Laney Program in Moral Leadership

Created in 2014, the Laney Program in Moral Leadership honors the legacy of Emory President Emeritus James T. Laney—who served as Candler’s dean from 1969 to 1977 and led the university from 1977 to 1993—and his wife, Berta. Jim Laney believed in providing service to the world by engaging in the traditions, values, virtues, and vision of the community. Berta Laney provided dedicated service to others, creative initiative in numerous educational programs, and active engagement for justice and peace.

The Laney Program in Moral Leadership promotes the development of moral leaders, those who work with integrity for the common good. The program’s components include: coursework that focuses on the principles and practices of moral leadership, workshops and other opportunities to develop practical skills for public leadership, international travel seminars to interact with moral leaders in diverse contexts, public lectures by distinguished guest speakers, and visits with agents of change and civic leaders within metro Atlanta. The program has taken groups of students to South Korea, Haiti, and South Africa for travel seminars, and has sponsored such relevant lecture series as “Faith and Politics in the 21st Century.”

The program supports an endowed faculty chair at Candler School of Theology to provide focused instruction and mentoring for Candler students and students throughout the Emory University community. Robert M. Franklin Jr. is the inaugural holder of the James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership.


Program coursework focuses on the principles and practices of moral leadership by examining a variety of sources and genres, from classic texts to current literature, theater and film.

ES/LA560. Principles and Practices of Moral Leadership
ES610. Religion, Ethics, and Public Intellectuals
ES661. Christianity and Politics
ES697. Moral Leadership in International Perspective
ES628. Religion, Ethics, and Civil Rights


As part of students’ preparation for leadership roles, the program hosts a two-day media training led by communications professionals from Auburn Media. Workshops on “Media and Messaging” and “Social Media Strategy” help students develop the ability to communicate effectively from the public pulpit of the media.

Biannually, the Laney Program in Moral Leadership offers international travel seminars, through which students have an opportunity to interact with moral leaders in a particular context. These trips are an opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the dynamics of leadership in a particular national context through engagement with leaders working in a wide range of sectors and institutions — including religious and educational institutions, electoral politics and civil society, business and economic sectors, and arts and culture.


Korean Peninsula, 2015: On this ten-day trip, students met and worshipped with families of victims of the Sewol Ferry disaster, visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and took part in a demonstration alongside Korea’s World War II-era “comfort women.” They also attended Methodist Theological University’s International Conference for the 277th Anniversary of John Wesley’s Conversion, featuring the university’s President Jong Chun Park 82T 86G.

Haiti, 2017: “Moral Leadership in International Context” led students on an eight-day journey to Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien, where they met with local leaders in ministry, government, NGOs, education, and the arts. The seminar culminated in an August-term course, during which students submitted final papers exploring how Americans can support efforts to change the narratives about Haiti in the global community, and policies and programs that empower Haitians in sustainable ways.

South Africa, 2018: This two-week travel seminar focused on the role of moral leadership in South Africa from the anti-apartheid era to the present. Participants explored the transnational processes by which South African anti-apartheid activists and leaders emerged and increasingly came to be seen as global moral leaders — Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Albert Luthuli, and others. While in South Africa, the group met with leaders from a wide range of sectors who helped to usher South Africa through its post-apartheid transition, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The group also met with a diverse group of leaders who helped us to explre the significant social, political, and religious challenges facing all sectors of the South African society today.

To learn more about the travel seminars, email Letitia Campbell at

The program invites exceptional moral leaders to provide public lectures open to the Emory community and beyond. You can find recordings of events on Candler’s Vimeo page.


Keynote address for “Talking Politics During Turbulent Times” conference by Robert M. Franklin: “Moral Leadership in Turbulent Times” September 25, 2020. Watch the lecture.

Two-part series on “1968: Lessons from Fifty Years of Change,” October 2018:
Lecture by Angela Davis: “1968: Lessons from Fifty Years of Change,” October 10, 2018. Watch the Angela Davis lecture.
Panel discussion on “Social Protest and Social Justice: A Conversation Across Generations,” October 17, 2018:
Rose Scott, award-winning radio journalist and host of “Closer Look” on Atlanta’s National Public Radio station WABE, moderator.
Featured panelists:
Maria Gitin, national development consultant and diversity trainer and author of This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight (University of Alabama Press, 2014)
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, co-executive director of the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee, which serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), which develops grassroots leaders and organizations within Georgia’s Latino immigrant communities in order to defend and advance Latinos’ civil and human rights.
Johnny Parham, retired executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund (TMSF), a national nonprofit that awards four-year merit scholarships to students attending Historically Black Public Colleges and Universities.
Watch the “Social Protest and Social Justice” panel discussion.

Four-part series on “Moral Injury, Moral Repair and Moral Leadership,” October 2017:
Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, chief of chaplains of the United States Navy, Guest Preacher, October 12, 2017. Watch the Margaret Grun Kibben sermon.
Soldiers of Conscience film screening and discussion, October 12, 2017.
Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, senior vice president for Moral Injury Programs at Volunteers of America, “The Moral Injuries of a Country: War’s Legacies and the Agonies of Now” Keynote, October 13,2017. Watch the Rita Nakashima Brock lecture.
David E. Smith, retired colonel and chaplain in the U.S. Army and the coordinator of the Soul Care Initiative at Just Peace, “Soul Care: A Journey Toward Healing the Wounded Soul” Workshop, October 14, 2017. Watch the David E. Smith workshop video.
Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock and Michael Yandell, Army veteran and doctoral student in Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion, “Collective Recovery from Moral Injury: Is It Possible?” closing panel, October 14, 2017. Watch the “Moral Injury, Moral Repair and Moral Leadership” closing panel.

Shane Claiborne, speaker, activist, and author, “Executing Grace in Georgia: A Faithful Discussion About the Death Penalty” lecture and panel discussions alongside a panel of Georgians affected personally by the death penalty, in Atlanta, Athens, and Macon, February 3 and 4, 2017.
Panelists included Kayla Gissendaner, daughter of Kelly Gissendaner (executed by the state of Georgia in September 2015); Jameca McGhee, daughter of Raymond Burgess (executed in September 2012); and Mercer Law School professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore, a graduate of Candler School of Theology and Emory Law School who has worked on a number of death penalty cases.
Watch the “Executing Grace in Georgia” lecture and panel discussion.

“Faith and Politics in the 21st Century” lecture series, Fall 2016:
Robert P. Jones, Founder and CEO, Public Religion Research Institute, “The End of White Christian America and Its Implications for the 2016 Election,” September 7, 2016. Watch the Robert P. Jones lecture.
Marla Frederick, Professor of African and African American Studies and the Study of Religion, Harvard University, “Can Conservative Religion Save Us? Thoughts on the Media, Faith and Democracy,” September 14, 2016.
Obery M. Hendricks Jr., Senior Fellow, The Opportunity Agenda, and Visiting Scholar, Columbia University Department of Religion and Institute for Research in African American Studies, “What Would Jesus Do? Developing a Political Economy of Justice,” September 21, 2016. Watch the Obery M. Hendricks Jr. lecture.
Julianne Malveaux
, Founder and President, Economic Education, and Professor Emerita, Bennett College, “Faith and Economic Justice,” September 28, 2016. Watch the Julianne Malveaux lecture.
Timothy P. Jackson, Professor of Christian Ethics, Candler School of Theology, “Abraham Lincoln and Political Agape: Lessons for Our Own Context,” October 5, 2016. Watch the Timothy P. Jackson lecture.
Michael Wear, Founder, Public Square Strategies, and former staff for faith-based initiatives in the Obama administration, “The Politics We Need: Faith, the Presidential Election and the Choices Ahead,” October 12, 2016. Watch the Michael Wear lecture.
Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and former editorial page editor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Diversity, Demographics and the Age of Donald Trump,” November 9, 2016. Watch the Cynthia Tucker Haynes lecture.

Attallah Shabazz, ambassador-at-large for Belize and eldest daughter of civil rights leader Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, “Malcolm X 50 Years Later: The Legacy of Moral Leadership,” October 29, 2015.

Former President of the United States Jimmy Carter, Lecture, February 12, 2015. Watch the Jimmy Carter lecture.

Eyal Press, journalist and author, “Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times,” October 9, 2014.


September 2019:
“Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair”
Xochitl Bervera, director of the Racial Justice Action Center, interviewed Danielle Sered about her book, Until We Reckon.
Watch the “Until We Reckon” conversation.

“Writing is the Way I Fight”: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of James H. Cone
Robert M. Franklin speaks with several of Cone’s students and colleagues, including Dr. Jacquelyn Grant, Dr. Elizabeth Bounds, Dr. Dianne Stewart, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, and Dr. Dwayne Meadows.
Watch the discussion.

“You Deserve the Truth: Change the Stories that Shaped Your World and Build a World-Changing Life”
Author, TV host, and social critic Erica Williams Simon was interviewed by Melinda Weekes-Laidlow about her book “You Deserve the Truth.”
Watch the “You Deserve the Truth” conversation.

Decatur Book Festival Events, 2017 and 2018 (video only available for 2018 sessions)
August 2017:
“The End of White Christian America”
Robert P. Jones and AJC reporter Rosalind Bentley, in Conversation at the Decatur Book Festival.

August 2018:
“Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement”
Laney Professor of Moral Leadership Robert M. Franklin Jr. in conversation with Janet Dewart Bell, author of Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement (New Press, 2018).
Watch the “Lighting the Fires of Freedom” conversation.

“Raising Kids in White Supremacist America”
Discussion involving three authors:  Ijeoma Oluo is the author of So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal, 2018), Jennifer Harvey is the author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America (Abingdon, 2018), and Beverly Daniel Tatum president emerita of Spellman College and author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” And Other Conversations About Race (Hachette, 1997, 2017).
Watch the “Raising Kids in White Supremacist America” panel discussion.

Dr. Greg Ellison, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Candler School of Theology, presented his book Fearless Dialogues, September 11, 2018. Watch the Greg Ellison interview.


Fall 2016 — November
In November, the program hosted a workshop on “Inclusive Leadership in Refugee Resettlement” in conjunction with the Annual Global Conference of the International Leadership Association (ILA). The event was planned jointly with leadership scholars from the Copenhagen Business School and the Lancaster University Management School who are working with European governments to address the social tensions accompanying the dramatic influx of refugees into Europe in recent years, and with refugee leaders in the Atlanta area. This event began on Tuesday evening with a film screening and panel discussion about “The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Atlanta and Beyond.” The following day’s workshop brought together local municipal and civic leaders, religious leaders, as well as scholars and seminary students. The morning session took place at the Clarkston Community Center, where participants met with Clarkston Mayor Edward “Ted” Terry and other local leaders for a discussion of “Refugee Leaders in a Changing Clarkston.”

Local leaders and international partners involved in panels, speaking, or leadership during this conference:
Satyam Barakoti, Owner, Durga Consulting
Leanne Rubenstein, Executive Director, Compassionate Atlanta
Mayor Edward “Ted” Terry, Clarkston, Georgia
Awaz Jabari, Partnership for Community Action
Heval Mohamed Kelli, MD, Katz foundation Fellow in Preventive Cardiology at Emory University, and Founder of the Young Physicians Initiative
Hussein Mohamed, Director, Sagal Radio Services
Omar Shekhey, Executive Director, Somali American Community Center
Skander M’Zzah, MD, Fulbright Scholar ’15, and MPH ’17, Rollins School of Public Health
Melanie Johnson, Lutheran Services of Georgia, Program Manager for Volunteer, Congregation and Community Engagement, Refugee and Immigration Services
Naji Haddad, Sr. Dir., International Strategy for Cox Automotive
Mark Olson, Volunteer Coordinator, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Marietta, GA
Eric Guthey, Associate Professor, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Steadman Harrison, III, Leadership Solutions Associate, Center for Creative Leadership
Stephen Kempster, Professor, Lancaster University Management School, UK
Iyabo Onipede, Lead Animator, Fearless Dialogues

Spring 2017 — April
On April 5, 2017, the Laney Moral Leadership program hosted a film screening of the new documentary film, “An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story,” at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta. A panel discussion about Reinhold Niebuhr’s life, legacy, and meaning in today’s world followed the screening. Panelists included Martin Doblmeier, the film’s director; Elizabeth M. Bounds, associate professor of Christian ethics at Candler; Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta; and Shaun Casey, senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and former director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. Mark Douglas, professor of Christian ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary, moderated the discussion. The event reached an in-person audience of about 100 people, and more than 3,000 via an online livestream of the panel discussion.

Fall 2018 — October
For Such a Time as This: Ministry at the Midterms (and Beyond)
This 90-minute seminar, offered online and in-person, focused on pastoral and prophetic leadership around the political intensity of the midterm elections. Designed for busy clergy, seminarians, and religious leaders, the training focused on what’s legal (for clergy and congregations), what’s moral (the Christian imperative to advocate for justice in public and political life), and what’s possible in the final days leading up to the 2018 midterms. We will explore the power of faithful witness in pulpit and in the press, the importance of mobilizing congregations, and the role of pastoral care in helping to foster spiritual resilience and prevent burn-out in the final push toward the midterms. We will also look ahead to the work that comes next, in the weeks and months following this harsh and divided political season.

Presenters Include:
Rev. Ernest A. Brooks, III, President and CEO, Academy of Preachers
Rev. Billy Michael Honor, Jr., Faith Organizer, New Georgia Project
Dr. Renée Hill, Faculty, Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle
Moderator, Letitia Campbell, Asst. Professor in the Practice of Ethics and Society, and Senior Program Coordinator, Laney Moral Leadership Program, Candler School of Theology

Watch the webinar.