In this episode, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with Bart Campolo, the Humanist Chaplain at the University of Southern California who recently left Christianity and became a “preacher of reason.” Bart talks about his journey and offers advice on how secular groups can use some of the “secret sauce” used by many religious groups to build communities.
After receiving his BA in Religious Studies from Brown University, Bart served as youth pastor of the Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis before returning to his hometown of Philadelphia to found Mission Year, which recruits Christian young adults to live and work among the poor in urban neighborhoods across the country. During his fifteen years in that role, Bart became a popular writer and speaker in evangelical Christian circles, focusing on interpersonal relationships, community development, and social justice. In 2005 he returned to street-level ministry as leader of the Walnut Hills Fellowship, a missional, interfaith community in inner-city Cincinnati, and also began consulting with a variety of non-profit organizations. Most recently, he worked with the Abraham Path Initiative and the Telos Group, educating American faith leaders about the causes of and potential remedies for the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Over the course of his ministry career, Bart gradually transitioned from Christianity to secular humanism. As the first Humanist Chaplain at USC, he is committed to developing a community that offers regular inspiration, pastoral care, supportive fellowship, and service opportunities to students, faculty, staff members, local families, and individuals exploring or actively pursuing secular goodness as a way of life. Bart and his wife, artist Marty Thorpe Campolo, have three adult children.