An online support group for clergy who doubt their faith says that it has generated hundreds of members.
The Clergy Project is a joint effort between the groups American Atheists, Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation. The site serves as a forum where clergy can anonymously discuss their doubts about their faith and their growing atheistic beliefs, as well as to learn how to transition to other employment. Launched in March of 2011, organizers state that they have nearly three hundred members, the majority of which are protestants.
The first graduate of the group, Jerry DeWitt (pictured), is a former “pastor.” He preached for 25 years in Louisiana as a Pentecostal minister.
“You can either be honest that you don’t believe … or you can pretend that you do,” DeWitt told CNN. “Which is what so many people are doing and that is called faith.”
In 2009, DeWitt became the executive director of the organization Recovering from Religion, which touts the motto “Thousands of organizations will help you get INTO religion, but we’re the only one helping you OUT.”
The executive director of The Clergy Project, Teresa McBain, was also formerly involved with various Christian ministries for decades. She recently appeared at an American Atheists convention and addressed the crowd.
“I [thought] was the one on the right track, and you were the ones that were going to burn in hell,” MacBain told the crowd. “And I’m happy to say as I stand before you right now, I’m going to burn with you.”
While most of these type of clergy remain behind the pulpits, some have made their atheistic beliefs public. Recently, a Houston area church dissolved after its “pastor” made a surprise announcement on MSNBC that he had converted to atheism.
“Hardly anyone reads the Bible,” said Mike Aus of the non-denominational Theopholis Church on Up with Chris Hayes. “If they did, the whole thing would be in trouble.”
Aus had been a “pastor” for nearly twenty years. His congregation went into shock.
“Clergy who lose their faith suffer double jeopardy. It’s as though they lose their job and their marriage and their children on the same day,” writes atheist Richard Dawkins on The Clergy Project website.
However, others state that men who do not practice what they preach should not be shepherding the flock anyway.
“[T]hey need to move on,” said Keith Jenkins. “They don’t need to stay with a church and especially use their position to try and take others with them.”
“I would be angry,” a professing Christian woman told KFRC news. “[W]hen I go to church, I expect the word, and I expect the man giving men the word to be in Christ.”
Nonetheless, reports state that many atheistic clergy continue to teach every Sunday, and their members don’t have a clue.