Clergy Project Panel: Atheists in the Pulpit

A session at American Humanist Association 74th Annual Conference

  • Michael Thomas Tower
  • John Compere

Saturday 9th May, 2015

9:00am to 10:15am (MST)

This panel presentation/discussion will tell the story of the four-year-old Clergy Project, an online support community for current and former members of the clergy who deconverted from their faith while serving in ministry. We will present some of the issues involved in making this difficult career transition, including how to deal with the reactions of friends and family, finding a new career, some of the reasons for finding the former faith no longer tenable, and coping with the many problems this experience entails. The panel consists of four Clergy Project members who serve in leadership positions.


Gretta Vosper

Named one More Magazine’s Most Compelling Women in Canada, Gretta Vosper is the author of the national bestseller, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important that What We Believe, and Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief, a reflection on prayer stripped of supernatural powers. Having twice narrowly avoided heresy trials, Gretta continues to lead West Hill United, a congregation of The United Church of Canada located in Scarborough, Ontario and featured in the documentary Godless. Non-exclusive inspirational liturgical and music resources written by Gretta and her partner, Scott Kearns, are used internationally. Gretta is a Director on the board of The Clergy Project, is the founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity and serves as a Governor of Centennial College. You can visit her at www.grettavosper.ca

John Compere

John S. Compere, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and Professional Speaker, now retired. The son of a Southern Baptist minister, he was ordained at age 18, served rural churches as pastor while earning his degree from Mississippi College, and served as Youth Minister at the Wake Forest Baptist Church while earning his divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He then served two churches as senior minister until age 32, when he resigned his pastorate to return to graduate school in psychology. Upon receiving his doctorate at the University of North Carolina, he taught personality theory, abnormal psychology, and human sexuality at Wake Forest University and Medical School, had a private clinical practice, and from consulting at the Center For Creative Leadership began speaking professionally at conferences and conventions on “Psychology You Can USE”. His book TOWARDS THE LIGHT: A Fifth-Generation Baptist Minister’s Journey from Religion to Reason details how he left the ministry in order to not become “publicly phony and privately cynical” and the reasons religious doctrine is, to him, untenable.

Terry Plank

Terry Plank is President of the Clergy Project Board of Directors and a Board member of the Humanist Society He earned an M.Div at Fuller Theological Seminary and an M.S in Counseling at San Francisco State University. He served in 5 churches as a pastor before becoming a Humanist. Terry was a Marriage Family Therapist & is now serving as a Humanist Celebrant and has a consulting business in Search Marketing. Contact Terry at www.weddingsbythesea.com, www.semconsultation.com, or terry@coastside.net

Michael Thomas Tower

Michael Thomas Tower was raised “strict” Southern Baptist in Texas. Soon after moving to California at age 18, he pastored a small church in the San Joaquin Valley. Later, after graduation from Southern Baptist schools, he served as minister of education and music for three years before disillusionment “with a lot of crap” convinced him to abandon that profession and he built a career in insurance administration.

After 20 years of marriage he came out as gay, but still tried to hold on to a revised religion. He finally disassociated himself with any religious organization and allowed belief to “seep away,” as he describes it. “One day I simply realized that it was all gone — no reliance on anything supernatural. I was free!!”

Over the years, which included a second career in print graphics, he nurtured his interest in theatre as actor and director and, finally, writing for the stage. His plays have been produced in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, etc. Dodging Eden will premiere in August at Broadway Theatre in San Diego County.

He joined The Clergy Project in 2012 and now serves as a screener of applicants and on the Board of Directors.

Married last year on the tenth anniversary of their being together, he and his husband make their home on a few rural acres in the mountains of eastern San Diego County.

About the speakers

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Michael Thomas Tower

former pastor now with The Clergy Project

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Gretta Vosper

Irritating the church into the 21st century. bio from Twitter

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John Compere

Clinical Psychologist and Professional Speaker, now retired

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Terry Plank

Humanist - Humanist Society Celebrant & Board Member [http://Weddingsbythesea.com] - SEO /SM Consultant - The Clergy Project Board President bio from Twitter

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Teresa Macbain

Executive Director- Humanists of Florida, Humanist, Freethinker, Bibliophile, Musician, Wife, Mom, Friend...

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Neil Carter

Teacher, Tutor, Personal Trainer, Swimmer. Father of four. Writer. And an atheist living in the Bible Belt. Life is not boring. bio from Twitter

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Time 9:00am10:15am MST

Date Sat 9th May 2015

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