Minister Admits Overstating Her Credentials
Published: September 26, 2013
A Methodist minister who resigned her pulpit last year after deciding that she was no longer a believer, and who was recently hired by a humanist group based at Harvard to help build congregations of nonbelievers throughout the country, has acknowledged fabricating aspects of her educational background.
The former minister, Teresa MacBain, whose crisis of faith was described in the On Religion column last Saturday, claimed she had earned a master of divinity degree from Duke University.
She had also listed that degree in the résumé she submitted to the Humanist Community at Harvard in the course of being hired as director of its Humanist Community Project. In addition, she had made references to the degree in previous public statements, some of which were reported online.
The Humanist Community at Harvard, which is an independent nonprofit organization, dismissed Ms. MacBain from her position on Thursday. In a statement sent by e-mail to The New York Times, Greg M. Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard and Ms. MacBain’s employer, wrote:
“Clearly we should have verified Teresa’s M.Div. degree rather than relying upon her résumé and the frequent, public references to it as she worked for and with several Freethought organizations.”
The e-mail went to say, “All of us at H.C.H. are disturbed and perplexed by this situation.”
After Saturday’s article appeared, the executive director of communications for Duke Divinity School, Audrey P. Ward, contacted The Times to state that the school had no record of Ms. MacBain’s having taken graduate school classes or earning a master’s degree.
Ms. Ward wrote in a subsequent e-mail that divinity school records showed that Ms. MacBain attended a Summer Course of Study School in 2010. She took the first-year course of a five-year program for licensed pastors under appointment and working ministers that does not lead to a Duke degree.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Ms. MacBain acknowledged that the information from Duke was correct. She offered no further explanation as to why she had falsified her educational credentials.