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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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

Dr. Agnes Abuom, from the Anglican Church of Kenya, was elected unanimously by the WCC 10th Assembly on 8 November 2013 to serve as moderator of the WCC Central Committee. She is the first woman and the first African in the position in the history of the World Council of Churches.

Apr 19, 2016

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

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

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

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 15, 2016

Last fall Rev. John Dorhauer became the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, one of the National Council of Churches’ 38 member communions.

A leader many call a “visionary,” Dorhauer begins his term of office challenging his denomination to be serious about dealing with white privilege, church vitality, and the church’s traditional focus on justice, in a world where people are becoming less interested in the church in its institutional form.  We will talk about his denomination, the challenges he’s encountered in his first months in office, his recent trip to the Middle East, and his hopes for the 2016 baseball season.

Apr 8, 2016

At a time in American history when technology has provided more possibilities for connection, unfortunately, society seems to be more fragmented and fearful than ever.  

In the coming years, will religion be something that brings us together or drives us apart?  What misconceptions do each of us hold about another person’s faith that make us afraid?  A new campaign called, “Know Your Neighbor,” seeks to help us realize that our differences make us more interesting, not less. Getting to know our neighbors, whether they are people of a different faith, or of no faith, is a critical but joyful challenge for all Americans.

Apr 1, 2016

What is an appropriate relationship between a Christian and guns?  As gun ownership is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment and is increasing in popularity, Christians are free to seek the answer to this question for themselves, and emotions are strong in both directions.

In this episode of the National Council of Churches Podcast, we will talk to Rob Schenck, once a leader in an aggressive wing of the anti-abortion movement, who has come to see ending gun violence as a pro-life issue.  We will discuss this controversial topic, along with his involvement in a new film by Abigail Disney entitled, “Armor of Light,” in light of the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Church in Corinth that, ““All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”

Mar 24, 2016

Many churches today are involved in ministry to people who are serving time in prison.  But a growing number of churches are becoming involved in ministry to prisoners AFTER they are released.

In this episode of the National Council of Churches Podcast, we will talk to Rev. Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, who teaches at Howard University, and leads a network focused on cutting recidivism by helping the incarcerated effectively reenter society.  We will talk about the problems of adjusting to life outside prison walls and how churches can be involved in this life-saving ministry.

Mar 17, 2016

Has mass incarceration become part of what is seen today as a good business model?  What effect has privatization had on the rehabilitation of prisoners?

Today we will discuss the profit motive as one of the forces behind the mass incarceration crisis, and, specifically, how companies that provide mental health services in the prison system are incentivized to make the problem works, not better.

Mar 10, 2016

Issues surrounding war and peace are as controversial today as they have been in the past.  Among the member communions of the National Council of Churches, approaches to war and peace are as varied as are the communions themselves.  

In this episode we’ll talk with Nathan Hosler with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness about his denomination, its understanding of Pacifism as a way of following Jesus, and how this is lived out among hundreds of thousands of Church of the Brethren members living in northern Nigeria, where the militant group Boko Haram has caused untold suffering.

Mar 3, 2016

When the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible was published in 1989, it was accepted as the scholarly standard, a brilliant word-for-word translation of the very earliest manuscripts available.  Breaking new ground by using the gender-neutral terms used in the original languages, in some places the New Revised Standard Version, or NRSV, inspired controversy and greater reflection.  

In today’s episode, we’ll talk to Rev. Dr. Joseph Crockett, Associate General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, and Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary Emeritus of the American Baptist Church, about this English Bible translation that has become the de facto standard in the years it has been in print.

Feb 25, 2016

The Mass Incarceration crisis is in the news.  One of the first bi-partisan initiatives to come to Capitol Hill is a sweeping sentencing reform bill that attempts to deal with this crisis.  But there’s another crisis taking place in our prisons, the practice of solitary confinement, which many regard as torture.

In this week’s episode, we’ll talk to Rev. Laura Markle Downton of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.  She will explain exactly what solitary confinement is, and why the UN’s special rapporteur on torture believes the United States’ practice qualifies as torture.

Feb 18, 2016

In January, while the east coast was being slammed with a major winter storm, scholars and leaders from around the world gathered in Morocco to put the finishing touches on “The Marrakech Declaration,” a groundbreaking statement on the imperative for Muslim-majority societies to protect the rights and freedoms of religious minorities.

In this episode we will hear from three leaders about this document and its importance to interfaith relations across the globe. We will talk to National Council of Churches President and General Secretary Jim Winkler, who took part in the January conference; Dr. Tony Kireopoulos, our resident scholar and expert on interfaith relations, and Catherine Orsborn, Director of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder initiative, a program that works to end anti-Muslim sentiment in the US.  We’ll take a look at the Marrakech Declaration and discuss its importance to the current religious and political climate both domestically and internationally.

Feb 12, 2016

Recently the United States Postal service unveiled a new stamp featuring an important African American leader.  This was the culmination of years of effort to have Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal, or AME Church, recognized in this manner.

In this episode we will hear the story of how this effort came to fruition, what it means for the AME church, and its importance to the ecumenical movement.  We will be joined by Jackie Dupont-Walker with the Social Action Commission of the AME Church, and Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.

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