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National Council of Churches Podcast

This is the weekly podcast of the National Council of Churches. Enjoy the best features and interviews from insightful guests from across the ecumenical and interfaith movement.
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Now displaying: 2016
Dec 20, 2016

With President-Elect Donald Trump’s famous campaign promise to build a wall between the US and Mexico and to deport millions of undocumented persons, it would seem that immigration was front and center, but today’s guest sees things differently.

My guest is Wendy Feliz, Communications Director for the American Immigration Council.  Wendy is here because of her involvement in several high-level discussions about how this issue will shake out over the next several years.  In America, this nation of immigrants, there’s a strong backlash against immigrants taking place today, and with all such issues, it’s complicated.  Wendy is here to help us sort things out as we continue to look at “The Way Forward.”

Dec 16, 2016

In a campaign that frequently promoted anti-immigrant rhetoric and called for the cessation of the inflow of refugees to the United States, one of the critical areas of Christian witness - the welcoming of the oppressed and the stranger - has suddenly come under intense scrutiny.  As the church struggles to fulfill its calling to minister to the refugee, what is the way forward in an environment that may be hostile to the refugee?

Today my guest is Jen Smyers, Associate Director for Refugee Policy for Church World Service.  Jen will talk with us today about refugees, her own faith, and how ministry to refugees changes lives.

Dec 13, 2016

“Has the Bonhoeffer moment finally arrived?”  This is a question recently asked by Dr. Stephen Haynes, one of the nation’s top scholars of the work and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian whose name is being evoked in many places today.

My guest today posed this question in a recent article in the Huffington Post, in which he critiques the way Christians with different beliefs call upon Bonhoeffer whenever their particular vision of society is threatened.  But Dr. Haynes also can be counted on to offer a careful understanding of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer might have actually responded to the times we live in today.  We will discuss Bonhoeffer, his story, his faith, and how he is still used today by both supporters and detractors of president-elect Donald Trump.  If anything, Bonhoeffer urges us to look at current events theologically, and that’s what we will try to do today.

Dec 9, 2016

As we journey into Advent and head towards Christmas, the stories of the child of Bethlehem are heard in churches and homes across the country.  When we hear the stories of the shepherd’s fields and the manger, it’s sometimes surprising to learn that Bethlehem is a real city, today with thousands of fellow Christians living there under a brutal occupation.

Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon is the new Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace, a part of the ecumenical movement that works to encourage U.S. policies that actively promote a just, lasting, and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all the people of the region. In this episode we will meet Mae, learn about her organization, and discuss what she believes to be the challenges of peacemaking in this region.  You’ll especially want to hear what she says about the plight of the Christian communities across the Middle East.
Dec 5, 2016

In the days before and after the election, the nation has seen a dramatic rise in incidents of racial bias, particularly incidents of anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim bias.  What’s going on?

In this episode we’ll talk to Catherine Orsburn, director of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a coalition religious groups dedicated to reducing anti-Muslim bigotry in the US.  Catherine has had her finger on the pulse of this growing problem for some time, and now offers her point of view, relevant in this time when so many things are changing. It won’t all be bad news, though, as Catherine has seen signs of hope that she will be sharing with us today.  If you’re interested in following the commandment to love your neighbor, you’ll want to listen to what she has to say.

Nov 17, 2016

In early November, hundreds of clergy came to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, at the invitation of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, to join in the protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through reservation land.  I attended that protest, and while there I met Mariama White-Hammond, today’s guest.

Today we will talk with two leaders concerned with this controversial pipeline and hear about the issues that come together in it: water quality, the rights of indigenous people, and climate change.  The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has said about the protests at Standing Rock, ““I want to now suggest that Standing Rock may be the new Selma.” Our guests are the Rev. Mariama White-Hammon, and Shantha Ready Alonso of Creation Justice Ministries.  We will also discuss a key part of the witness of the churches at Standing Rock, the public repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery.”
Nov 10, 2016

For weeks we just wished for the day that it would soon all be over.  But election night 2016 came and went, and now a new set of challenges begin.

Today we will play a recording of a press conference assembled by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in which our own Aundreia Alexander took part.  The press conference assembled many of today’s top voices, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share them with you.  Today’s podcast is a bit longer than usual, but the speakers were all so good, and their voices are so important, I believe you’ll want to listen to the very end.
Nov 4, 2016

In a nation becoming increasingly diverse, the need for interfaith engagement is growing.  But it remains difficult to build meaningful relationships between neighbors and groups that follow different religions.  

In this episode, I get to introduce to you a longtime friend of mine, someone I met when I first started to get to know the Muslim community.  Tarek El-Messidi was a college student then, and now he is a BIG DEAL: in 2012 he was listed as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world, and he now regularly consults the White House and other national bodies on the challenges facing the US Muslim community.  More than anything I consider him a close friend and inspiration, and I’m excited to bring his unique voice to this podcast.  I hope you enjoy meeting Tarek and thinking about how you might find your own faith being strengthened by having an encounter with another.

Oct 28, 2016

There was a time this particular podcast would have been unimaginable.  But in this political season, all kinds of surprises have become commonplace.  Today our guest is Galen Carey, Vice President for Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals.  Galen has co-written a book with Leith Anderson entitled, “Faith in the Voting Booth,” and we’re adding it to other resources designed to help Christians in their decision-making this fall.

We will talk with Galen about his personal journey and his Christian faith. We will also discuss what many might find surprising, that the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals, or NAE, regularly work together and find common cause on Capitol Hill.  Republican and Democrats can’t seem to work together, but I find it exciting and even hopeful that Christians can.
Oct 21, 2016

Michael Kinnamon is known to many as a leading academician for the ecumenical movement.  His latest book, though, turns to the contemporary issue of fear as a driving force in American society.  

Why are Americans so fearful?  What does fear drive our society towards, and what can be done about it?  Is fear something religious people should embrace?  In his latest book, Dr. Michael Kinnamon turns his attention to the topic of fear. We will talk with him about the ways fear is manifest in our society and theological thought through the ages about this menacing condition of human life.  It’s a powerful book, and frankly, I can’t imagine a better time to be talking about this topic.

Oct 3, 2016

With anti-minority messages sweeping the media and the political campaigns, many people are scratching their heads about what to do about it.  We live in a time when social media, TV networks, and even our churches offer few chances to meet people who are different from us.  So when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, we are often more fearful than faithful.

Bud Heckman is on a mission to get funders to tackle this problem strategically.  Bud has a view of the world of philanthropy that will likely be of interest to any who have tried to work on problems like anti-Muslim bigotry or religious freedom.  If you care about finding ways to solve some of our biggest problems, you’ll want to listen to this whole podcast.  It’s my hope that Bud will help us get this conversation started.

Sep 26, 2016

Shane Claiborne is a name known to many mainline Christians, Evangelicals, and Emergent Church devotees.  Shane’s lifestyle of simplicity and solidarity with the poor echoes the lifestyle of Jesus in ways bound to make even the most devoted among us uncomfortable.

In this episode, we will talk with the always provocative Shane Claiborne, who in his latest book, takes on the American system of mass incarceration, and most notably, the death penalty.  We’ll talk with Shane about the how people of color are disproportionately sentenced to death in the United States, the problem of false convictions, and the disturbing reality that areas populated by Christians also tend to be areas most likely to hand out the death penalty.

Sep 2, 2016

Food pantries and food drives are one of the great staples of American charity.  They are everywhere, in cities big and small.  But there’s an aspect to them that never occurred to me until I started talking to our guest, Gary Oppenheimer.

Having grown a cucumber plant or two in my life, I am familiar with how one can have too much of a very good thing.  What if home gardeners had a convenient, easy way to share extra food with people in need?  Our guest has created a way to do just that.  We’ll talk to Gary and learn about the problem of food waste, the effect it has on global warming, and how we can all take a crack at solving it.  I love it when I come across a great idea, and Gary, through AmpleHarvest.org, is going to tell us all about his.

Aug 26, 2016

With a society that is becoming more and more divided, with a contentious political race ahead, and with global conflict on the rise, the world is in need for a church that carries out its role as a maker of justice and peace.  Are the American Churches, Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, and Mainline, ready to do the hard work that lies ahead?

Today we will speak with Jer Swigart, one of the founders of the Global Immersion Project, on conflict, peacemaking, the movement of Christians who are learning that Christ had little interest in American standards of successful living, and the thrill and adventure of taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.  Get ready: whichever side of the spectrum you find yourself, on this podcast, you’re in for a bumpy ride!

Aug 19, 2016

With Bible sales on the rise, and with its ongoing reputation as the best-selling book of all time, one might surmise that we’re in a golden age of Bible literacy and moral development.  A quick look around today might lead one to a different set of conclusions.

Today we discuss the Bible, it’s role in the church and in society, and the curious paradox that while Bible sales are at record levels, Bible literacy seems to be at an all-time low.  We’ll talk with journalist Kenneth Briggs, author of “The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America,” about his findings in his quest to discover why the Bible is so widely owned, but so rarely read.

Aug 12, 2016

Still looking for a good book for your August week at the beach?  If reading about nuclear weapons wasn’t your cup of tea, how about another book about the end of the world?

This week we will talk with Alissa Wilkinson and Robert Joustra, authors of “How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World.”  If you’ve been wondering why so many movies are making so much money on visions of the future that neither you nor I would like to experience, you’re going to enjoy this conversation.  Get ready to explore some of the most popular stories in today’s media through the eyes of these two brilliant observers of popular culture.

Aug 5, 2016

In July 2012, three protesters, an 84-year-old Catholic nun among them, broke into a secure facility in Oak Ridge, TN, where the United States stockpiles its highly enriched uranium.  The break-in, in which fences were cut, slogans were painted, and human blood was poured on the facility’s walls, is widely known to be the most damaging and embarrassing incident in the US’s nuclear program’s history.

In this episode, we speak with Dan Zak, a Washington Post reporter who originally covered this story in 2013, and recently published his book entitled, “Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age.”  It’s August, and if you haven’t had your vacation yet, buy this book and get out on the beach right away.  You’re in for a moral, ethical, and theological thriller of the highest order.

Jul 29, 2016

With 2.3 million members of our society currently in jail or in prison, a crisis unprecedented in the history of the civilized world is unfolding, and few people in power are paying attention.  But as the end of President Obama’s term in office approaches, the possibility of clemency for those most affected by unfair sentencing rules is giving hope to thousands.

In this episode, we will talk with Madeline McClenney-Sadler, Director of Exodus Foundation.org, who works with those re-entering society, and also has an ambitious plan to urge President Obama to help those who should not be imprisoned. In this podcast, sometimes we talk about big ideas; today, we are making big plans for action, and you can be a part.  Listen carefully if you want to be part of an effort that will make history.

Jul 22, 2016

One of the most talked-about books this summer has the provocative title, “The End of White Christian America.”  The author is a person well-known to the faith community in Washington, Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute.

Today we will have a rich, fast-paced conversation with one of the leading researchers of today’s religious landscape.  We will talk about the book, the author’s findings, their importance to the future of Christianity in America, and what it all means in the context of today’s contentious political landscape.

On the inside leaf of the cover, Robert Jones’s book, “The End of White Christian America,” asserts that “America is no longer a majority white Christian nation.”  In fact, he states that 1993 was the last year when white Protestants constituted a majority of the population.  Whether you believe this is a positive or negative development in American history, Jones asserts that this represents a massive shift that has some bearing upon the current political climate.  As a serious researcher who grew up in the South, Jones has a reputation for always speaking the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, and having the data to back up his assertions.  This interview was one of the most stimulating and thought-provoking conversations I’ve had yet in this podcast.

Jul 15, 2016

Most of the NCC’s 38 member communions engage in overseas missions of one kind or another.  Some have an emphasis on church planting and evangelism, others on development and poverty eradication.  Others focus on peacemaking as a central component of mission work.

Today we will talk with Jay Wittmeyer, Executive Director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, one of the NCC’s historic peace churches.  The Church of the Brethren has been confronted for several years now in northern Nigeria by the violent actions of Boko Haram, and today we will talk about how those Christians are faring against terrible persecution, and what lessons the church’s engagement there might have for our own society.

Jul 1, 2016

With various states enacting laws giving rights to some while restricting the rights of others, the idea of religious liberty is back in the news today.

We will talk today with one of the nation’s greatest authorities on religious liberty, Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center in Washington, DC.  We will talk about the essential freedom guaranteed by the 1st Amendment, what it means, and what it doesn’t mean.  I hope you’ll listen to this podcast to learn more about an issue that will certainly be part of November’s election, and to find out how you might learn more about this important freedom.

Jun 24, 2016

From his post at the US State Department, Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs Dr. Shaun Casey has a unique perspective on the global refugee crisis and the role churches play in resettlement.

For this episode of the National Council of Churches’ podcast, we will have a conversation with Shaun Casey about his new office at the State Department, how Secretary of State John Kerry views religion as a political and cultural force in today’s world, and particularly how Dr. Casey’s office connects with refugees and those who are assisting them as they begin new lives in the United States.

Jun 17, 2016

Once again, America awoke to the reality of another mass shooting, this time arguably the worst in US history.  And once again, Congress seems unable, or unwilling, to act in any meaningful ways to put an end to this violence.

Today we will talk with Lucy McBath, who became an activist after her son, Jordan Davis, was killed by Michael Dunn, who claimed he felt threatened by Davis and his friends and sought protection by Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.  We will talk with Lucy about Jordan, Orlando, the future of gun violence in America, and the idolatry that lies behind the belief that guns provide security.

Jun 4, 2016

For Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan begins Sunday night.  It marks a month of restraint, self-reflection, and community gatherings.  It is a time of both deprivation and celebration.

This week we will speak with Shaarik Zafar, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, a diplomat with the US State Department.  Shaarik will speak with us about the significance of Ramadan for Muslims worldwide and how Muslim-majority countries view the United States in the context of rhetoric being used during the current political season.  

May 27, 2016

A few weeks ago I caught up with Rev. Gradye Parsons, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA and a key member of the NCC’s governing board.  If you’ve ever met Gradye, you’re in for a treat today.  He is as warm and accessible as he is forceful and to-the-point.

In this episode we will talk with this key American church leader about the past and future of the  Presbyterian Church, the essential role of justice-making, and what’s next for Gradye as he looks forward to retirement.

For those who know him, Gradye Parsons is known as someone who is intelligent, witty, and sharp.  Gradye has led the Presbyterian Church USA for the past eight years and is now retiring.  The church he shepherds has faced several challenges over those years including various stands on human sexuality, justice for Palestinians, and most recently the candidacy of Donald Trump.  In this brief interview I was able to get a sense of Gradye’s vision for the church, its role in the National Council of Churches, and how he views his tenure as Stated Clerk and the man who has been nominated to follow him, Rev. J. Herbert Nelson.

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