Editorial Staff

Kevin Eckstrom joined the RNS staff in February, 2000 and became editor in 2006. Prior to coming to RNS, he worked as religion editor at the Stuart/Port St. Lucie News in Florida. He was the winner of the 2000 Cassels Award for small newspapers from the Religion Newswriters Association. Under his leadership, RNS was named Best Wire Service by the Associated Church Press for both 2006 and 2007 – the only time RNS has won back-to-back years. Eckstrom holds a M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. from The George Washington University.

In 2007, he was elected president of the Religion Newswriters Association. His work was featured in Changing Boundaries: The Best Religion News Writing of 2003.

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron joined RNS in April, 2011 and became managing editor in 2013. She was the religion reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. from 1996 to 2011. During that time she won numerous awards. She is a past president of the Religion Newswriters Association.

David E. Anderson

David E. Anderson has been covering religion and social issues for more than 30 years. He began his career with United Press International in 1967 and shortly thereafter began covering the civil rights and antiwar movement. He was named religion reporter in 1972, and continued to cover the ethical and moral issues ranging from the decline of America’s urban areas to church-state issues at the Supreme Court. As part of UPI’s political coverage, he attended political conventions from 1972 on and wrote election night analysis pieces

He has covered half a dozen papal trips as well as meetings of most major denominations and such international organizations as the World Council of Churches. He joined RNS as its Washington correspondent in 1991 and was named editor in 1997. In 2004 Anderson moved to Montana, where he now serves as RNS’s senior editor. He is the author of three books and also serves as a senior consultant to the public television program “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.”

Adelle M. Banks joined the Religion News Service staff in 1995 after working for more than 10 years at daily newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Binghamton and Syracuse, The Providence Journal, and the Orlando Sentinel.

Before coming to RNS, she was a full-time religion reporter for six years in Orlando, covered the beat during part of her time in Syracuse and contributed to religion coverage at the other papers. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., Banks was a third-place winner in the Religion Newswriters Association’s Religion Reporter of the Year contest in 2011 and 1998. She also has been honored by Associated Church Press.

David Gibson

David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He writes for Religion News Service and until recently covered the religion beat for AOL’s Politics Daily. He blogs at Commonweal magazine, and has written two books on Catholic topics, the latest a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics, and manager for social media. She joined RNS in 2013 after 23 years with USA TODAY, where she created the religion and ethics beat for the national newspaper.

Grossman is graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and began her career at The Miami Herald. Grossman recently completed a certificate course in biomedical ethics and health care policy with the Center for Practical Bioethics, Kansas City, Mo.

Her honors include: University of Michigan Journalism Fellowship 1987-88; Templeton Journalism Fellowship in Science and Religion, 2005: East West Center study fellowship on Islam in Asia, 2007.

David Herrera

David Herrera joined Religion News Service in 2011. He worked previously as a Web Assistant with the Religion Newswriters Association and as a Web Producer at the Detroit Free Press. He holds an M.A. from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a B.S. from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University.

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff in 2011. She was Washington correspondent for The State (Columbia, S.C.), where she won a 2004 first prize for feature writing from the National Association of Black Journalists. She also covered government for the Charlotte Observer and the Massachusetts statehouse for the Patriot Ledger. Markoe holds B.A. in history from Yale University and an M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Sally Morrow

(Kansas City, Mo.)

Sally Morrow joined Religion News Service in March 2012. Sally’s interest in photography began in her high school’s dark room. She has since attended film school at the College of Santa Fe, holds a B.A. in Communications and Spanish from UMKC, and holds an M.A. in Photojournalism from the University of Missouri. Her graduate thesis project “Picturing Immigration” was published in News Photographer Magazine.

Sally has worked as a photographer, videographer and photo/multimedia editor at the Des Moines Register, the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Newsday. Her editorial and freelance photography has appeared in various publications and professional websites. In addition to her responsibilities at RNS, Sally currently shoots freelance photography in Kansas City, Mo. and is an adjunct instructor at the University of Missouri.

Brian Pellot

Brian Pellot is director of global strategy and religious freedom editor at RNS. He is based in London. For his blog on religious freedom, visit brianpellot.religionnews.com.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent at RNS in 2013. Bailey most recently worked as managing editor for Odyssey Networks, covering religion through multimedia. Before that, she spent four years as online editor for Christianity Today.

Correspondents

(Paris)

Elizabeth Bryant worked as a freelance reporter in Cairo for two years before moving to Paris in October 2000. Besides Religion News Service, she has reported on a freelance basis for Voice of America, United Press International, Newsweek, the Houston Chronicle and the San Francisco Chronicle. Previously, she worked for several newspapers and wire services in Florida, New York and Washington, D.C. Bryant was raised in Africa and Europe and worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia. She has a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Michigan State University and master’s degrees in international affairs and journalism from Columbia University.

Michele Chabin

(Jerusalem)

RNS Middle East correspondent Michele Chabin has covered events in the region for 18 years. In addition to her work at RNS, Chabin writes regularly for the New York Jewish Week and National Catholic Register and is a contributor to USA Today and numerous other publications. She has won several awards from the American Jewish Press Association for Jewish journalism (including one for a first-hand account of the evacuation of Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents from war-torn Sarajevo) as well as first-place honors from the Catholic Press Association. A graduate of Brandeis University, Chabin was awarded a British Chevening Scholarship and Press Fellowship at Cambridge University, England. The home she shared during the fellowship contained a Hindu, a Sikh, two Muslims, a Jew, an Orthodox Christian and a Catholic, “a harmony that deepened my love for religion-based reporting,” she says.

Ron Csillag

(Toronto)

Ron Csillag joined RNS in March 2002 and covers eastern Canada. Based in Toronto, he contributes feature stories. He also writes about religion for the Toronto Star, and is a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail and a variety of religious publications. His work has also appeared in the National Post. For 10 years, he was a reporter for the Canadian Jewish News, where he won a Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. In 2002, he was awarded an Eli Lilly Fellowship to complete the Specialized Reporting Program in Religion, Spirituality and Ethics at Northwestern University in Chicago. In January 2003, he was nominated by the Globe and Mailfor a National Newspaper Award. He has also worked as a television news producer in Montreal and Toronto. Csillag was born in Montreal and is a graduate of Concordia University’s journalism program.

Amanda Greene

(Wilmington, N.C.)

Amanda Greene has been a newspaper journalist working in North Carolina for the past 12 years. She's spent the last decade writing about faith in the Cape Fear region. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Amanda has won journalism awards from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors (now the Society for Features Journalism) and The New York Times. Her work has been published nationally in the Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Christian Century, Religion News Service and The Salt Lake Tribune. In 2013, Amanda was the recipient of the YWCA of Lower Cape Fear's Women of Achievement Award for Communications. And she once spent a blessed month at Duke Divinity School.

Kellie Moore

(Columbia, Mo.)

Kellie Moore (formerly Kotraba) serves as the editor and community manager of Columbia Faith & Values. Although she is originally from the West – Nevada and California – she’s now proud to call Missouri home.

Her reporting for Religion News Service has been published in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and USA Today.

Her love of journalism started at Concordia University Irvine, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English.

She earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She spent two years at the Columbia Missourian, where she was a reporter, assistant city editor, copy editor and assistant news editor. She and a former colleague won first place for the best news story in the 2012 Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for a story they co-wrote for the Missourian.

She’s also been a reporter and afternoon news anchor for KBIA 91.3 FM, the area NPR affiliate that is now the local media partner of Columbia Faith & Values. Because of the partnership, Kotraba is now the reporter behind the station's faith and values desk. She recently won an Edward R. Murrow Award and was recognized by the Missouri Broadcasters Association.

G. Jeffrey MacDonald

(Mass.)

G. Jeffrey MacDonald is an award-winning reporter and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. His work has appeared in five books as well as TIME magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, USA Todayand the Washington Post, among other national publications. For in-depth coverage of religion, he’s received six awards from the Religion Newswriters Association and the American Academy of Religion. He is the author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul (Basic Books, March 2010). He received his Master of Divinity degree cum laude from Yale Divinity School in 2000. He lives in Massachusetts.

Omar Sacirbey

(Boston)

Omar Sacirbey is a Boston-based correspondent for Religion News Service and other publications. In 2008, he was a finalist for the Religion Newswriters Association Templeton Reporter of the Year award, and in 2007, he placed third in the American Academy of Religion news writing contest. In 2005, he was an Alicia Patterson Foundation Journalism Fellow, focusing on Muslims in North America. Before journalism, he was an advisor with the Bosnian Foreign Ministry, serving at the United Nations in New York, and in Sarajevo and The Hague. He holds masters degrees from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and the Columbia University School of Journalism. He also writes about business, foreign affairs, politics, and food.

Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons serves as the editor and community manager of SpokaneFAVS.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in communication.

She’s reported on religion for about a decade and has written for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut.

Over the years Simmons has won several journalism awards including the 2009 American Academy of Religion’s first place award for best in-depth reporting on religion, and the 2011 Religion Newswriters Association’s Schachern Award for Online Religion Section of the Year.

Ann Marie Somma

(Hartford, Conn.)

Ann Marie Somma serves as the editor and community manager of HartfordFAVS.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and is working toward a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Fairfield University.

She’s been a journalist for more than 15 years and has worked for a variety of newspapers in Connecticut, including the Hartford Courant where she dabbled in religion news.

Her work has been recongized by the Society of Professional Journalists, which in 2003 awarded her first place in the breaking news story category, and in 2005, she won second place for her feature writing from the New England Associated Press News Executives Association.

(London)

Al Webb works as a freelance journalist. In addition to writing for Religion News Service, he covers news and writes features for United Press International and the Washington Times, is an op-ed contributor to the Baltimore Sun and is weekend co-editor at the London bureau of the Voice of America. Previously he was a reporter-writer for 28 years with UPI in North Carolina, Cape Canaveral, and the Houston Space Center. He was a war correspondent in Vietnam, and latterly in Iran, Iraq and Beirut, for UPI and later with U.S. News and World Report. He has also served on news assignments in Hong Kong, Brussels and London, and has worked as a freelance journalist for the past six years. Webb was raised in North Carolina and Tennessee, was educated at Duke University and began his journalist’s career at The Knoxville Journal.

Kimberly Winston

(San Francisco)

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, USA Today, The Washington Post, The San Jose Mercury News and Newsweek. She is also a frequent contributor to Beliefnet.com and ReligionLink.org. In 2005, she was the recipient of the American Academy of Religion’s award for best in-depth religion reporting. She is the author of three books, including Bead One, Pray Too: A Guide to Making and Using Prayer Beads (Morehouse, 2008) and blogs at kimberlywinston.wordpress.com. She is a 1994 graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

David Yonke

(Toledo, Ohio)

David Yonke is the editor and community manager of ToledoFAVS. A veteran reporter, editor, and author, his name is familiar name to many area readers for his many years at The Blade newspaper including the last 12 years as religion editor.

A native of New York City and a graduate of Duke University, Yonke caught the journalism bug early when he wrote for his elementary school newspaper, The Bulldog’s Bark. He has been covering the news ever since.

After graduating from Duke, he worked as a reporter and editor at The Tampa Tribune for five years before moving to Toledo in 1981. His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines across the country, and among his notable awards is the Ohio Associated Press’ Investigative Reporter of the Year in 2003 for coverage of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

Yonke is the author of the nonfiction book, "Sin, Shame & Secrets: The Murder of a Nun, the Conviction of a Priest, and Cover-up in the Catholic Church", published by Continuum International Press in 2006.

He has taught journalism courses at the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University and makes a brief appearance in the Acadamy Award-nominated documentry film, "Twist of Faith."

“I am excited to make the move to ToledoFAVS.com and to work with people of integrity and vision,” Yonke said. “As journalism adapts to the new online era, ToledoFAVS.com will be offering readers a diverse, informative, entertaining and interactive mix of news and features in ways that were not possible with print media alone.”

Bloggers

Tobin Grant

@TobinGrant blogs for Religion News Service at Corner of Church and State, a data-driven conversation on religion and politics. He is a political science professor at Southern Illinois University and associate editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan is senior columnist for Religion News Service and has published more than 1000 articles in respected outlets such as USA Today, The Atlantic, National Journal, Christianity TodayThe Washington Post, and CNN.com. He is author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars. His first book, Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet, was  called "a must-read for churchgoers" by Publisher's Weekly.

As a respected Christian voice, Jonathan regularly contributes commentary to television, print, and radio news outlets. Jonathan has been interviewed by ABC World NewsNPR, CNN, PBS, Fox News, Slate, Politico, and The New York Times. He serves on the advisory board for Religion News Service, America's largest provider of news about religion and spirituality.

Jonathan first entered the public eye when a classroom epiphany prompted him to organize a national coalition of Christian leaders who care about the creation. Since then, he's been on the front lines of pressing cultural conversations from poverty to orphan care. He is a member of the national board of directors for Bethany Christian Services, America's largest adoption agency. Outreach magazine recently named Jonathan one of 30 influencers reshaping Christian leadership.

Jonathan has become a sought after speaker by colleges, seminaries, churches and conferences on cultural and religious issues. He holds a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

Jonathan occasionally utilizes a research assistant to facilitate interviews, but the final questions and content are his. He resides in Brooklyn.

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life and the religious angle of LGBT issues. His writing has appeared in the Jesuit magazine America, on BustedHalo.com, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership. Having run a handful of marathons and half-marathons, he recently published an article about the spiritual aspect of long-distance running. He graduated from Saint Anselm College and Yale University.

Jana Riess

Since 2008, Jana Riess has been an acquisitions editor in the publishing industry, primarily acquiring in the areas of religion, history, popular culture, ethics, and biblical studies. From 1999 to 2008, she was the Religion Book Review Editor for Publishers Weekly, and continues to write freelance articles and reviews for PW as well as other publications.

She holds degrees in religion from Wellesley College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in American religious history from Columbia University. She speaks often to media about issues pertaining to religion in America, and has been interviewed by the Associated Press, Time, NewsweekPeople, the Boston GlobeUSA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday, among other print publications, as well as “Voice of America,” the "Today" show, MSNBC, and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Tell Me More,” and “Talk of the Nation.”

She is the author, co-author, or editor of books including The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less . . . Now with 68% More Humor!Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My NeighborWhat Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as a Spiritual GuideMormonism for Dummies; and The Writer’s Market Guide to Getting Published. She blogged for Beliefnet before coming to RNS in 2012.

Mark Silk

Mark Silk graduated from Harvard College in 1972 and earned his Ph.D. in medieval history from Harvard University in 1982. After teaching at Harvard in the Department of History and Literature for three years, he became editor of the Boston Review.

In 1987 he joined the staff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he worked variously as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist.

In 1996 he became the founding director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and in 1998 founding editor of Religion in the News, a magazine published by the Center that examines how the news media handle religious subject matter. In 2005, he was named director of the Trinity College Program on Public Values, comprising both the Greenberg Center and a new Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture directed by Barry Kosmin. In 2007, he became Professor of Religion in Public Life at the College.

Professor Silk is the author of "Spiritual Politics: Religion and America Since World War II" and "Unsecular Media: Making News of Religion in America." He is co-editor of "Religion by Region," an eight-volume series on religion and public life in the United States, and co-author of "The American Establishment," "Making Capitalism Work," and "One Nation Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics." He inaugurated "Spiritual Politics" in 2007.

Omid Safi

Omid Safi is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion, the largest international organization devoted to the academic study of religion.

In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume "Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism," which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works "Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam," dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and "Voices of Islam: Voices of Change" were published 2006.

His last book, "Memories of Muhammad," deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media.

He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there.  The trip is open to everyone, from every country.   More information here:   http://www.illuminatedtours.com

Chris Stedman

Chris Stedman is the Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, Inaugural Coordinator of Humanist Life for the Yale Humanist Community, Founding Emeritus Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, and an alum of Interfaith Youth Core. He is the author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious http://faitheistbook.com, which Booklist described in a starred review as "an intimate and deeply affecting portrait... [that] proves [he is] an activist in the truest sense and one to watch." Chris was named one of "five next-gen gurus who are disrupting religion's status quo" by Details magazine in 2013, and he has written for publications including Salon, CNN, msnbc, The Advocate, USA Today, The Rumpus, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post On Faith, Religion Dispatches, and Relevant.

Laura Turner

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics” blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.

Boz Tchividjian

Professor Basyle "Boz" Tchividjian is a former child abuse prosecutor who currently teaches Child Abuse and the Law and several other courses at Liberty University School of Law.  As a prosecutor for over eight years, Professor Tchividjian created the first “Crimes Against Children”division at the Office of the State Attorney of the 7th Judicial Circuit in Florida.  As division chief, Professor Tchividjian was personally responsible for prosecuting hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse.  Professor Tchividjian has spent over 17 years using what he learned as a prosecutor to train and equip prosecutors, investigators, social workers, and medical personnel in handling various aspects of child sexual abuse prosecutions.

Professor Tchividjian is also the founder and executive director of GRACE. The purpose of GRACE is to educate and equip the faith community to correctly respond to sexual abuse disclosures, while also providing practical guidance to the Christian community on how to protect children.  GRACE provides confidential consultations to churches, schools, & other organizations that are struggling with abuse related issues.  GRACE also assists institutions and abuse survivors by providing independent investigation services.

Professor Tchividjian speaks extensively on this subject at various conference, schools, and denominational gatherings.  He has also appeared numerous times on radio and television to discuss the mission and work of GRACE.

Professor Tchividjian is a member of the Florida Bar Association and is admitted to practice in the State of Florida.  He is the 3rd eldest grandchild of Reverend Billy Graham and recently published a book entitled Invitation – Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched (2008 Multnomah Press).  Professor Tchividjian has also authored numerous journal articles related to the issue of child sexual abuse and is also the author of a new Mini Book released in October entitled, Protecting Children from Abuse at Church: Steps to Prevent and Respond (2013 New Growth Press)

 

Executive Staff

Debra Mason

Debra Mason, Publisher

Debra Mason is a former award-winning reporter who has covered, researched and written about religion in the news for nearly 30 years. She is executive director of Religion Newswriters and Director of the Center on Religion & the Professions at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Mason earned an MSJ degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication at Ohio University. She also holds an MTS degree.

Wendy Gustofson

Wendy Gustofson, Sales & Marketing Director

Wendy Gustofson is the Director of Marketing for Religion News LLC. She has 28 years of experience in broadcast sales and management, most recently as VP of Sales with the Barrington Broadcasting Group. She has served on several boards, and is an active member of Rotary.