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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Nov 30, 2018

Aside from going to church every Sunday, which I’m sure you do, and eagerly participating in the liturgy and ceremonies of worship, what are some other rituals you participate in on a regular basis?  The author of “Human Rites,” spelled R-I-T-E-S, would like you to think about the rituals we live by, what they mean, and how they function in all aspects of life.

My guest today is Dru Johnson, a professor and author with a fascinating biography and a new book entitled, “Human Rites: the Power of Rituals, Habits, and Sacraments.”  His book comes out in February, but I was able to see an advance copy and have the conversation you’re about to hear. I found him to be an especially engaging guest who offers something new to this very old conversation.

Nov 5, 2018

Tomorrow is election day!  And many are saying that this is the most consequential election in modern history.

Today we’re once again hearing from our guest host, LaKesha Womack, as she interviews Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Founder of Grace and Race Ministries, and a former head of the Washington office for the National Council of Churches.  Brenda has devoted her life to the work of racial understanding, healing and reconciliation, and in the context of the issues we are wrestling with in this election, there may not be a better person to hear from today.

So if you’re standing in a long line waiting to vote, put your earbuds in and enjoy this conversation between LaKesha Womack and Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell.  If you have already voted, pass this along to someone who has not. And if you haven’t planned on voting, get out there and exercise your civic duty.

Nov 2, 2018

Over the past few weeks we have been holding webinars, with mixed success, designed to help us learn better ways of getting out the vote.  Our host for these webinars, LaKesha Womack, has interviewed experts on state and local elections, the importance of the Supreme Court, and has hosted a town hall at our Christian Unity Gathering.  Due to some technical problems encountered along the way, we’ve shifted gears and are having the last of these conversations here.

So this week, a treat for you: LaKesha is our guest host, and today she interviews Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, one of Washington’s most powerful faith leaders and the first female Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus.  And of course you already know LaKesha; she was a guest on this podcast just a few weeks ago. Get ready for an important conversation that you’ll want to share with others as we all get ready for election day, Tuesday, November 6th.

Sep 21, 2018

Awaken, confront, transform: that’s what we’re talking about when we say “ACT to End Racism.”  Awakening to racism means listening to the difficult truths and confronting the racism in ourselves and our institutions.

My guest this week is Rev. Dr. David Anderson Hooker.  David has spent most of his career transforming conflicts in some of the most difficult spaces on the planet.  He’s not only the guest of this podcast, he’s also our keynote speaker for the Christian Unity Gathering, October 14-17.  David is full of practical ways for churches to be part of God’s transforming work. He’s also one of the more enthusiastic and inspiring guests I’ve had on this podcast.

Sep 6, 2018

What’s the most important thing you can do between now and November 6th?

My guest today is LaKesha Womack, founder of the Womack Consulting Group, and leader of a series of webinars hosted by the National Council of Churches this fall.  What’s the most important thing you can do between now and November 6th? You can make sure you’re registered to vote, get educated, join with others to make sure your congregation is educated, and most of all, VOTE.  Oh, and you should join the webinars LaKesha is leading.

Aug 17, 2018

Last weekend marked the first anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that took the life of Heather Heyer along with two police officers as well.  In Washington, DC, where a rally was being planned by those who carried out the “Unite the Right” rally last year, tensions were high. But Charlottesville was prepared for the worst.

This week we will debrief with Rev. Phil Woodson, a United Methodist pastor in Charlottesville who was an eyewitness to the events that have been unfolding over the entirety of the past year.  Phil will reflect on what’s taken place over the past year, what’s different from last year, and where white supremacy is showing up today.

Jun 22, 2018

When it became clear that the families crossing into the United States from Mexico were being separated as part of a “zero-tolerance” policy, an outcry ensued that forced President Trump to backtrack.  Did he really shut down this inhuman policy, or did it just get worse?

Today we will hear from Rev. Aundreia Alexander about her trip to McAllen, Texas, to see for herself what is going on there, and to offer a prophetic witness with other leaders in the faith community.  We will also talk with Matt Hawthorne of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and we’ll discuss this country’s use of indefinite detention and how that connects with the crisis at the border today.

Jun 15, 2018

It’s going to be a long time before we stop talking about the ACT to End Racism rally that took place in April, the launch of a multi-year initiative to end racism in our selves, our churches, and our institutions.  

On today’s podcast we begin sharing some of the powerful speeches that made up the program on April 4th.  If you were there, you’ll remember the amazing spirit that overwhelmed us all. If you weren’t able to be there, get ready to hear some of what was said from the podium that day.  It will be long remembered as a great day in the life of our nation and our churches, but get ready, it’s only the beginning.

Jun 8, 2018

Quick: when you are out in the city or on an airplane and notice someone wearing a turban and a beard, what is your first thought?  How much do you know about the fifth largest monotheistic religion?

My guest today is Gurwin Ahuja, founder of the “We Are Sikhs” campaign, a national campaign to help build awareness around a faith community most of us don’t know much about.  Gurwin has been a guest on this podcast before, and he’s one of my favorite people: an energetic activist working to help us all understand each other better.  If you find yourself wanting to know more about the neighbors around you, please stay with me and listen in.

May 24, 2018

When justice-seeking is at the center of one’s spirituality, community can sometimes be hard to find.  That’s why a group of people set out to build that community, or at least give it a good, encouraging boost, by holding a festival in the mountains of North Carolina called “Wild Goose.”

In today’s podcast, I speak with Brian McLaren, speaker and author of several books.  Brian is also one of the founders of the Wild Goose Festival, which the National Council of Churches is a proud sponsor of.  If you’re looking for a place where spirituality, justice, music, and art are the focus, listen in to this conversation.

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!

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