By Cherilyn Williams

The room was chilly but the spirit warm when President Jackie Fuller called the annual meeting of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) to order on Thursday, April 11.

Executive Director Shirley Struchen reported that RCC has 420 members at last count and 57 were registered for this convention event. The Associated Church Press is meeting with us and have approximately 47 in attendance.

Treasurer Kurt Gwartney was clear that the group’s revenue streams are limited and in decline. Some of the faith groups that have been most supportive are losing communicators. However, Vice President Eric Shafer challenged members to give a $90 gift to celebrate the RCC’s 90th birthday. A total of $720 was collected during the meeting. (You can still contribute on the RCC Donate page.)

In another link to the birthday number, the membership team headed up by Fuller and former president, Casey Tom, announced a special rate of $90 for new members. In addition, the membership team is specifically targeting Jewish, Muslim, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and Sikh faith communities to invite membership.

Another new initiative beginning this spring is the invitation of Oklahoma at-large members to meet with the Dallas-Ft. Worth chapter.

Joan Gaylord reported that the communications committee has made significant progress on the new website with two kinds of pages built out as well as easy access to many forms.

The professional development committee with Susan Gottshalland Gwartney reported work updating the resource book for reprinting and digital distribution in 2020. Gotschall also mentioned Nadine Monn is working on potential training resources and tools. The group also would like to implement a “get help” platform of some kind for RCC members to be able to connect on specific subjects.

Ryan Koch reported that the program categories for DeRose-Hinkhouse and Wilbur awards may need adjustment to reflect the many digital products. Online submissions for the DeRose-Hinkhouse awards were a success for reviewers though some payment glitches need addressing.

Among those receiving special thanks were Brian Fesler for his work on the registration system and Tasha Sargent for sponsorship solicitation for the convention. Struchen also singled out Andy Rawls for his tireless work producing the Wilbur Awards over the years.

Reports were received from the local chapters in New York City, Washington, DC, Dallas, TX and Nashville, TN. New York meetings featured some practical topics such as media engagement and what communicators can address via podcasts. The Washington chapter has conference capability and has welcomed media professionals as well as a round table on the effects of the 2018 mid-term election. Dallas is looking forward to welcoming the participation of Oklahoma communicators. Nashville used a survey to guide their programming and the effort seems to be paying off.

In addition to approving minutes and hearing reports, remembrances were shared of members who have passed away. Included were: Peggyann Hutchison who strongly supported scholarships; Don Collier, a longtime member; Jere Wallack, deeply and vocally involved in the work of the council; Gomer R. Lesch who pioneered satellite uplink meetings of the council; and Wilmer C. Fields who had been a member since 1959.

Thanks are extended to those leaving the Board of Governors, which include: Casey Tom, Eron Henry and Skyler Nimmons.

The slate of members of the 2019 Board of Governors includes:

  • President: Jacqueline Fuller, executive producer and host of Interfaith Connections (TV) Washington, DC
  • Vice President: The Rev. Eric C. Shafer, senior pastor, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, CA
  • Secretary: Danny Hall, director of public affairs, Soka Gakkai International-USA, Washington, DC
  • Treasurer: Kurt Gwartney, senior director of seminary relations, Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, OK
  • Past President: Deb Christian, writer, Dallas, TX

Class of 2021

  • Patrick Horn, Vedanta Society, Pacific Coast, CA (filling unexpired term),

Class of 2022

  • Gail Strange, marketing communication manager, Presbyterian Church USA, Louisville, KY
  • Nadine Monn, employee development and engagement lead, The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church USA, Philadelphia, PA
  • Cherilyn Williams, APR, assistant vice president for marketing and communications, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Indianapolis, IN

Continuing Members

Class of 2021

  • Rev. Brian Fesler, senior pastor and director of special affairs, Church of Scientology and Celebrity Centre, Nashville, TN
  • Cherilyn Crowe, director of communications, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Washington, DC
  • Joan Gaylord, independent writer, New York City

Class of 2020

  • Douglas Cannon, APR, professor of practice, Department of Communications, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA
  • Susan Gottshall, associate executive director, communication, American Baptist Home Mission Societies and Judson Press, King of Prussia, PA
  • Ryan John Koch, director of the New York office of Public and International Affairs, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, New York City
  • Tasha Sargent, assistant director of marketing and communications, Garret Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL


Cherilyn Williams, APR, is assistant vice president for marketing and communications, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Indianapolis, IN.

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