Meet Your 2022 Speakers
Father Shannon T.L. Kearns
Priest, Author, & Playwright at www.shannontlkearns.com
"Who Am I Now? Finding Your Footing After You've Left The Paved Path"
A former fundamentalist who became the first openly transgender man ordained to the Old Catholic priesthood, Shannon TL Kearns believes in the transformative power of story. As an ordained priest, a playwright, a theologian, and a writer, all of his work revolves around making meaning through story. He is the co-founder of QueerTheology.com. His first book, In the Margins: A Transgender Man’s Journey With Scripture just released from Eerdmans books. He started and led the Uprising Theatre Company for six years.
Shannon is a recipient of the Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellowship in 20/21, and he was a Lambda Literary Fellow for 2019 and a Finnovation Fellow for 2019/2020. He is a sought-after speaker on transgender issues and religion and a skilled facilitator of various workshops.
His work with Brian G. Murphy at QueerTheology.com has reached more than a million people worldwide through videos, articles, online courses, and community.
Shannon’s plays include Body+Blood, in a stand of dying trees, Line of Sight, Twisted Deaths, The Resistance of My Skin, and Who Has Eyes To See. Shannon’s television pilots include The Family Unit, Transformed, and Freedom, Kansas. He and his plays have been: a finalist for the Equity Library Theatre of Chicago’s Reading Series, 2019 TransLab, and American Stages 2019 New Play Festival, semi-finalist for the New Works series at Garry Marshall Theatre. He was a semi-finalist for SPACE on Ryder farm in 2020.
R. Scott Okamoto
Writer and Podcaster at rscottokamoto.com
"A Sense of Self: The Role of Race and Gender in Decolonization"
Scott is a 4th generation Japanese American (Yonsei) who grew up in an evangelical home in Southern California. Near the end of his deconstruction from faith, he took an adjunct position teaching English at Azusa Pacific University. While there, he was horrified to learn that even the academic arm of the evangelical world was filled with racism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQIA bigotry, and questionable academic views and practices. During this time in his early 30's, he dove into exploration of his identity as an Asian American progressive in movements that would become associated with diversity, equity, and inclusion today.
Author, Professor, Spiritual Director, Counselor at JimPalmerAuthor.com
"Overcoming Toxic Religious Shame with Radical Self-Acceptance"
Jim Palmer is a critically acclaimed author of six books. He is adjunct professor of Ethics, Philosophy and Comparative Religion. Jim is the Founder and President of The Center for Non-Religious Spirituality. He is a Spiritual Director, religious trauma counselor, founder of the Nashville Humanist Association, and Chaplain with the American Humanist Association. In addition to his books, Jim contributes articles and columns in major publications and journals.
Jim studied journalism at East Tennessee State University and received his Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Divinity School in Chicago. For over 20 years Jim has been counseling and supporting people in recovering from toxic religion, and cultivating a meaningful non-religious spirituality. As an individual counselor, support group facilitator, conference speaker and retreat leader, he guides people in their journey of healing from spiritual abuse and toxic religious indoctrination. A former megachurch pastor, Jim has partnered with The Clergy Project to work with pastors who are in the process of deconstructing their beliefs.
Jim traveled abroad with an international human rights organization, investigating cases of forced child prostitution and child slave labor. He loves animals and enjoys photography and abstract painting. Jim is an ultra-endurance athlete and competes in triathlons and ultramarathons.
Podcaster and Research Writer of the Unchurchable Podcast at www.unchurchablepodcast.com
"Religious Trauma and the Nervous System: Deconstruction, God, and Pavlov's Dog.
Kit Kennedy is a blogger and podcaster from the world's most liveable city - Melbourne, Australia. She grew up as the eldest daughter of evangelical pastors, was homeschooled, and fully versed in purity culture, dominionism, Quiverfull (lite), complementarianism, along with a mixed bag of terrible theology. She thought she found her happily ever after when she was set up with "the one" for her life - a gay conversion therapy success story. Of course, you know there's a plot twist looming there.
Having nailed the plot twist, escaped the hometown, navigated separation, and relocation and proudly waving the rainbow flag while the newly minted gay bestie helped get conversion practices banned in the State of Victoria (Huzzah), Kit thought a pandemic was a great time to take the job of editorial and author coaching lead at a publishing house while completing a postgraduate degree in psychology while raising two kids in a new town far, far away from the villains of the story and continuing her efforts to burn down the patriarchy and toxic religion. We can have it all, right? (*nods in nervous breakdown?)
When she's not doing all of this, she attempts stand up comedy, photography for fun, and takes naps like it's an Olympic sport.
Kit is passionate about the intersection of neuroscience, religion and life after high-demand groups. Why? Because deconstruction may just be the next move of the artist formerly known as "God". And empowering survivors to understand how trauma behaves is one key to removing the self-judgement that can cascade into so many rabbit-holes that survivors of church know all too well.
Rev. Kristian A. Smith
Cultural Curator & Community Builder at kristianasmith.com
"Honoring Love Where We Find It: Challenging the Way We Engage With Other Belief Systems"
Rev. Kristian A. Smith is a Cultural Curator & Community Builder. A cultural curator is one who specializes in gathering and interpreting cultural content. In other words, they connect the dots. It's not enough to just call Kristian a clothier, or a pastor, or a stylist, or a theologian, or a podcaster, or a consultant, or a speaker, or a spiritual director, or a leader. While people have called on Kristian to serve in all of these roles, none of them fully defines what he does.
As a Cultural Curator and community builder Kristian helps his clients and congregants develop how they see themselves on the inside and how others see them externally. He understands that God looks at your heart and humans look at your outer appearance. His mission is to help you maximize both. Kristian has served in many areas of ministry including worship leader, conference planner and facilitator, teacher, youth minister, pastor & founder of The Faith Community and leader of the Holy Smokes: Cigars & Spirituality Movement.
He is also the lead style consultant with P-Squared Custom Clothiers where he develops the professional images of his male and female clients. Kristian is a fashion aficionado, a foodie and a cigar enthusiast who enjoys lifting weights (but hates cardio). He is married to his beautiful wife, Pamela Merritt.
Social Advocate and Speaker www.instagram.com/DeconstructingColors
Carina is a social advocate and speaker who aims to promote cultural education and community service as a means to diminish apathy and division. She is chair of Decontructing Colors, a non-profit organization as the vehicle for these goals. She deconstructed 22 years of Christian indoctrination 11 years ago and encourages others to deconstruct in an organic way by finding joy in life by just living authentically.
Artist at NakedPastor.com
"Flip it Like This: Art as Transformative"
David Hayward was ordained to the ministry in 1987 and left in 2010. He’s been running the nakedpastor blog since 2005 where he posts his provocative cartoons and articles. He launched an online community called The Lasting Supper, a place for people to change without being judged or instructed, and where they can learn to become spiritually independent. He’s been cartooning, making art, writing, speaking, and coaching around his core passions: personal authentic freedom, the power to change our own lives, and the creative spirit to make our world a better place. He and his wife live in eastern Canada. They have three adult children.
Pastor and Author at EmpowerForLife.org
Amber Picota served as a pastor for 10+ years, and is a published author. She is known by many online as Irreverent Reverend. Amber was raised in a "holiness pentecostal" faith background, and her own deconstruction was abrupt & sometimes painful. She began to study & devour scripture to truly seek what God had to say about key doctrines she grew up believing. The more she studied, the more she questioned.
Amber is currently on an extended sabbatical from pastoring, however she has created somewhat of an online community of people who have wrestled with their own faith. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram as Amber Picota & Ezer Rising. She is committed to healing loudly, and is a voice for PTSD & trauma recovery. Amber is an avid bookworm, a runner, preacher, writer, and class clown (still). She wears her heart on her sleeve, and loves to laugh.
Cynthia Vacca Davis
Author and Professor at CynthiaVaccaDavis.com
Cynthia Vacca Davis teaches narrative nonfiction and journalism at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia and is author of Intersexion: A Story of Faith, Identity and Authenticity published by Lake Drive Books. She holds an MAT in Secondary English Education from Christopher Newport and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Old Dominion University. She often leads nonfiction workshops at the Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, VA, one of the biggest community writing centers of its kind in the country.
Cynthia has written hundreds of feature stories and profiles for the Daily Press and other news outlets in Hampton Roads, Virginia, a handful of pieces for literary journals, and two independently published YA novels, The Chrysalis and Drink the Rain.
When she’s not home in coastal VA with her husband, pets and students she can often be found French Quarter of New Orleans in search of jazz and parades. A connoisseur of beverages, she loves to share a cup of just about anything around a table full of friends.
Author, Spiritual Abuse Advocate, Consultant RebekahDrumsta.com
For over two decades, Rebekah has held a global presence through devoting her efforts to various nonprofits and organizations. Her background is diverse, including educational and mental health content development, international relations, and public speaking.
Currently, Rebekah is the Director of Public Relations for NPE Friends Fellowship, an international non-profit organization which assists individuals, and their families, who have received unexpected results from an at-home DNA test.
She is also a consultant, writer, and advocate at RebekahDrumsta.com with the mission of supporting survivors of spiritual abuse and religious trauma by providing resources to educate and equip not only survivors, but the public as well. Sharing her own story to help others who have had similar life experiences is at the heart of Rebekah’s purpose. She is a board member of The Vashti Initiative, a non-profit with the goal to empower and assist those fleeing and transitioning out of religious and spiritual abuse.
Rebekah’s hobbies include binge watching riveting shows, thrifting with her family, international travel, and dabbling in all things creative and artistic. Rebekah and her family reside in Texas.
Rebekah holds undergraduate and advanced degrees in: Urban Ministry and Family Crisis, Counseling, and Religious Education and is also a Certified Professional Life Coach. She has made appearances on and consulted with sources including BBC, NBC and ABC, and a variety of other platforms such as podcasts and film projects. Rebekah’s book, When Family Hurts: 30 Days to Finding Healing and Clarity, was released in December of 2021.
Coach at www.messyiswonderful.net
A few years back I began to wonder about how some of the things I'd come to believe were actually lining up with my loved experiences.....and this began my journey into the "wilderness".
I'm an attorney by training, and a lifelong learner, so I set out to investigate my beliefs....to figure out what I actually believe about life, love, faith, church, worship, and people.
In addition to my job as an attorney, I'm trained as a coach, speaker and trainer. I specialize in helping people find the wonderful in messy situations, especially dealing with negotiations interpersonal relations, and conversations around tough topics. I've developed a framework for this work that I call the MESSY Method.
Author and Advocate at KevinMNye.com
Kevin is an author and advocate for people experiencing homelessness. He lives with this family in Minneapolis. His first book was recently released, titled "Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness."
Blogger at FaithfullyRadicalChristian.substack.com
Naiomi Gonzalez (She/They) is a professional nerd. They have a BA in Religious Studies from Moravian College (Now Moravian University), an M.Div from Brite Divinity School, an MA in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from George Mason University, and an MA in History from Texas Christian University.
They are Puerto Rican, queer, and nonbinarish. They have a passion for helping other Christians, especially those questioning fundamentalist Christian theology, expand their understanding of God. They affirm a radical God that rejects homophobia, transphobia, sexism, imperialism, and exploitation of all types.
Author & Podcaster of the Faith & Feminism Podcast
Meghan Tschanz is reclaiming feminism for Christianity through founding the faith and feminism podcast, her book Women Rising, and beginning seminary for her MDiv this winter. She’s passionate about dismantling harmful systems within Christianity and advocating for justice and equity according to the teachings of Christ. She and her husband are soon to welcome their first child in Athens, GA.
Therapist & Soul Liberation Guide at Thrive.FlorenceOkwusogu.com
Florence Okwusogu is a Freedom Fighter and Life Liberator to those tired of hiding away and living inside a box due to fear. No stranger to trauma during her formative years, Florence suffered silently from childhood depression, panic and anxiety and a serious case of being deeply flawed and unlovable. This led to a 16-year toxic relationship, developing a rare autoimmune condition and experiencing spiritual abuse and religious trauma within Christianity.
Her liberation and healing began to unfold when she turned inwards and began her personal growth and inner healing journey. Retraining as a hypnotherapist, adding that to her background in psychology and counselling and becoming a mum to a beautiful, feisty little girl that reminded her of herself, were pivotal turning points that gave her the courage to question, deconstruct and begin to reconstruct her faith and identity. She draws on her gifts, experience and knowledge to help others become who they are beyond the pain and conditioning and supports them on the journey of awakening and returning to self.
From a faith perspective, she sees herself as a bit of a mystic and wise woman challenging Biblical constructs whilst also being able to intuitively draw from the Bible in a way that enables her to integrate it with ideas and beliefs from outside of Christianity that feel right for her journey. She is currently loving exploring the Sacred Feminine and Deep Healing via Contemplative Practice and Present-Moment Living.
Queer Ex Evangelical @EilyRae on Instagram
Eily is a queer ex-evangelical looking to connect with those on the same journey. They attended a private Christian college after growing up in several churches. All of it leading them to their queerness and learning a lot on the way. Eily resides in Indiana with their partner Ashley and dog Jack.
Writer and Podcaster at ThePursuingLife.com
Meghan Crozier is co-host of Thereafter Podcast, a progressive Christian writer, and an educator. She writes about faith deconstruction, religion, spirituality, justice, mental health, feminism, and more. You can find her website at www.thepursuinglife.com or follow her on all social media @thepursuinglife.
Mary Katherine Backstrom
Author at HolyHotMess.com
Featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show sharing her "Holiday Magic" viral video, Mary Katherine Backstrom is a viral sensation whose writing focuses on reaching families in the trenches of new parenthood. Her musings of hope, humor, and spiritual inspiration have been featured on Today Show, Washington Post, Good Morning America, and more.
Born and raised in Alabama, MK believes in good manners and the power of kind words. She is married to her college sweetheart, Ian, and they currently reside in the Sunshine State with their two children, Ben and Holland
Conversation Architect at MattKendziera.com
Matt Kendziera is a full-time speaker, podcaster, writer, and creator. He is the host of the chasing Goodness podcast, engaging authors, activists, and influencers on questions that most people run from. He’s also a collaborator with several other incredible organizations such as Fierce Freedom, Rachel’s Challenge, Ashoka, Soularize, Celtic Way and others. Matt currently lives in rural Wisconsin with the love of his life, Suzie and his two teenage children.
Coach, Consultant, & Culture Care Director at Lark's Song
After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and Psychology with a Concentration in Race Gender and Ethnicity at Bowling Green State University, Torri began her career in social and community service providing direct client services with a special focus on women and youth.
In addition to working directly with individuals and families, Torri has worked to provide education, coaching and technical assistance to individuals and organizations on developing healthy relationships and workplace culture. If you spend any time with Torri, it becomes very clear that her vision and heart are rooted in transformative community healing and wellness. As a community organizer, she passionately works to build connectivity and amplify voices that are often underrepresented while prioritizing the intersectional experiences of human wholeness.
As a Black woman, feminist (womanist) and strong advocate for other humans pushed to the margins by the “-isms, -phobias and patriarchy”, Torri’s experience with deconstruction began before “deconstruction” was a widely used term. Growing up in a Baptist church, Torri’s faith experience has included decades of unlearning and learning into a spirituality that centers on Love and Dignity.
Torri currently serves as coach and consultant; the Culture Care Director at Lark's Song, an educational non-profit; Co-Founder of Grant County Pride; Coalition Lead of the Marion Community Remembrance Project; Founder of Moving Marion Forward. When Torri is not serving the community at large, you can find her in her role as the Coordinator of Chaos: parenting an adult daughter, three bonus sons and a set of rambunctious, slightly feral, six year old twins.
Esther Joy Goetz
Podcast Hostess and Fellow Sojourner at estherjoygoetz.com
Esther is a co-host for the Deconstructing Mamas podcast, a freelance writer, speaker and faith coach. Having been raised as a missionary kid in war-torn Ethiopia, and then raising her own children in suburban New Jersey, she has a fierce passion to restore hope and healing to the sacred space where our hearts and our homes meet, including faith, marriage and motherhood.
Author, pastor, and foster parent at jonathanpuddle.com
Jonathan Puddle is a contemplative, Jesus-following mystic who helps people find God at work in their inner lives. He is the author of the award-winning, You Are Enough: Learning to Love Yourself the Way God Loves You and Mornings with God: Daily Bible Devotional for Men. Having traveled the world and lived in many nations, he writes from a culturally rich and spiritually inclusive framework. Before becoming a writer, Jonathan spent ten years in charity leadership, and he remains a visionary thinker with a strategic mind. A husband, father, and foster parent, Jonathan and his family reside in Guelph, Canada, where they pastor families and children at a local community church. Find his podcast and more at jonathanpuddle.com.
Meet Your Host
Angela J Herrington MA, LSCC
Faith Deconstruction Coach at AngelaJHerrington.com
Angela is a faith deconstruction coach who helps people break free from toxic religious culture & empowers them to recover from #churchhurt. She has led online ministries for a decade, and enjoys working with clients 1:1, in groups, and is a dynamic conference speaker.
She's a firstborn, Enneagram 8, Gen Xer who loves to question everything. She holds a BA from Indiana Wesleyan and a Masters in Leadership from Wesley Seminary. Her graduate research project focused on leadership development and opportunities for Gen X women in the US church
Angela and her unique online ministry are featured in Lyz Lenz's 2019 book God Land: Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America. She has also been published in Hope for Women and HOPE is Now magazines.
Her first book, Deconstruct Your Faith Without Losing Yourself, Will be published by Eerdman’s in the fall of 2023.
She's a Lark’s Song Certified Life Coach who reaches hundreds of thousands of women in 40+ countries each month on Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog
Angela is a also wife, mom to 6, and a proud resident of Marion, Indiana with her family when they’re not traveling the US in their RV.