Monthly Archives: December 2020

Interview with Bill Leonard about the Church PGE 29

As I say in my introduction to this interview, in her superb book, These Truths: A History of the United States, historian Jill Lepore holds a particular understanding of history. She says that history is, ‘…not merely a form of memory but also a form of investigation, to be disputed, like philosophy, its premises questioned, its evidence examined, its arguments countered (p. xvi).’ She argues that such an understanding of history-as-inquiry was central to the nation’s founding and that to study the past is to unlock the prison of the present (pp. xvi-xvii).

In my mind, such an understanding of history-as-inquiry and as a key for unlocking the prison of the present is also central to a church that needs to be continuously reforming. What we call the Reformation was a first occasion of significant Church reform.  During that time the Church was in crisis because of the mutually reinforcing interplay between certain Christian doctrines and clerical/ecclesial corruption. While it is true that since the Reformation, the church has been in the process of continuously reforming, it seems to me that we may be in the process of a second significant reformation. The Church is in significant crisis again, and for similar reasons as before. We are in what is broadly being called a time that is post-modern, post-colonial, and post-Christendom.

For a lot of us, especially those of us who have been his students, a person whom we believe to be one of the most astute interpreters of the Church is Dr. Bill Leonard. It is to him that we turn for insight into how the Church has come to be in its present crisis and for wisdom about what Christians and the Church should do moving forward.

Dr. Leonard is the founding dean and now Professor of Divinity Emeritus at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity. Dr. Leonard’s research focuses on Church History with particular attention to American religion, Baptist studies, and Appalachian religion. He is the author or editor of some 25 books. His most recent works include A Sense of the Heart: Christian Religious Experience in the U.S., and The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Church History: Flaming Heretics and Heavy Drinkers.

An essential resource to broaden and deepen your understanding of the insights and wisdom Dr. Leonard shares in this interview is the archives for his regular contributions to Baptist News Global.

The music for this episode is from a clip of a song called ‘Father Let Your Kingdom Come’ which is found on The Porter’s Gate Worship Project Work Songs album and is used by permission by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project. You can learn more about the album and the Worship Project at

Biblical Storytelling 3 Kathy Culmer PGE 28

As I say in the introduction to this episode, an article in The Lancet by Jane Davis makes the case that reading literature out loud has potential for healing and wellness. As a part of The Reader Organization, Davis says, “Our hypothesis is that reading literature aloud with others offers something uniquely valuable.” She goes on to say, It “…facilitates the creation of a series of powerful interplays: between the written text and the aural experience; between hearing the text from outside and processing it within; between one’s own experience and that of the author and characters; between the privacy of personal consciousness and the public experience of group…For by reading aloud in a group it may be that readers experience what we might call interpersonality both with the book, and its author and characters, and with other group members…To see oneself in others, to see others in oneself, this is the rich experience going on within the group and with the book (‘Enjoying and Enduring: groups read aloud for wellbeing,’ by Jane Davis, The Lancet Vol. 373, Issue 9665, February 28, 2009, pp. 714-715.).

Jewish and Christian scripture have always ranked among the worlds greatest literature, and both Jews and Christians have known since the time each community was started that the reading aloud of their scripture was something important and profound in multiple ways, not the least of which was for healing and wellbeing.

What I love about the art of Biblical Storytelling is that, as my guest, Dr. Kathy Culmer says, the telling of scripture adds something more that simply the reading of scripture. It enables, as The Lancet article claims, an interplay and interpersonality for people in which they identify with the characters, the story, and others listening to the story. They are enabled to live the story and see themselves in others and others in themselves.

Of course it takes wonderful storytellers to enable such experiences to happen, and my guest is one such storyteller! If anyone can transport you into the story, it is Dr. Culmer!

Dr. Kathy Hood Culmer is an author, storyteller, speaker and teacher and Christian educator. A graduate of Spelman College, the University of South Florida, and United Theological Seminary, Kathy holds a B.A. in English, an M.A. in English, and a D. Min. in Biblical Storytelling. She has taught on the secondary and college levels in a variety of subject areas ranging from English to Speech Communications, to Broadcast Journalism, to Religious Education. As a professional storyteller, she has been a teller and workshop presenter in churches, schools, libraries, at festivals, retreats, on college campuses, in business settings, and a variety of other venues. Kathy has performed at the Exchange Place at the National Storytelling Festival, Georgia State University, Duke University’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the Texas Storytelling Festival, and was the Featured Storyteller at the Network of Biblical Storytellers 2008 Festival Gathering. She was a part of a 2008 Biblical Storytelling Mission Trip to The Gambia in West Africa. Her life’s work is to provide words of encouragement, truth, and inspiration to others through telling, writing, and speaking. She is the editor of a collection of personal narratives called Yes, Jesus Loves Me: 31 Love Stories and is also author of “Big Wheel Cookies: Two For A Penny,” published in The Rolling Stone and Other Read Aloud Stories and “Feasts a Plenty,” published in Holiday Stories All Year Round.

You can learn more about Dr. Culmer here and from her website:

The music for this episode is from a clip of a song called ‘Father Let Your Kingdom Come’ which is found on The Porter’s Gate Worship Project Work Songs album and is used by permission by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project. You can learn more about the album and the Worship Project at