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: 2017
Dec 15, 2017

In today’s deeply divided society, it seems the church is not immune.  Even as we in the National Council of Churches seek to find common ground among our 38 member communions, we are aware that churches within our fellowship are dealing with deep divisions of their own.  Is there an ethic or set of practices that might be helpful in times like these?

My guest today, Dr. James Davis of Middlebury College, comes to speak with us today about his book with the title of “Forbearance: A Theological Ethic for a Disagreeable Church.”  We will talk about his book, the inspiration for it, and how a recovery of this ethic might help bring about good in the world beyond the church.

Oct 20, 2017

In late July we heard from Phil Woodson, a pastor in Charlottesville, Virginia, who alerted us of a major action there on August 12.  Today Charlottesville has become synonymous with the violence that erupted there as counter-protesters clashed with the “Unite the Right” rally.  

My guest today is a long-time friend who attended because she believed she was called to be there.  There are many people we could have on this podcast to speak about their experience in Charlottesville, but Rev. Annette Flynn is noteworthy because she is one of a handful of clergy across the United States that simply answered a call to be there.  Her story is one of simple, clear, passionate faith, and I hope it inspires you today. It sure does inspire me.

Sep 29, 2017

As it seems to become more and more difficult to have discussions that cross party lines, the faith community has resources that could be models for every kind of difficult discussion.  Going far beyond the typical models of dialogue, Gwynne Guibord is bringing people together from different faiths in Southern California.

In this episode I speak with Dr. Guibord, director of a center that is partnering with the National Council of Churches on two new high-level dialogues between Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus.  We will speak with Gwynne today to learn more about her center, what’s unique about her approach, and how encountering another faith can deepen our own.

Sep 22, 2017

As the war in Afghanistan continues into its 16th year, the United States continues down a course of continual warfare and blank-check funding of the American military.  Use of force often seems as though it’s both a first and last resort.  But the little-known US Institute of Peace maintains an important place in the American diplomatic sphere.

As the federal budget debate gets underway, the US Institute of Peace’s funding is on the chopping block.  Today we will talk with Rev. Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for International Issues in the Washington office of the United Church of Christ.  Mike will fill us in on this important institution, its Christian beginnings, and how its future can be bolstered by people like you.  If you believe in peacemaking, listen carefully to what Mike has to say.

Sep 8, 2017

After hinting at it for weeks, President Trump this week announced his plan to do away with the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, over the next six months, as he urges Congress to take up the matter of replacing it with solid legislation. Activists fear that Congress, with an already full agenda, will not be able to act, and as many as 800,000 persons will be at risk.  

Today we talk with Rev. Noel Andersen with Church World Service. Noel has been working for years with immigrants and offers many key insights into DACA, the Dream Act, and the state of limbo President Trump’s latest decision leaves these young people who, for the most part, have never known any home other than the United States.

Aug 9, 2017

In recent months the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, has become a rallying point for groups on the farthest right reaches of American politics.  Neo Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, and alt-Right groups are protesting the decision by the Charlottesville City Council to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, and this weekend a rally is scheduled in which these racist groups will converge.

This week we will speak with Rev. Phil Woodson, Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Phil has had a front-row seat to the disturbances that have taken place over the past months, as First United Methodist Church faces the statue of Robert E. Lee that’s been at the center of the controversy.  A call to clergy across the nation has been issued, and if you’re hearing this in time, I hope you’ll consider coming to stand in solidarity with the clergy of Charlottesville.


Aug 4, 2017

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.

This is an encore presentation of this podcast, originally published a year ago.  The book, "Almighty," is now available in paperback.

Jun 10, 2017

The weather is warm and it’s finally gardening season.  Traveling through just about any community, you’ll see community gardens springing up everywhere, and churches are getting in on the act also!  More than just a hobby, more and more congregations are seeing community gardens as a way of improving the lives of the poor.

My guest this week is Nathan Hosler, director of the Washington Office of the Church of the Brethren.  Nate will share with us what he has seen churches doing in the way of community gardening in spots across the globe.  You’ll also hear about an unexpected encounter we had a short time ago in the strangest of places.  Get your gardening gloves on and listen carefully.

May 26, 2017

Many people think that the National Council of Churches is a top-down structure, but it’s not.  The ecumenical movement is just that: a MOVEMENT, and it’s made up of people who believe that we’re better off focusing on our commonalities more than on our differences.

Today we will talk with Don Anderson, head of the Rhode Island Council of Churches. Don is one of our most active leaders within this fellowship that we call the ecumenical movement.  In our conversation with Don, we will learn what ecumenism looks like on a more local level.  Don’s enthusiasm is contagious and I hope you enjoy this conversation.

May 19, 2017

While the nation was focused on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, a few other major news items were swept under the rug.  One of those was a mishap at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a legacy of the Manhattan Project during World War II.

Today we will talk with Paul Carroll, program officer of the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation concerned with ending the threats posed by nuclear weapons.  I ran across an article about the recent Hanford accident in which Paul was quoted, and thought he would be a perfect guest for us today.  Aside from the looming threat of a new nuclear arms race, the legacy of nearly 80 years of nuclear technology poses its own challenges.

May 12, 2017

Have you ever considered that riding a bicycle might not be just a good way to exercise and get around town, but it might also be a good spiritual practice?  Biking in the city may seem difficult and even treacherous to some, but author and ecumenist Laura Everett believes biking might be a key to unlocking a new awareness of God in the city.

Today we will talk with Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, and author of “Holy Spokes,” a treatise on finding God in the things we often see as ordinary and profane.  Forgive me if I’m a little too enthusiastic about this topic: I’m an avid bicyclist and a city-dweller, and I’m excited to hear Laura sharing my enthusiasm and taking it to the next level.  As you will hear, finding God in the city is as easy as riding a bike

May 5, 2017

During Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a delegation from the National Council of Churches in Korea came to visit the United States and meet with Senate offices and the State Department.  Their message?  Koreans, from both the North and South, are terrified of war.

In this episode, we will talk with three leaders from the National Council of Churches in Korea about what’s going on in the Korean Peninsula today and how it affects regional and global peace.  You’ll hear about their audacious plans for a permanent peace between North and South, and how powerful interests in the US are making things worse, not better.  With tensions on the rise and nuclear weapons on the table, I think you’ll find this to be one of the more important discussions we’ve had here.

Apr 28, 2017

April is almost over, but it’s not too late to talk about Second Chance Month.  Even a body as divided as the US Senate unanimously declared April as Second Chance Month, a month to focus on ways to help people pick up their lives again after a period of incarceration.

This week we will talk to Craig DeRoche, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Public Policy for Prison Fellowship.  Prison Fellowship is promoting April as Second Chance Month, and Craig will talk to us about his organization, the legacy of its founder Chuck Colson, and how the United States can solve its mass incarceration problem.

Apr 22, 2017

Here is the audio recording of the NCC's pre-gathering event, "A Time to Break Silence."  Below is the workshop description:

Christians gathering at the 2017 Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be lifting their voices in response to what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the three triplets of Materialism, Militarism, and Racism. What is the theological basis for this message when it comes to the struggle against these evils? Sponsored by the National Council of Churches, this pre-event will analyze the Christian foundations of our common work to create the “Beloved Community” where the social, political, and economic rights of all are respected and people are able to realize their full potential as children of God. 


  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth Q. James, Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church (Rochester, NY)
  • Rev. Dr. Reginald D. Broadnax, Pastor, Mt. Olive AME Zion Church (Durham, NC), Professor and Chair of Religion, Clinton College (Rock Hill, SC)
  • Rev. Dr. Shannon Craigo-Snell, Professor of Theology, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
  • Rev. Dr. Leslie Dawn Callahan, Pastor, St. Paul’s Baptist Church (Philadelphia, PA)
Apr 21, 2017

The power of the march has been clearly demonstrated over the past few months with huge marches gathering in Washington, DC and New York City.  But the real power has come when those marches take place across all the other cities in America, where a real nationwide movement is demonstrated.  Coming up soon is the People's’ Climate March, April 29th.

This week we talk to Fletcher Harper from Greenfaith about the march, climate change, and the role of the faith community in solving the biggest challenge facing our planet.  Get our your walking shoes and find the march near you!

Apr 13, 2017

In the days leading up to Holy Week, a chemical weapon attack against civilians has taken place in Syria, and the United States has attacked a Syrian airbase in retaliation.  As cable news pundits celebrated the US attack as “beautiful” and “spectacular,” is there a particularly Christian way of viewing the violence in Syria?

In this episode, we will speak with two of the most well-regarded voices in the field of Christian Ethics today.  Dr. David Gushee, professor at Mercer University and President of the Society of Christian Ethics joins us today, as well as Dr. Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University.  You might imagine these two leading thinkers differ on important points, but you’ll be interested to know where they agree.  Get ready for a thought-provoking conversation.

Apr 6, 2017

When we first started this podcast, we took a look at the problems that were occurring in Flint, Michigan, where the water has been unusable for years.  A year later, things are improving, but the problems for Flint’s water aren’t over yet.

This week we’ll talk with Ryan Cumming of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America about Flint, corruption, clean water, and how the churches have made a difference.  Big problems require big solutions, and the churches have a role to play. 

Over a year ago we recorded a podcast in which we heard about the desperate situation concerning the drinking water in Flint.  Churches were helping in all kinds of ways, including delivering trucks of bottled water and assisting in shelters.  As the crisis dragged on, I’m grateful that several of our NCC member communions got involved in ways that changed the broken systems that created the problem and kept it going.  

Mar 3, 2017

Since January, a rash of surprising and disturbing anti-Semitic incidents have taken place across the country, with Jewish centers being threatened and cemeteries vandalized.  What’s behind this upsurge in anti-Semitism?

Rabbi Jack Moline is the Director of the Interfaith Alliance, a national organization that stands on the front line fighting against hatred and bigotry.  Jack has been observing this uptick in anti-Jewish sentiment but has a surprising perspective on the relationship between anti-Semitism and other forms of bias against minority groups. Jack speaks to us today about this recent phenomenon and what we can do about it.

Feb 3, 2017

The world’s various divisions seem to be growing and getting worse.  Jesus once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and as people become more divided, perhaps those who have been struggling the longest might have the most to teach us.

Today we’ll talk again with Mae Cannon, director of Churches for Middle East Peace, who brings with her two guests who have embarked upon a “Pilgrimage to Peace,” touring across the US to bring their message of hope from the conflict-ridden Middle East to houses of worship here. We will talk to them about how their experience, as friends from across the divide, might inform life here in the divided States of America.

Jan 27, 2017

As we wrap up our series on “the way forward,” we will talk about a subject that touches nearly everyone in the nation: health care.  How will Congress and the President deal with the long-threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and what are the ramifications for the poor across America?

Our guest today is Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic lobby for social justice.  Simone is an important faith leader in the US and has been on the leading edge of the health care debate for many years.  We will talk to her about her organization, her work on reforming the health care system, and what she sees as the short- and long-term steps needed to insure quality, affordable healthcare for everyone.

Jan 13, 2017

As we continue to consider the way forward, how will President-Elect Trump and Congress deal with issues of poverty?  How will the churches continue to advocate for the poor across America?

My guest for this important podcast is the Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, Director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, an organization dedicated to empowering and mobilizing the faith community to speak and act to end the scandal of poverty in the United States.  We will talk about the issues connected to poverty, how Jesus taught us to seek justice for the poor, and how churches can be involved in anti-poverty work.  It’s a complex issue with a very simple imperative.  

Jan 11, 2017

The Constitution guarantees religious liberty in this country.  Over the past few years, the debate has intensified over what religious freedom actually means.

What does religious freedom mean today, what is the agenda behind the debate about it, and what does the future hold for this bedrock American value?  My guest today will talk about religious freedom from an historically Baptist perspective, how the discussion is changing, and what a Trump presidency is likely to mean to those who work to guarantee religious liberty for all Americans.  Holly Hollman will talk with us today in the latest episode of our discussion of “the way forward.”

Jan 6, 2017

The response to 9-11 by the Bush Administration included harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, placing prisoners in tiny enclosed spaces, slamming them against walls, sensory deprivation, and a host of other cruelties that were condemned by the world as torture.  The US Senate published a report almost two years ago that condemned these practices in the harshest of words.  But President-Elect Donald Trump stated in his campaign that the US would do things much worse than the Bush-era torture practices if he were elected.

Ron Stief is the Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an interfaith coalition that works to end all kinds of torture, from cruel and degrading treatment of combatants to the inhumane practice of extended solitary confinement, which the UN classifies as torture.  What does the new political reality mean to the torture debate?  We’ll talk to Ron to see if we can find out.