Editorial Staff

Heidi Thompson

Heidi Thompson was named Publisher and CEO of Religion News Service in July 2014. She has spent most of her career with faith organizations in marketing, communications and fundraising. She served as the Chief Marketing Officer for Sojourners, managing all earned-revenue activities, including an award-winning magazine and website, advertising sales and e-commerce site. As an online marketing strategist, she’s worked with PICO National Network, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and MoveOn.org. She received a B.S. in Journalism from Ohio University and an M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communication from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

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.”

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.

Adelle M. Banks joined the Religion News Service staff in 1995. She previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., she spearheaded an RNS project on the March on Washington that won a 2014 Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council. 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.

Mary Gladstone

Mary Gladstone joined Religion News Service as a copy editor in 2013. She also serves as assistant editor for ReligionLink, an online resource to help journalists cover religion-related stories for the secular media. Gladstone is a freelance writer and editor whose clients also include The Dallas Morning News, where she previously was an assistant metro editor. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked for the Abilene Reporter-News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as well.

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Award-winning journalist Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for RNS, where she specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality, and social and biomedical ethics.  She joined RNS in 2013 after 23 years with USA TODAY, where she created the religion and ethics beat for the national newspaper. Grossman also blogs for RNS at Faith & Reason.

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.

Tiffany McCallen

Tiffany McCallen rejoins the RNS team in 2014 as the interactive and engagement editor. McCallen has 14 years of experience in religion and media, having worked most recently as the national community manager for the three-year Faith & Values (FAVS) project. Prior to that McCallen was associate director of the Religion Newswriters Association and handled sales and marketing for RNS. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Otterbein University.

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years’ experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. She produced nature and political TV segments for Discovery, National Geographic and ABC before moving to Rome in 2007. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

Sally Morrow

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.

Brian Pellot

Brian Pellot is director of global strategy at Religion News Service. Before joining RNS, Brian was digital policy advisor at Index on Censorship in London and online editor at Free Speech Debate in Oxford, U.K. He speaks regularly about religious freedom, freedom of expression and internet rights. Brian is currently based in London.

Kimberly Winston

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.

Correspondents

Elizabeth Bryant

(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.

Fredrick Nzwili

(Nairobi, Kenya)

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife. His articles have appeared in international media organizations among others; The Tablet, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic and Kenyan local newspapers; The Standard and the People Daily. He holds two degrees from the University of Nairobi – a bachelor's degree in sociology and literature and a post-graduate diploma in mass communication. He is married and has two daughters.

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.

Bob Smietana

(Nashville)

Bob Smietana is a Nashville-based correspondent for Religion News Service and former religion writer for the Tennessean. He’s a frequent contributor to national publications like Sojourners, Christianity Today, U.S. Catholic, and On Faith, and the co-author of three books. He currently serves as president of the Religion Newswriters Association.

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 Jesus is Better Than You Imagined and 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.

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 Executive Director of the Yale Humanist Community, Founding Emeritus Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, a former Harvard University chaplain, 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.

Welcome!

I’m the author of Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food, published by InterVarsity Press in February, 2013. It received the Christianity Today Book Award in the category of Christian Living.

Click here to access the publisher’s page where you can also download a press kit.

Here are ten reasons you or someone you know might like to read my book. And here are ten more just for good measure.

(You can buy it from the publisher, at Hearts & Minds Books, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com, or wherever it is you buy books. And if you’re not the book-buying type, you can ask your library to stock it.)

I’m also the author of a book about Jesus for children called The Unexpected Way. It’s the third in a series launched by Peter Enns. The publisher is Olive Branch Books, a division of Peace Hill Press, which produces quality educational materials for children. Expect to see that book sometime in 2014.

I’m a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s popular women’s blog, Her.meneutics, and serve on the editorial board for Christianity Today.

My writing has appeared (and reappears) in places like Christianity TodaySojourners, Books & Culture, The Huffington Post, The Christian Century, RELEVANTCatapult, The Suffolk Times, PRISM, The Progressive Christian, Creation Care Magazine, and Flourish Magazine; one of my essays appears in Bella DePaulo‘s book Singlism, in the brand-new Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and in the forthcoming devotional book for folks who generally dislike devotional books, Disquiet Time.

I tweet @rachel_m_stone, and one day in October 2013 I started what briefly became the #1 trend on Twitter: #AddaWordRuinAChristianBook. It was very funny while it lasted, and I’m telling you this because where else am I going to brag about such a pointless and ephemeral thing?

twitter

I live in Malawi (that’s in south-central Africa) with my husband, Tim, who is a lecturer in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Zomba Theological College (basically, a seminary) where I also teach writing. We have two Lego-obsessed boys

Still have questions? Get in touch with me through my Facebook page or by sending me a tweet! Or you could always leave a comment. ;)

RachelHeadShot

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

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.

Sheila Holder

Sheila Holder, Business Manager

Sheila Holder joined the RNS team full-time as business manager in 2013. She has more than six years fiscal experience at the University of Missouri. Prior to that, Sheila had more than 20 years experience in office management in the construction industry. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University. In her spare time, Sheila enjoys spending time with her grandson and is actively involved in pet therapy volunteering.

Ron Ribiat

Ron Ribiat, Editorial Assistant

Ron joined the RNS staff in 2012 as the editorial assistant, taking over story and press release distribution, comment moderation and other behind-the-scenes Web tasks. He's also a hero of the Columbia office, having successfully once captured and released a mouse that had taken up residence uninvited.