In 50 years as a pastor in Denver, Bishop Phillip H. Porter Jr. of All Nations Church of God in Christ has witnessed society's breathtaking progress and devastating backslides.

As the 76-year-old pastor looks back, he wonders if he did enough to show young people how to live the Gospel.

"I wish we had poured a bit more into the coming generation — and wish we'd lived more ardently to influence their lives," Porter told The Denver Post Tuesday.

Porter and his wife, Edgar Lee, celebrated his 50th anniversary in the church Thursday night at the Potter's House of Denver.

"It's said that the condition of the world is a report card of the church," Porter told the Post. "I'd have to give the visible church a sad 'C.' "

Yet, he said, he sees new life in his Pentecostal denomination and others.

"The last 10 years I've seen a bevy of young 'today' ministers who are transforming ministry," Porter said. "They have sound theology and hunger in their hearts, and the old things — like dress code and women in the ministry — they don't seem to have as much difficulty with that."

He sees much to admire in their search for unity and acceptance of all people, but he stays on a more conservative course.

"I'm an old guy — make no mistake about that," Porter said, laughing. "I stand on what God says. I can't make up my own Bible."

Porter first came to Colorado in 1959 to take a job in Walsenburg as a social worker, for which he'd been hired sight unseen. When the young African-American sociology graduate arrived in the flesh, he was told there was no job.

"I'm an Oklahoma boy, and I integrated a university (in Enid, Okla.) , and I understood what he was saying," Porter said.

He had cooked his way through high school and college, and he returned to those jobs to support his young family.

"I was hurting deeply because I couldn't get professional work," he said.

But then came government jobs and, later, a theology degree. He launched his Denver ministry in 1963. "I bought a church.".

"The times have changed," he said. And, in terms of race relations, "It's a better day."

And while he doesn't always agree with President Barack Obama's policies, he was happy when America's first black president was elected.

"I was glad to see America stand up and be America," Porter said.

Porter started his church at a time of "great need and unrest" in the country. He began the same year as two preachers who have become his good friends, international missionary Dick Newman and Rev. Robert Hooley, founder of the Bethel Biblical Church, now in Lakewood.

When asked what was left undone after 50 years of ministry, Hooley told the Post in a telephone interview Thursday: "I see a breakdown in society, a falling away from the foundation of Scripture and a loss of respect for the Sabbath that's been disappointing,"

Yet Hooley's not discouraged — he's still a pastor at age 83.

"We've stayed the course," Porter said of his friends. "We can see how far we've come. We can see what should still be done. We have to speak to parents about who they are.

"If the family is the bedrock of the whole society, then the church must better guide the family to be what it must be. Parents can't pay teachers and others to give their children their spirit, soul and heart."

His own marriage has lasted more than 50 years and produced eight children, 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Edgar Lee Porter says her husband: "He never says 'fail.' Nothing ever causes him not to get the job done. I can't understand his energy sometimes."

Porter is a former chairman of Promise Keepers, a Christian men's group founded by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney. He was instrumental in organizing stadium rallies that drew thousands of men. He's served on boards for groups as diverse as Seniors Inc. and the Aurora Youth Gang Task Force. He's co-authored several books, including 1998's "Better Men."

"He's a great organizer and someone with a tremendous heart for people," Newman said of Porter.

And though others would say Porter and friends have been doing God's work for half a century, Newman disagreed.

"It's never been work to us," he said.

Electa Draper: 303-954-1276, edraper@denverpost.com or twitter.com/electadraper