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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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, 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, 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.

May 20, 2016

The response to last week’s podcast of Bishop Curry’s homily at our Christian Unity Gathering was so strong that it seemed a good idea to bookend it with the first homily of the event, given by The Most Blessed Tikhon, Bishop of Washington, and Metropolitan of All America and Canada in the Orthodox Church in America.  

This week we will hear this homily in its entirety.  We were grateful to have Metropolitan Tikhon with us at the Christian Unity Gathering, and to present this homily in our podcast.

May 13, 2016

Last week at our Christian Unity Gathering, closing worship celebrated the gifts of the week.  One of the greatest gifts was about to come, as Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Michael Curry gave the homily.  

In this week’s podcast, we will replay Bishop Curry’s homily in its entirety.  Get ready for a moving presentation of the gospel from one of America’s most important Christian leaders.

May 6, 2016

Last week the NCC signed on to a statement called, “A Call to Resist Bigotry: A Statement of Faithful Obedience.”  This statement, signed by Christian leaders from wide range of perspectives, addresses the open bigotry that has been a hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

In this episode we will talk with Dr. David Gushee, president-elect of the Society of Christian Ethics, and vice president of the American Academy of Religion, who was one of the drafters of this document.  We will tackle the challenging task of critiquing a popular presidential candidate on the basis of Christian theology and ethics and put Trump’s candidacy in an historical context.

Apr 29, 2016

The criminal justice system is broken.  The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its citizens per capita than any other industrialized nation.

This week we talk with one of the champions of sentencing reform, Senator Cory Booker, about a bill that is currently before the Senate.  This bill is the most comprehensive reform of federal sentencing guidelines in decades, potentially affecting thousands of lives. We will talk with Senator Booker, and then with the National Council of Churches’ Rev. Aundreia Alexander, about this bill and the problems it seeks to address.

I spoke with Senator Booker in his office this week.  The Senator has been working on reforming the criminal justice system for years, and was pleased to speak with us today about the horrific problems in our courts and prisons, the effect incarceration is having on communities and our entire society, and on finding ways in which the problems might be solved.

Apr 22, 2016

Last week a delegation from the World Council of Churches came to the United States on a pilgrimage of solidarity.  Leading the delegation was Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, one of today’s great Christian leaders.

In this episode, we will take this esteemed opportunity to discuss with Olav his journey into ministry, his view of the worldwide Church, his calling, and the hope of ecumenism for the future.  He joins us after a workshop at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and so please excuse the noise.  I don’t mind; I love the noisy energy in the room today.

Apr 19, 2016

On April 15th, the NCC hosted a panel discussion at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a premiere event of the ecumenical movement.  The panel set out to find a theological basis for the Church’s work against racism and injustice, and featured four of the leading voices in the church today.

As a bonus feature of our podcast, we have added these four speakers to the feed because we hope you’ll enjoy hearing them.  As we begin, listen to moderator Dr. Greg Carey and our first speaker, Dr. Doug Foster, Professor of Church History at Abilene Christian University.  Dr. Foster had an extensive series of PowerPoint slides, which can be seen at our website,  We hope you enjoy this presentation.

Apr 19, 2016

On April 15th, the NCC hosted a panel discussion at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a premiere event of the ecumenical movement.  The panel set out to find a theological basis for the Church’s work against racism and injustice, and featured four of the leading voices in the church today.

As a bonus feature of our podcast, we have added these four speakers to the feed because we hope you’ll enjoy hearing them. Our second presenter in this series is Rev. Joyce Shin.  We hope you enjoy this presentation.

Apr 19, 2016

Rev. Dr. Kenneth James, Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church Rochester, NY, leads the conversation in this third portion of April 15th's Ecumenical Advocacy Days presentation.

Apr 19, 2016

Rev. Dr. Felicia White-Thomas, Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Morgan State University in Baltimore, leads the conversation.

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