The Clergy Project
The Clergy Project is a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs. The Clergy Project launched on March 21st, 2011.
Currently, the community's 450 plus members use it to network and discuss what it's like being an unbelieving leader in a religious community. The Clergy Project’s goal is to support members as they move beyond faith. Members freely discuss issues related to their transition from believer to unbeliever including:
- Wrestling with intellectual, ethical, philosophical and theological issues
- Coping with cognitive dissonance
- Addressing feelings of being stuck and fearing the future
- Looking for new careers
- Telling their families
- Sharing useful resources
- Living as a nonbeliever with religious spouses and family
- Using humor to soften the pain
- Finding a way out of the ministry
- Adjusting to life after the ministry
In Their Own Words
More than 200 church leaders across the country now say they no longer believe in God, including a Houston-area pastor who was one of the first to publicly announce his decision. Mike Aus, who was pastor at Theophilus church in Katy, made that announcement during an appearance on a Sunday morning show on MSNBC.
Center For Inquiry - Indianapolis
Teresa MacBain is the executive director for The Clergy Project, a safe haven for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs. The Clergy Project is working to expand its reach by providing tangible assistance to transitioning clergy via a financial grant and reemployment aid. She is now working to raise awareness for the freethought community and, in particular, the fellow clergy persons who are still trapped in the pulpit.
CNN - 'Faces of Faith' with Randi Kaye
Randi Kaye interviews Teresa MacBain on ‘Faces of Faith’ about her transition from minister to atheist.
NPR - by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Teresa MacBain has a secret, one she’s terrified to reveal. “I’m currently an active pastor and I’m also an atheist,” she says. “I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday’s right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that’s totally false.”
Religious News Service by Kimberly Winston
In the span of just a few months, Jerry DeWitt went from a respected pastor with a vibrant congregation to an atheist without a job.
DeWitt, 42, is the first “graduate” of The Clergy Project, a program supported by several atheist organizations that assists pastors who have lost their faith to “come out” as atheists to family, friends, congregations and communities.
MSNBC - Up With Chris Hayes
Pastor Mike Aus joins Up w/ Chris Hayes to share how he sees the world in a new way after breaking away from his beliefs in religious doctrines.
ABC World News - with Diane Sawyer
“I am an atheist,” says “Jack,” a Southern Baptist with more than 20 years in ministry.
“I live out my life as if there is no God,” says “Adam,” who is part of the pastoral staff of a small evangelical church in the Bible Belt.
The Washington Post
What should pastors do if they no longer hold the defining beliefs of their denomination? Do clergy have a moral obligation not to challenge the sincere faith of their parishioners? If this requires them to dissemble from the pulpit, doesn’t this create systematic hypocrisy at the center of religion? What would you want your pastor to do with his or her personal doubts or loss of faith?
Read Preachers who are not Believers , a study by Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University.
Radio Interviews with Clergy Project Members
Freethought Radio Interview
We talk with Teresa MacBain, the Methodist minister who recently made national news (with stories on CNN and NPR) when she came out publicly as an atheist. Teresa is now Acting Director of The Clergy Project.
Partisan Gridlock Interview
Geoff Berg interviews Jerry DeWitt during the Texas Freethought Convention in Houston, Texas, where the new website for The Clergy Project is announced to the public.
Freethought Radio Interview
Did you know there are atheists and agnostics in the pulpit? Freethought Radio will announce the new Clergy Project, promoted by Dawkins, Dennett, Barker and a contingent of former ministers who are now atheists, to help nonbelieving clergy leave the pulpit. We’ll interview “Chris,” a non-theist “in the closet” who is a senior pastor at a Southern evangelical church.
CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio Interview
A recent study from Tufts University tells the story of several pastors who no longer believe in God. Most are still working in churches, still preaching sermons, and still counseling the faithful. They are isolated and, in some cases, unable to confide even in their own families, for fear of what their newfound disbelief may do to their relationships. Listen to one pastor’s story.