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2021 Christian Unity Gathering Outstanding Leadership Awards Recipients

J. Irwin Miller Award for Excellence in Ecumenical Leadership – Dr. Diana Eck

The J. Irwin Miller Award for Excellence in Ecumenical Leadership is given to a layperson who has demonstrated a commitment to church unity, and who, by living out this commitment through action in the world, has been a witness to justice and other values affirmed by our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Dr. Diana L. Eck

Dr. Diana L. Eck is a native of Montana and has taught at Harvard since 1976. She is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University. She serves in the Departments of Religion and South Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and is also a member of Faculty of Divinity. For twenty years, Professor Eck was Faculty Dean of Lowell House, one of Harvard’s twelve undergraduate residential Houses.

She received her B.A from Smith College (1967) in Religion, her M.A. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1968) in South Asian History, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University (1976) in the Comparative Study of Religion. 

Dr. Eck’s work on India includes the books  India: A Sacred Geography (Random House, Inc. 2012), Banaras, City of Light (Knopf 1982) and Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India (Anima 1981; Columbia University Press 1996).

Dr. Eck’s book, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (Beacon Press, 1993), studies the question of religious difference in the context of Christian theology and the comparative study of religion. It addresses issues of Christian faith in a world of many faiths and, more broadly, the issues of religious diversity that challenge people of every faith. Encountering God won the 1994 Melcher Book Award of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the 1995 Louisville Grawemeyer Book Award in Religion, given for work that reflects a significant breakthrough in our understanding of religion.  Her book,  A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation (Harper SanFrancisco 2001) addresses the challenges for the United States of the more complex religious landscape of the post-1965 period of renewed immigration. 

In 1996, Dr. Eck was appointed to a State Department Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, a twenty-member commission charged with advising the Secretary of State on enhancing and protecting religious freedom in the overall context of human rights. In 1998, Eck received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities for her work on American religious pluralism. In 2002, she received the American Academy of Religion Martin Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. In 2003, she received the Governor’s Humanities Award from the Montana Council for the Humanities in her home state of Montana. In 2005-06 Dr. Eck served as President of the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, she delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh. 

President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership –   Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner

The President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership is given as a way to reward, promote, and encourage faithful, risk-taking leadership among faith leaders, and particularly among younger faith leaders, in our midst.

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner

Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner is CEO and co-founder of Skinner Leadership Institute and is a trusted advisor, public policy strategist, faith and community leader, author, lecturer, educator, executive coach, and mentor. She has made an indelible imprint in American public policy, government, diversity, and community relations. She and her late husband, Tom Skinner, founded the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Prayer Breakfast that annually attracts over 3000 leaders across the nation. She regularly works with interfaith leaders on issues like voting rights, healthcare, and criminal justice reform. 

 Widely known as a committed prayer warrior, Rev. Dr. Williams-Skinner regularly prays for and with Congressional leaders and sends daily scripture to many of them. She is co-founder of a millennial leadership program – the Masters Series for Distinguished Leaders that equips millennial leaders to move to the next levels of  their lives and careers, while addressing the needs of the disadvantaged. The program is now in its 13th year and has graduated over 180 young leaders. 

Gwynne Guibord Award for Excellence in Interreligious Leadership – Sister Simone Campbell

Gwynne Guibord Award for Excellence in Interreligious Leadership is awarded to a leader who has worked closely with leaders of many faiths and traditions to explore and uphold the experience and presence of the holy body.

Sister Simone Campbell

Sister Simone Campbell served as Executive Director of NETWORK from 2004 to 2021. She is a religious leader, attorney, and poet with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change. She has lobbied on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare. She is a noted speaker and educator on these public policy issues. 

During the 2010 congressional debate about healthcare reform, she wrote the famous “nuns’ letter” supporting the reform bill and got 59 leaders of Catholic Sisters to sign on. This action was cited by many as critically important in passing the Affordable Care Act. She was thanked by President Obama and invited to the ceremony celebrating its being signed into law. 

She has led six cross-country “Nuns on the Bus” trips, focused on economic justice, comprehensive immigration reform, and voter turnout. 

Sister Simone has often been featured in the national and international media, including appearances on 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

She has received numerous awards, including a “Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award” and the “Defender of Democracy Award” from the international Parliamentarians for Global Action. In addition, she has been the keynote or featured speaker at numerous large gatherings, including the 2012 Democratic National Convention. 

She is also the author of “A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community,” published in April 2014 by HarperCollins.