Wednesday afternoon, I locked the door to my Uptown apartment, and slid down the elevator on my way to a quick shift at the steakhouse. On my way out the front door, I stopped to check my mailbox, and that’s the moment I saw it. Right there waiting for me in my little mail slot was my Amazon preordered copy of Catherine Dunphy’s From Apostle to Apostate: The Story of the Clergy Project (Pitchstone, 2015).
All the way to the steakhouse I was wishing I wasn’t on my way to the steakhouse. All I wanted to do was dive into Dunphy’s book, which serves as her own personal deconversion story and leads into a chronicling of the earliest days of The Clergy Project and her work as the Acting Executive Director through the spring of 2014. Myself a TCP Board Member and the current Communications Chair, I was familiar with the general outline of those early days that she recounts (Much of it is here on the TCP website), but I was certainly excited to gain the full picture through Dunphy’s eyes.
And the word excited might be a bit of an understatement. Anticipation was full.
So the moment I finished my shift customer-servicing guests at the steakhouse, I was home on my couch and devouring every word. I finished early the next day, and loved each moment of the journey. A quick and effortless read, Apostle to Apostate comes in at just under 150 pages. But don’t let its brevity or ease mislead you. There’s a lot packed in this little book. Positioned through the eyes of her Roman Catholic upbringing, Dunphy shares from her heart about the passion-flowing faith that brought her to seminary, intent on a life of service, before ultimately moving beyond that faith in an embrace of something greater. She shares gripping, tear-inducing stories such as one attending Bible camp as a young adolescent in the wake of a local sex abuse scandal. But she also discourses with feminist and liberationist theologies and even waxes philosophy at times. Seriously, there’s a lot here.
And wrapped within all of this, yes, we readers also find ourselves led to The Clergy Project. Just as discussion was beginning to form between the project’s founders in January 2011, Dunphy had reached out to one of them, Dr. Daniel Dennett, and then found herself dialoguing with another, qualitative researcher Linda LaScola. Before you know it, Dunphy was invited to join 51 other current and former religious professionals for the project’s March 2011 launch, soon rising to leadership over the next year. It’s always interesting to see facts and events play out, to see the details fill a picture in. But it’s Dunphy’s vivid storytelling and detailed accounting that really paints this picture so visibly. And enjoyably…
And the TCP of today looks very much like how she leaves it. We continue to see Online Community membership increasing even as our voice grows far beyond the virtual walls of our anonymous forums. Unbelieving pastors, rabbis, and missionaries who used to feel like staying closeted was their only option have found their way out into the light. Monks and imams are on their way as well. We think of the likes of Jerry DeWitt and Mike Aus, of Teresa MacBain and Neil Carter.
More than ever before, we are indebted to our founders Dan Barker, Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Linda LaScola, and we enjoy lifting the banner of each of their ongoing contributions to the world of reason and secularism. Apostle to Apostate stands testimony to the very heartbeat that launched The Clergy Project just four years ago and to all that it is ever-becoming.
Catherine Dunphy now works as Operations Manager and Contributor at Rational Doubt, Linda LaScola’s Patheos blog, which is dedicated to airing “The Voices of The Clergy Project.” You can purchase your copy of From Apostle to Apostate using the link below. Though official publication is set for July 21, 2015, Amazon is already releasing it’s preorders, and if you make your purchase using the link provided here, a portion of Amazon’s profits will go toward supporting The Clergy Project. So what other reason do you need? Now is the time to purchase! :)