Editor’s Note: Here is another profile of a Clergy Project member by Conatus News reporter Scott Douglas Jacobsen. Note that he cleverly noted and investigated an odd word that the former minister used in his Twitter profile.
Jacobsen: You published the story of your personal transition on The Clergy Project website on October 25, 2014. You described how you were in seminary, but became more involved in the Joseph Campbell orientation towards theology and mythological narratives and themes. You said you had been in ministry for 14 ½ years when you left it. What have been some notable activities in the last 2-3 years for you?
Gibbs: In the last few years, I’ve become more involved with The Clergy Project. I serve on its board and am the chair of the communications committee. I also am a screener. Screeners interview applicants who desire to become participants. Also, I’m working on a book whose working title is Recovering Humanity: Finding our hearts without losing our heads.
Those leaving a main source of communal and social activities tend to need a replacement. What have been some important initiatives for re-creating a social world for people transitioning out of pastoral duties, where you directly participate or indirectly advocate?
I agree that community involvement is often one of the main things that those who have left the church miss, and I (at least theoretically) support the idea of building secular communities. I have participated some with a local group of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, but didn’t really click with it so much. I participate in several virtual communities, most notably The Clergy Project, where I have found much connection. I’m an introvert, so I tend to prefer intimate settings over more public venues. I have lived in the same city for over twenty years now and have friends, many of whom are atheists, who more than meet most of my social needs.
“Humanuality” is a word I made up. It removes the root of the word spirituality, spirit-, and replaces it with human-. The word is intended to fill the void left when use of the word spirituality is abandoned. Not everything associated with spirituality is supernaturally spooky, but there are enough problems with the word to move away from it. However, humanuality is more of a shift in focus than a rejection of spirituality. It is more of an affirmation than a negation. The insertion of human- into the word is more significant than the removal of spirit-.
Any new insights into the post-ministerial life?
Yes, it is less about filling a void than it is about establishing a new equilibrium and finding a new identity. That can take a long time.
What is the single greatest professional difficulty you experienced in serving the church and then leaving the church?
Being a pastor is a role that roots itself deeply in the psyche and is thoroughly embedded in a fairly insular community. Leaving such a role can be very disorienting. And not being able to really use most of the social network I had built up made the career transition difficult. In addition, a lot of people are suspicious of former ministers. They either don’t like religion or they think something must be wrong with me for leaving.
What was your single greatest personal, emotional difficulty in this process?
I was left with a sense of failure for getting into ministry the first place (which felt like a mistake in retrospect), for how impaired I was as a minister due to a lot of inner turmoil, and for the years I spent pursuing a dead end rather than more promising avenue.
Are the sacrifices different for men pastors than for women pastors?
Women in ministry are more marginalized than men. I’m not sure what that means in terms of the sacrifices they make. I think men tend to have their identities more linked to how successful they are in their careers, so a loss of a career can be harder for men.
Thank you for your time.
>>>Photo Credits: http://www.conatusnews.com/scott-jacobsen.html