Editorial Assistant

Liz Bierly (she/her) is excited to spend the next year as one of the editorial assistants at Sojourners and is most looking forward to fact-checking and uploading content for the magazine.

An Ithaca College alum, Liz studied journalism, counseling, and politics while copy editing her school paper and writing opinion pieces for her hometown newspaper. She was also deeply involved in a nondenominational ministry group on campus where she was passionate about fostering intentional and inclusive community. She discovered Sojourners after extensively Googling “jobs with ministry, advocacy, and communications” and is thrilled to be working at an organization that allows her to connect these core interests while pursuing justice.

Liz was born and raised in Lancaster, Penn., where she developed a deep appreciation for rolling hills, farm fields, and the outdoors. She most recently fell in love with the Green Mountains while thru hiking the Long Trail in Vermont and looks forward to tackling more outdoor adventures in the future. Outside of the office, you can find her jamming to Spotify, color-coding her planner, running, rock climbing, and reading anything she can get her hands on.

Posts By This Author

‘God Has a Plan’ and Other Bad Things To Say to a Grieving Friend

by Liz Bierly 07-20-2022

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Whatever the cause of the loss, the result is uniquely painful but universally true: We’re left to pick up the pieces amid waves of grief, while those around us struggle to know what to say — a struggle that dates back to biblical times.

Beyond the Story with Céire Kealty

by Liz Bierly 06-29-2022
"My interdisciplinary studies had complexified my interest in clothing and revealed striking insights about consumption, community, and responsibility."
Headshot of Céire Kealty

Graphic by Candace Sanders

IN THE AUGUST issue of Sojourners, Ph.D. candidate and writer Céire Kealty highlights the spiritual significance of the desert in the Christian tradition and why the clothing dump in the Atacama Desert should be a concern for ethicists, environmentalists, and theologians alike. Editorial assistant Liz Bierly spoke with Kealty about her research, the ethics of today’s garment industry, and how readers can take action to combat clothing waste. Read Kealty's full feature.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Liz Bierly, Sojourners: From your undergraduate studies to your ongoing Ph.D. candidacy, you’ve concentrated on religious studies and theology. What drew you toward this path?

Céire Kealty: I was raised in the Catholic Church and attended parochial school [starting in] kindergarten, so I have had a long-standing fascination with religion and theology. It was through my childhood education, the materiality of my faith, and my proximity to the natural world that I came to realize the numinosity cradling the world. I was convinced that Holy Mystery permeates all, especially the most mundane parts of our lives.

This may come as a surprise given my childhood and my C.V., but I had no plans to study academic theology. I began college as a business major! I bought and sold vintage and designer clothes as a part-time gig before college, so business school seemed like a wise place to land.

Luckily, I attended a liberal arts college, where I had to complete humanities courses as part of the core curriculum. I remember the first religion class I took: I learned about Catholic social teaching alongside Sr. Helen Prejean’s anti-death penalty work. I couldn’t get enough of the readings and class discussions, so I sought out more and more religion classes. By the end of my sophomore year, I had declared a second major in religious studies.

Throughout college, I maintained these twin interests in business and religion, with special attention given to the garment industry. I knew I couldn’t abandon these interests and go off to an accounting firm. I had seen how my interdisciplinary studies had complexified my interest in clothing, and revealed striking insights about consumption, community, and responsibility. I wanted the space to “play” with these insights and share my findings with others– and graduate school gave me that space.

Beyond the Story with Jim Rice

by Liz Bierly 06-29-2022
"We have to hold onto the hope and believe that we – followers of Jesus – can make a difference in our world."
Headshot of Jim Rice

Graphic by Candace Sanders

IN THE AUGUST issue of Sojourners, editor Jim Rice raises questions about the ethics of military chaplaincy in his column, “Grain of Salt.” Editorial assistant Liz Bierly spoke with Rice, who joined Sojourners in 1982, about how he became editor of Sojourners, his commitment to environmental activism and peacemaking, and how he lives out the values of the magazine. Read his most recent column.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Liz Bierly: How did you first come to be connected to Sojourners?

Jim Rice: I came to Sojourners through voluntary service. I was in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working at Georgetown University on peace issues. I started working in collaboration with the peace ministry folks at Sojourners specifically around the nuclear weapons freeze campaign. Long story short, I got hired and came to work on the peace ministry here at Sojourners, and I’ve been here ever since.

I became editor of the magazine in summer 2006. One thing I find most compelling is that we may do the same round of things issue after issue, but the content of what we deal with is always different. There’s always new material to learn, issues to learn more about, amazing stories about what people are doing to make a difference in the world, and it’s very inspiring to be part of that month after month.

Beyond the Art with Blane Asrat

by Liz Bierly 06-08-2022
"I just want to be an artist sometimes."
Side profile of Blane Asrat

Credit: Candace Sanders

For the July issue of Sojourners, freelance artist Blane Asrat illustrated portrait painter Kehinde Wiley. She spoke with editorial assistant Liz Bierly about why she’s a portrait painter, the physical connection to her work, and what she hopes viewers will take away from her art. You can find her illustration of Wiley in the July issue and see more of her work at artblane.work.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Liz Bierly, Sojourners: On your website, you say that you “seek to explore the sensitivity of everyday human experiences while making the world a more empathetic place.” What does that look like?

Blane Asrat: I am primarily a portrait painter because I am interested in human emotions. Growing up, I was always told that I was too sensitive and too reactionary. All teenagers kind of go through that phase of being extra emotional, but I feel like for me, it started way too early and never really ended. I’ve always just been a sensitive person, and I’ve been in these situations where I am in conversations or social settings where no one really knows how to deal with that. It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward because we don’t know how to be emotional with each other.

And so, my artwork is all pretty internally motivated. It’s usually about what I’m feeling, or how my friends are feeling, or what I’m feeling other people are feeling. My goal with my artwork is really just to answer the question: What would this feeling look like if I could see it? And I have this hope that if more people could have time to pause and really ask themselves those questions, it will just lead to a world where people are more comfortable with their emotions.

Beyond the Story with Peter Chin

by Liz Bierly 06-08-2022
"It’s a calling that I’m continuing to be faithful to."
A headshot of Peter Chin

Credit: Candace Sanders

In the July issue of Sojourners, Peter Chin of Rainier Avenue Church in Seattle discusses why so many pastors are stepping away from ministry in the wake of the pandemic, and how this phenomenon could fundamentally change the landscape of the American Christian faith. Editorial assistant Liz Bierly spoke with Chin about the current pressures on pastors, God’s loving-kindness, and how we courageously move forward. Read Chin’s full feature, “Here Is the Church, Here Is the Steeple – Where Is the Pastor?” in the July issue.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Liz Bierly, Sojourners: What drew you to pastoral ministry?

Peter Chin: I think pastoral ministry was definitely a call out of the blue. I had been preparing for medical school all throughout my adolescence and was taking the MCAT and doing all the pre-med requirements, and then just felt a very stark and sudden calling to ministry, which was very unexpected for me and for my family. But it did feel like a calling, and it remains that way. I don’t often feel fitted for it, to be honest, but I do feel like it’s a calling that I’m continuing to be faithful to.

Our Right to Organize Is in Danger

by Liz Bierly 06-07-2022
'Boycott' is a call to mobilize against destructive legislation before it becomes — or supersedes — precedent.

Boycott, directed by Julia Bacha / Just Vision

FROM THE BOSTON Tea Party to the Montgomery bus boycott, expressing patriotic dissent by withdrawing support from goods, services, people, or structures has long been an integral part of our American democracy.

So, when Alan Leveritt (publisher of the Arkansas Times newspaper), Mikkel Jordahl (an Arizona attorney who provides legal services to incarcerated people), and Bahia Amawi (a Texas public school speech pathologist) were asked in separate incidents to certify that they would not “engage in boycotts of Israel” as a condition of doing business with or being employed by their states, they were troubled. Leveritt, Jordahl, and Amawi each decided to defend their First Amendment rights and push back on legislative efforts that have the potential to outlaw peaceful political boycotts related to a variety of issues.

Their stories are central to Just Vision’s new documentary, Boycott, which exposes the wave of anti-boycott legislation and executive actions in 33 states since 2015. These laws require Americans to give up their right to support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, a campaign formally begun in 2005 in Palestinian civil society to urge the international community to leverage economic influence to encourage the Israeli government to address its human rights record. (Some Israeli officials and others claim that BDS efforts challenge Israel’s right to exist and are inherently antisemitic.)

Beyond the Story With Iris M. Crawford

by Liz Bierly 05-17-2022

Iris M. Crawford. Illustration by Candace Sanders

In the June issue of Sojourners, climate writer and journalist Iris M. Crawford identifies how some Indigenous nations are finding hope and solidarity through a collaborative solar energy initiative. She spoke with editorial assistant Liz Bierly about Afrofuturism, movement journalism, and what energizes her own work. Read Crawford's story, "Harnessing the Sun to Become Sovereign Again." 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity .

Liz Bierly, Sojourners: You got your start in science journalism because of your experience in grassroots climate justice organizing. How do you integrate that [experience] into your writing now?

Iris Crawford: I grew up in New York City, so I experienced Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. When I was an undergraduate student, I got the opportunity to write about climate justice and how it particularly affects Black and brown communities. Pulling from those experiences, being first-generation Guyanese, remembering Hurricane Sandy, and then writing that first story back in my undergrad years solidified that this is something that I kind of enjoy. That led me to my first organizing roles with the NAACP, and then I really got to understand how climate inequality and working toward racial and social justice all sort of intertwine. Through that, I got to learn and meet and build relationships with really great activists and people doing a lot of incredible things that are working to make our world better and more equitable, and I wanted to be able to tell those stories.

Beyond the Story With Bekah McNeel

by Liz Bierly 05-16-2022

Bekah McNeel. Illustration by Candace Sanders

In the June issue of Sojourners, freelance journalist Bekah McNeel reports on the ongoing battle over sex education in schools—and the role of Christians on both sides of the skirmish. While some Christians are leading the culture-war fight, McNeel highlights that there are others who are working for a comprehensive approach that goes beyond silence or shame. Editorial assistant Liz Bierly spoke with McNeel about her reporting process, her upcoming book, and what is keeping her hopeful. Read McNeel's story, “The Battle Over Sex Ed."

This interview has been edited for length and clarity .

Liz Bierly, Sojourners: I imagine there are times, especially with the topics you are covering (equity, race, abortion, education) where you talk to someone and all of a sudden, you’re like, “Wow, this story is not what I thought it was.”

Bekah McNeel: So often. And those are my favorite stories. I  love working with editors who I can call and be like, “Hey, this is bigger than we thought,” or “There’s a nuance here that we really want to highlight.” Especially as you earn trust with a source, a lot of times in the first conversation or the beginning of a conversation, they’re rightfully suspicious of you. If they tell you a piece of their truth and you’re like, “Anyway but back to what I want to talk about,” they’re going to be like, "Alright, you’re not interested.”

But if you have an open hand with the story, people will take you—sources will take you—to a place that the narrative and the discourse hasn’t gone yet. And that’s what I love. I’m a professional journalist—if the editor says stick to the plan, we stick to the plan. But I think the better stories are when we don’t.

‘When Things Get Difficult, Will You Stay at the Table?’

by Liz Bierly 01-31-2022
John Noltner’s ‘Portraits of Peace’ propels us to do the next hard thing.

Portraits of Peace: Searching for Hope in a Divided America, by John Noltner / Broadleaf Books

MORE THAN A decade ago, photographer John Noltner began crisscrossing the United States to conduct interviews focused on this question: What does peace mean to you? The result was a multiyear, multimedia arts project called “A Peace of My Mind.”

Four exhibits, three books, and tens of thousands of miles later, the pursuit of peace has only become more important as the country trembles on ominous fault lines: Noltner put together his most recent book of interviews and photographs, Portraits of Peace: Searching for Hope in a Divided America, several months after the 2017 Charlottesville neo-Nazi riot, made final edits amid the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and fallout from the murder of George Floyd, and sent the book to the publisher just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.

Portraits of Peace weaves together unique narratives while identifying ways readers can begin dismantling biases that lead to division. As Noltner writes in a benediction of sorts, “May these stories be a beacon and a compass to guide our journey” toward “encountering difference, navigating conflict, and finding a better path forward.”