FOLLOWING the news earlier this month that Teresa MacBain, pastor at Lake Jackson Methodist Church had resigned her post to join American Atheists comes a report from Australia that another preacher has used an atheist conference to public declare the end of a lengthy involvement with Christianity.
According to Recovering From Religion, Jerry deWitt – now its Executive Director – became a non-believer after more than 25 years of Pentecostal ministry in his home state of Louisiana. His “coming out” cost him his job, and almost hishome, but he could not be happier because he feels he has regained his integrity.
DeWitt said he could not abide the hypocrisy of the pulpit. His story emerged at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne through his friend and fellow former pastor, Dan Barker, founder of an online support group for clergy who have lost their faith.
The international group, including at least one Australian and a former imam, has grown to more than 200 members in its first year. Most have left their jobs, but more than 50 are still active clergy, Mr Barker says. The group, The Clergy Project, is getting up to 40 applications a month, each of which is carefully vetted by volunteer screeners to make sure it is genuine.
It’s a sanctuary, where they feel they can hold on to their sanity.
Funded by the Richard Dawkins Foundation, the support group has several forums, all of which are confined to members.
Barker, founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, left the ministry in 1984 after 19 years as a preacher.
Leading philosopher Daniel Dennett said the mismatch between what the clergy believed and what their parishioners expected them to believe was a source of real anguish.
One told me, if you offered retraining you’d have 10,000 members tomorrow.
Dennett has led a study involving several of the clergy.
Christian leaders know it is true. Hardly anyone denies it is a phenomenon, but no one knows how big it is. They are like gays in the 1950s, but without gaydar.
He said these ministers were caught in ”an insidious trap baited with goodness”, but it caused most of them real suffering.