Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, can’t understand this whole “Clergy Project” thing.
In many of the stories we’ve heard from former pastors — Teresa MacBain, Jerry DeWitt, Dan Barker — they talk about how they started having doubts but stayed in the pulpit because they thought it was just a phase.
When they explored their doubts even more, they realized they no longer believed in God. But what could they do? They had families to take care of, jobs that didn’t exactly transfer easily to other areas, and no easy way to let their congregations and social circles know about their new way of thinking. It took a long time and a lot of courage before they could come clean to their churches.
Mohler doesn’t care about any of that, though. He thinks this is just a con game:
Why didn’t they just resign? Most shockingly, some openly spoke of losing their salaries as the main concern. So much for intellectual honesty.
The Clergy Project is a magnet for charlatans and cowards who, by their own admission, openly lie to their congregations, hide behind beliefs they do not hold, make common cause with atheists, and still retain their positions and salaries. Is this how atheists and secularists groups intend to further their cause? They are getting publicity from the media to be sure, but do they think it will win them friends?
It’s easy to say all that when you’ve never struggled with the concept of reality.
For the pastors who start questioning and losing their faith, it’s not just a switch you can turn off one day. It’s a long journey. And taking that final leap of unfaith doesn’t come easily. You have to be perfectly sure you’re doing what’s right for you because there’s no turning back after you do it.
In the interim, you may still preach… but your sermons become less about the Bible and more about being a good person. You may still earn a salary, but the pastors who complete the Clergy Project will tell you how guilty they feel about that — they’re doing all they can to find a new line of work that will allow them to escape the prison they’re in. They may say things they don’t wholeheartedly believe in, but it’s because they’ve believed it for so long that even they can’t believe they’re not buying into the myth anymore.
And they’re making friends along the way.
Last night, I asked Jerry DeWitt if he agreed with Mohler’s statement. This is what he told me:
Not only has the Clergy Project publicity brought me a flood of support and a sense of community, it has created some of the deepest relationships I’ve ever known. Relationships unconditionally based on true acceptance. Thanks to the Clergy Project, I’m loved for me, not for who I’m supposed to be.
Your move, Mohler.