFL, and in addition to pastoring Fairview, leads an organization called Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ.
Blair said he has never met Baldwin in person, but believes him to be a committed Christian and a patriot. He said he supports the Black Regiment because "a great revival that began in the pulpits was responsible for the birth of this nation, (and) I believe that another revival is necessary for America to continue as a free country, governed by 'We the people,' where we have personal liberty and personal responsibility."
In addition to the references to America's origins and the patriotism and piety that gave birth to it, Baldwin references current political issues in ways not normally associated with the so-called Christian right. In his appeal for Black Regiment pastors, he addresses former President Bush's policies, asking for pastors who have "publicly repudiated the unconstitutional policies of President Bush in his promotion of the USA Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps and eavesdropping, and the deceptive manner in which he led America into an undeclared, unprovoked, and pre-emptive war against Iraq."
Baldwin's ideal pastors will also speak out against abortion, homosexuality and amnesty for illegal aliens. He also tosses in some theological requirements, including that the pastors have spoken out against "seeker sensitive" churches like those promoted by Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.
Because the appeal was written in 2007, President Obama is not mentioned, but Kern addressed some of the current political issues in the Obama administration.
"In this day, as we continue to lose more of our freedoms through entitlements, taxes and government infringement, I want to join with other pastors who believe it's time to stand up and speak out," he said.
Kern is particularly concerned about current discussion of hate crimes legislation, believing it's an egregious example of government infringement on religious freedom. "The goal of hate crimes legislation is to silence speech determined to be opposed to the homosexual lifestyle," he said.
It's an issue that Blair's Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ organization will address at its conference Friday and Saturday in Oklahoma City. One of the conference's speakers is Janet Porter, author of "The Criminalization of Christianity," a book that focuses on the expected impact of hate crimes legislation on the freedom of Christian pastors to preach against homosexuality.
Blair said that The Black Regiment pastors, although in agreement about issues like abortion and homosexuality, are pastors of autonomous congregations who simply believe that America needs another Great Awakening, referring to the revivals that swept through the U.S. in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Kern said the affiliation enabled people to find pastors who believed in the principles of the Black Regiment, especially men who would speak about issues with moral and economic impact. "Greg Horton