The Closing of Exodus International: Open Forum

Through the weekend, I am going to post reaction to the closing of Exodus International in this space. Consider it an open forum to discuss the closing, the new ministry, positive and negative reactions, etc. Feel free to post links to articles on the topic.

I am going to start things off with a video of Anderson Cooper discussing Exodus with Lisa Ling.

I was unable to watch the Lisa Ling special on OWN last night but those who did can weigh in. For those who didn’t see it, OWN has several clips available.

More coverage:

The Daily Beast provides some analysis, quoting me in the process.

This Religion News Service article is being cited often.

New York Times

UPDATE: NARTH issued a statement about Exodus.

This line is highly questionable: ?The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a multi-disciplinary professional and scientific organization that is not affiliated with religious ministries in any way.”

NARTH’s lifeblood has always been religious advocates (most of their membership) and religious clinicians. They aren’t the arm of a church but they have clearly marched in step with the conservative wings of several groups (Jewish, LDS, Christian) over the years. Given how many people know what NARTH is about, it is astounding to me that they continue to make that claim.


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  • Bernie

    Warren, I got this from Jerry Reiter who is in the documentary. It’s an open letter to Chambers from Pastor John Shore. It is powerful and moving, moreover, his castigation of Chambers and the rebranding at this time is quite damning.

    • Michael Bussee

      John Shore expresses powerfully what many in the Survivor community have been feeling about Alan Chambers’ apology.

  • Bernie

    Warren, I got this from Jerry Reiter who is in the documentary. It’s an open letter to Chambers from Pastor John Shore. It is powerful and moving, moreover, his castigation of Chambers and the rebranding at this time is quite damning.

  • Norm

    I had a few reactions to seeing Alan Chambers’s meeting with the ex-gay survivors in the Lisa Ling documentary:

    * It was a bit annoying to see him cling to his wife at the meeting when apparently no else brought their spouses. While I understand he was nervous and outnumbered, it appeared he was re-affirming his ‘cured’ status to the failed ex-gays.

    * It was jarring to see him pull-out a WRITTEN APOLOGY after he heard so many unscripted, heartbreaking, emotional testimonies from the survivors. I’m not sure what the point of meeting the ex-gay survivors was if his reaction was predetermined.

    * The written apology he read to the ex-gay survivors was obviously not well received and it didn’t sound much different than this week’s apology statement. It’s disappointing he didn’t use the months since the taping to make the apology more meaningful.

    * I think part of what makes him sound so insincere is that he still speaking as a leader of an organization. His statements are so nuanced and vague with halting disclaimers that he just doesn’t sound sincere even when I believe he is trying to be authentic. Instead of immediately trying to create a new identity with a new organization, he needs to just be a private citizen and find his own voice. Only then will his apology really sound sincere.

    • Jamie

      Leslie Chambers has been involved in her husband’s organization for years-she has spoken and written quite candidly on their relationship. I think it was appropriate for her to attend.

      In addition, the show was edited to fit the 1-hour time frame; the meeting went on considerably longer than the 20 or so minutes devoted to it on the show. I suspect there was continued dialogue, although Alan said his intent was primarily to listen.

      Also, it’s my understanding the show was taped very recently, not months ago, although he did not announce the shutting down of Exodus as part of the broadcast.

      • Michael Bussee

        The actual meeting between Alan Chambers and the group of Survivors was over 3 hours. Much of it — very emotionally wrenching stuff — unfortunately had to be left on the cutting room floor. The show was taped a couple of months before Alan issued his public apology and announced that Exodus was closing shop. None of us knew he intended to shut down Exodus, although we certainly wanted him to.

  • Bernie – For clarification, I am pretty sure John is not a pastor but he is really good at sarcasm.

    John’s approach to those who do not agree with him theologically is to belittle them. He is damning for sure, but I don’t think he is helpful with that post. The fact is that there are many different beliefs about sexuality and we have to get along together. I much prefer Anderson Cooper’s stance (in the video clip above) to John Shore’s.

    • Ford

      Dr. Throckmorton,

      I find it impossible to believe that, being who you are and doing what you do, you have not seen first hand the emotional harm caused by the conservative theology regarding homosexuality. You may, due to your personal understandings and beliefs, feel that the harm is justified in the context of God’s design for humanity and/or His demands of obedience. But you simply cant deny the very real emotional harm the conservative sexual ethic has caused for so many Christians who are gay growing up in a faith community that subscribes to it. If the church is truly interested in loving people who are gay better, it must change it’s theology. It must believe differently.

      John Shore has been a fierce advocate FOR people who are gay (and others who have suffered harm at the hands of the church). That has been the rudder that steers his ship on this topic – not intolerance as you suggest. His response to these events are more than appropriate, it provides a critical perspective. He calls attention to the fact that the man who is apologizing for the harm done done by exodus in one breath is advocating a theological position that continues to cause the harm he has just acknowledged.

      • Richard Willmer

        I think Warren’s point is that Shore’s STYLE is not always helpful.

        • Richard and Ford. – John is fierce for sure. And Richard is right, his style works fine for those who believe as he does, but he shoots first and asks questions later (I know, I have experienced it).

          I will again refer you to the video clip of Anderson Cooper who has a more live and let live approach. This is a great big world where people believe all kinds of things. I do not believe sarcasm and ridicule are the way to handle those differences so we can all live together in peace.

          • Richard Willmer

            There can be a place for a ‘sharp’ style (I am not averse to employing that approach!), but the moments for such a use must be carefully judged.

            I would agree with what I think Warren is saying here: if someone is ‘in process’, it is not the best time to ‘fire salvos’.

          • Jarred H

            This is actually primarily in reply to Richard Willmer’s comment posted Jun 21 at 5:56pm. Unfortunately, i can’t reply to that comment directly as it exceeds the maximum nesting level.

            I’m a bit troubled by the “firing salvos” framing because too often — including in discussions about Alan’s apology — even honest and level-headed criticism has been dismissed as “firing salvos.” I myself have recently been accused of “yelling” at someone simply because I objected to someone basically insisting that I should not only forgive Alan, but should now consider him an ally. For a single apology. When it’s clear that while he promises not to “stand in my way” of getting rights, it’s pretty clear that he has no intention of advocating for my rights (something I consider pretty essential for anyone who wants to claim to be my ally).

            So yeah, I have deep misgivings about John Shore’s response in this situation, I’m feeling just a bit too much pressure that we’re all supposed to pretend everything’s okay (it’s not) and that Alan’s apology was pitch perfect (it wasn’t) to accept such violent metaphors like “firing salvos” without challenging them.

    • John Shore

      Warren: If you have any example of a time where I’ve “shot first and asked questions later,” point me toward it. Because as far as I know, I’ve never written anything in a post that I didn’t support with evidence. If there’s one thing I learned in my years of working as a journalist, it’s that you ALWAYS ask questions–that is, you learn what you’re talking about–before you “fire.” Otherwise, of course, you risk playing the fool.

      And as to your personally having “experienced” this uninformed “sarcasm and ridicule” of mine? I’ve written about you once, at the link below. Let’s let your readers decide just how unfairly I treated you there.

      • John – Thanks for providing the link. Probably, shoot first and ask questions later was a poor way to describe what I had in mind, so for that I am sorry.

        Yes, let readers, if they care to, decide.

        • Warren

          John – I just re-read your open letter to Chambers, and the shoot first expression might be close. You make assumptions about Alan’s motives and the timing of various events for which you don’t have evidence. My impression is that you have your mind made up about the guy and what is going on there.

          Skepticism is warranted when public leaders make big changes; I get that. However, as Richard noted above, it is the manner of expressing your skepticism that is troubling to me. In my case, you told me that I was asking people to lie by passing out Golden Rule Pledge cards. In Alan’s case, you wrote:

          “And if that’s the case, then of course you’re not really apologizing at all. Then you’re no different from the guy saying, “I apologize for being the leader of a group of white-hooded KKK guys who burned a cross on your lawn. That was wrong. You niggers still need to go, of course. But we’re gonna stop with the hoods and the cross burnings. People just don’t get behind that the way they used to. So we’re gonna regroup, lose the name ‘KKK,’ and come up with a more acceptable way of promoting what we believe. Isn’t that great?!””

          First, the use of the n-word and reference to the KKK is offensive and way out of line. Second, your analogy doesn’t describe what is happening. It does manage to inflame and is “fierce” but is not constructive.

          John, we have to live together, people who are side A and side B. Demonizing each other is not going to get us anywhere.

          • ken

            “You make assumptions about Alan’s motives and the timing of various events for which you don’t have evidence.”

            I disagree with this characterization of John Shore’s post. He is (in a satirical manner) questioning Alan’s motives, not claiming he knows the truth about them. Certainly, the tone of the post makes it pretty clear what he thinks about Alan’s motives and actions. However, he does provide evidence about why he distrusts Alan’s intentions, based on what Alan has (and hasn’t) said recently. Doesn’t mean he is correct, but I see nothing wrong with John questioning Alan’s words/actions.

  • William Birch

    Just that video clip was difficult for me to watch, so I can only imagine what finally seeing the entire program is going to be like. The pain of that young man’s suicidal thought (and near experience) was so very incarnate, if you will. That man put flesh and bone on the mental and emotional torment associated with reparative drive theory. I teared up. I thank God through Christ this day for bringing me past the place of feeling shame for being gay.

    • Michael Bussee

      The program had a huge impact on many people. In the past 24 hours, I have been deluged with emails and messages from other Survivors who tell me it triggered a flood of emotions in them. They finally felt their voices are being heard — after decades of the “ex-gay” industry insisting that reparative therapy was effective and harmless. They know better. Alan Chambers knows better. Now the world knows better.

  • Karen

    I appreciate his apology and I think it took courage to take part in the confrontation from survivors. He would not have done that a couple of years ago. But, forgiveness doesn’t equal trust. I feel wary about him continuing leadership in this field. I just don’t feel his gifts are suitable to this work and so I suspect he will continue to demonstrate conflicting statements and behavior in his new ministry effort. He struggles too much to be honest with himself on a lot levels.

    I also have mixed feelings about the shutting down of Exodus. On the one hand, it is symbolically meaningful in closing a chapter on ex-gay history. It sends a strong message. On the other hand, its closing will likely be a boon for the new ultra-conservative movement RHN. So we’ll probably still have “Exodus” only in more potent form–problem not solved.

    I also think of all the people who found much needed fellowship at Exodus conferences, especially those who came from rural areas and it was one of the only places they could experience that. Its left a vacuum–a vacuum RHN will likely fill.

    I wish Exodus could have undergone a conversion under different leadership. I just don’t think Chambers is cut out for this work. But, there would have had to be an entire replacement of the staff and board to make the kind of radical changes needed–and who would those people have been? Exodus is too embroiled in its past perhaps for that to have worked–to have had a new leadership with truly new thinking that moved away from some of the ex-gay fallacies.

    Chambers is still an “ex-gay” at heart and I suspect this will come out in his language here and there. Also, he still has some hesitancy in his apology such as when he says he is apologizing on behalf of the organization and that he wasn’t around for much of what happened. But, I actually think Chambers is personally responsible for taking Exodus in a detrimental direction when he took over. Bob Davies didn’t have the political agendas that Chambers did. Davies didn’t call non-Christian celebrities “evil” in newsletters. Of note, none of his apology included remorse for his political agitation against LGBT rights or against anti-bullying measures. That seems like a HUGE omission.

    Exodus could have been different today under a different leader if the reigns had not been passed to Chambers. Then again, maybe someone else would not have shut down Exodus, and maybe that was what was needed if the movement could not get past old, harmful ideas about homosexuality.

  • Jerry Reiter

    Exodus was the giant of ex-gay ministries. Now that the giant has fallen, the little pigmy cannibals like RHN are coming forward. They know they can’t sell an actual change message, so what do they have left? Great big signs saying, “Welcome back to the closet.”

  • Mary

    This has been a difficult process for all involved. Many people have uprooted their lives, followed blindly with good faith, and have worn these years out.

    I am exhausted from arguing with others over the rights for others to express their lives in a way that is meaningful and satisfying to them and their God. I doubt that any of us see things the same as the person sitting next to us in the pew.

    I doubt there will ever be consensus on these issues, but am very happy and thankful for the turn of events recently.

    We need to just get along and move on.

  • Tex

    Someone once quipped that a fisherman cleans his fish after he catches them, not before. It is not the church’s place to make someone worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven to enter it: Christ Himself never required this and we are not greater than our master. It is our place to walk with the Lord so that a person would want to imitate our own lives.

    When we forget that the renewing of the mind is the sole privilege and domain of the Holy Spirit, we rely on “programs” like the ones Exodus International tried. They end up functioning more like “pogroms” and invariably end up in disgrace.

    Christ gave a clear 3-strikes-and-you-sit-on-the-bench outline for dealing with sin in a community in Matthew 18:15-17. It beats stoning any day.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    “To detail all of the moral damage done by Exodus would require more than the brief thoughts I can offer here. There is, as Joshua Gonnerman pointed out, the false hope created by conversion therapy—a hope which causes many to simply abandon Christianity when it doesn’t materialize. There is also the dark problem of sexual abuse and child molestation within Exodus-affiliated and other ex-gay ministries and Exodus’ promotion of Freudian-based theories that cause division within the family by blaming parents for their child’s homosexuality.

    But above all, attention needs to be drawn to this error of equating the sexual wholeness in Christ to which all Christians are called with the conscious experience of sexual attraction to the opposite sex. Under the guise of promoting a biblically grounded vision of human sexuality, this attitude has done very little to encourage homosexuals in developing the virtue of chastity. Instead, it simply throws fuel onto the fire of the modern secular obsession with personal sexual fulfillment by its implied acceptance of the claim that asking homosexuals to live without sex really would be to ask them to lead lives of misery and deprivation.”

    “The closure of Exodus provides for Christians once again the opportunity to embrace the rigorous austerity of a genuinely gospel-based sexual ethic, which yes, makes it clear that homosexual relations are sinful, but also has plenty to say about divorce, heterosexual pornography, the contraceptive culture, and other aspects of the crisis of virtue within the Western world.”

  • Norm

    The Restored Hope Network issued their response (PDF):

    “…We, the Board of Restored Hope Network, grieve the decision of Alan Chambers and the board of Exodus to close down this venerable organization. It feels like the unnecessary death of a dear friend. It would have been better for them to have stepped aside and allowed others to carry on the message of hope for transformed lives. Although the timing of the news was a surprise to many, the shutting down of Exodus is the not-unexpected outcome of a cheap grace theology that severs the confession of Christ as Savior from the confession of Christ as Lord….”

    Sadly, the RHN statement only addressed the theological dispute, but not the harm Chambers apologized for. Even Exodus’s spectacular self-destruction can’t make RHN admit to the harm and faults of the ex-gay therapies.

    • Richard Willmer

      They wouldn’t, would they? They would not see the so-called ‘reparative therapy’ activities of Exodus as ‘harmful’, but as something that had to be done in the pursuance of an ideology (“straight is good, gay is bad”) that Alan Chambers now understands (correctly in the view of many of us here) to be divorced from reality.

  • Ann

    I have not watched or read or listened to any media about the closing of Exodus or what Alan Chambers had to say except for scanning through some of the messages here. My question is this – is there any article or comment from any individual who expressed sadness for the closing because they felt like Exodus had been instrumental in helping them personally or someone they loved?

    • Karen

      Box Turtle Bulletin has coverage onsite at the Exodus conference and he said the mood was fairly somber there after the announcement–the winds taken out of the sail and people seem to be grieving. So yes, it definitely seems people are grieving. What is odd is that Chambers said in an interview recently when asked how people responded to the announcement that he didn’t think it was unexpected to people. That seems like a really out of touch response. I have been keep tabs on Exodus for years and was fully aware of some of the changes going on in the past year and even I was surprised to hear of the shut down.

      • Norm

        I wonder if the Exodus conference attendees knew they were going to be attending a wake for a dead ministry. It seems Chambers has been pondering this decision for a while, so it would be heartless for him to not warn the few remaining loyal Exodus supporters that this conference would dire.

  • Mary


    I express sadness. While I keep different theological beliefs than Exodus, I do wonder, where those with unwanted SSA will go. The Regeneration Group seems very strict and unwelcoming. Plus, I wonder, and this may offend some people who have been hurt by the church and Exodus – will those in the church who interpret homosexuality as sinful return back to a mean spirit?

    • StraightGrandmother


      They can got to the Gay Christian Network.

  • Ann


    Always good to see you post 🙂

    I, too, wonder where those with unwanted SSA will go. I cannot say, with any degree of certainty, one way or the other, anything about Exodus, however, I do know it was a source of encouragement for many. For that, I am grateful. I do not think everyone who initially went to Exodus was looking for them to be the complete answer, however, it sure was the beginning of a new perspective about how to respond to feelings they never asked for or wanted. While, the number may be small in comparison to what others say about their experience with Exodus, I am hoping any individual who had a beneficial experience with Exodus, will continue to live the kind of life they value and know that there are people who support them in that endeavor.

    • Mary


      I , too, hope people will continue to live the life they value.

      My feelings and thoughts about Exodus closing have moved around a lot. I guess, right now I have some very mixed feelings.

  • Ann

    They can got to the Gay Christian Network.


    A web site that distinguishes individuals as being an A or a B? Oh, OK. Guess what? Some people are not Christian and some people don’t want to be defined as an A or a B.

    • Jarred H

      Ann, it strikes me as odd to discount GCN as a an alternative based on the fact that it’s Christian, considering Exodus was also unapologetically Christian. I can’t imagine why anyone who was not bothered by Exodus’s religious affiliation would suddenly be bothered by the fact that GCN has the same affiliation.

  • Ann


    I am not discounting GCN – I am sure it is good for some individuals and I am grateful for their effort.. I just think the concept of a side A or B is limiting when addressing the broad spectrum of the varying degrees of homosexuality.

    • AJ

      A or B only has to do with the choice of celibacy. What does that have to do with the “varying degrees of homosexuality”? What does that even mean?

  • David M

    For me, the closing of Exodus has been stunning, and at the same time ambivalent. I credit Chambers, as the official voice of Exodus, for finally admitting the emperor has no clothes, that is, that changing one’s orientation is a pipe dream. I hear him as apologizing primarily for extending that false hope, which led to much hurt and despair, and caused some to give up hope in Christ entirely (as far as we can see into workings of their hearts). I take this apology from Chambers at face value.

    At the same time, I think there are some aspect of even this apology that are not satisfying. I do not wish to pile on Alan. I do wish, as was said above, that his apology could have been offered in a more heartfelt and spontaneous way (though I do understand the need for organizational leaders to be careful in the way they word important statements such as this). It troubled me that during the portion of his apology aired on OWN, he did not look up from his paper. He did not meet the eyes of those before him to whom he evidently meant to apologize. I will not try to guess why. But it certainly would have seemed more real to this viewer if he had made eye contact during his apology.

    I think it is unfair to demand that Chambers, or those he represents, change their theology. It would be as unfair as Exodus’s former implicit demand that gays change their theology. I disagree with Alan in his views of sexual sin and marriage, but I give him the same respect I want from him. We can disagree agreeably without damning one another.

    It is disappointing and troubling to me that this apology and the closing of Exodus are happening concurrently with the launch of a new ministry. This is what causes some to wonder if this is all a PR stunt. I think there is an element of sincere repentance here, certainly regret, but it would seem more sincere if it was accompanied by a time of withdrawal from ministry for reflection and refocus.

    Someone said it well above: Accepting someone’s apology and trusting them are separate matters. I accept Alan’s (and presumably Exodus’s boards) apology for trumpeting false hope. But I will not be looking to him or that board for spiritual guidance.

    • Ford

      David M.

      You say: “I think it is unfair to demand that Chambers, or those he represents, change their theology. It would be as unfair as Exodus’s former implicit demand that gays change their theology.”

      An affirming or accommodation theology is not emotionally traumatic. The same cannot be said for the conservative sexual ethic as it relates to Christians who are gay. It is neither unrealistic or unprecedented to demand a change in theology that diminishes the humanity of others and causes harm. It is hardly unfair to ask those who are hurting others to stop doing that.

      • Ford, you write as if one’s beliefs are like actions and can be turned on and off. Cognitive dissonance is emotionally taxing and “believing” something because of social pressure isn’t belief, it is compliance. I am not arguing for one belief or the other, just saying that as a psychologist and person, I can’t affirm your position. Actions are different and one can insist on non-discrimination and fair behavior, but one cannot dictate another’s conscience.

        • Ford

          Dr. Throckmorton,

          I will, and do, support anyone who chooses a life of chaste singleness. Who can fault someone for trying to live a Godly life? There is, however, a difference between sexuality freely given as a beautiful gift to God and emotionally-coerced celibacy.

          With all due respect, your urging coexistence is of little help to the thirteen year old gay kid in the front pew who is told that he is deeply flawed and unworthy of even the possibility of romantic love. That kid is given a terrible choice – resign yourself to a life of singleness or separate yourself from God (and possibly risk your salvation).

          Beliefs can be simultaneously sincerely held by good people and harmful. The bitter fruit born of this deleterious theology is undeniable. This is not a morally-neutral theological dispute. This is a pastoral crisis, and the Church’s response is negligent because of our exegesis.

          New institutional beliefs can be initiated by compliance to social norms. Please note the SBC theology on slavery as “exhibit A”. If the Church is serious about loving people who are gay better, we must change our theology. It may take a generation or two, but the time has come to believe differently.

      • David M


        You wrote, “It is neither unrealistic or unprecedented to demand a change in theology that diminishes the humanity of others and causes harm. It is hardly unfair to ask those who are hurting others to stop doing that.”

        As a gay man who grew up in a conservative church, I know firsthand the harm done by the way the church has understood scripture on the issue of homosexuality. I have taken your comment seriously, and thus been slow in responding. By blogging standards, my response this late is just weird. But I prefer to have a slower turn-around time. It allows for this old fashioned thing called reflection.

        It is certainly fair to ask that Christians with Chambers’ view change their position. It is fair to argue that they ought to change their position. It is fair to point out, as you do, that their position is dehumanizing. But on what grounds can we *demand* that someone believe what they do not in fact believe? What would such a demand mean? The history of religion is filled with people demanding that others believe this or that. It seems to me that the respect and love for the other that is central to Christianity requires us rather to give the other person freedom, including the freedom to be wrong. So I stand by my claim: it is unjust to demand that another person believe anything. At least from a Christian perspective.

        And as a practical matter in relationships, demands usually have the effect of hardening the opposition. Alan Chambers says he wants to set aside condemning words. I welcome that. To meet his softening with a hard response would, I fear, only facilitate more hurt in the long run, not least of all to Alan himself.

        You are, of course, free to disagree.

        And on another note, today has been a good day to be gay!

  • buddyglass
  • Ann


    Yes, I do understand what A and B means for the GCN and those who choose to be either. I believe that is a personal choice though and should not be determined from an observer who has a bias.

    I believe there are varying degrees and dimensions to sexual orientation. I’m sorry if I didn’t articulate that well and should have used the word orientation rather than homosexuality.

  • David Blakeslee
  • Tom Van Dyke

    I, too, wonder where those with unwanted SSA will go.

    I reckon, where several Exodus officials fled while Alan Chambers was pretty much in a 2 year-process of steering Exodus onto the rocks.

    It’s Your Choice

    Restoring Hope respects the God-given right of each person to make their own choices. We work specifically with men and women who choose to leave homosexuality while respecting those who make other choices. While we agree with the biblical view that homosexual behavior is sin, we do not agree that it is a sin worse than any other.

    You Can’t Do It Alone

    Those choosing to exit the lifestyle can’t do it alone. It is an endeavor that requires the grace of God and the strong support of compassionate, loving and understanding ministers of God’s love. As such, Restoring Hope is also committed to equipping the church to understand the temptation, frustration and confusion of those facing sexual brokenness thus helping the church to effectively share in the healing process.

    I know nothing about them, but Chambers’ apostasy from the cause surely comes as no surprise to anyone. And his next act should be interesting–since it was announced to Oprah and Huffington Post, that it’s a more moderate form of ex-gay seems less likely than a complete jump onto the other ship.

  • Pianomankugie

    Not surprising that some on the left will disagree with Alan because he rejects gay marriage for himself and some on the right will disagree with Alan because he accepts it for others.

  • MJ

    I was initially saddened by the announcement of Exodus closing. When I participated in an Exodus affiliated ministry 7-8 years ago it was a place where I could practice being more open about my sexual attractions. Since then I have pulled away from Exodus, though I kept receiving their newsletters. In the past few years it was good to read about their shift away from teachings that sounded like reparative therapy.

    Over the weekend I took some time to listen to responses from ex-gay survivors. I have asked myself why it might be that they felt harmed by Exodus when I did not. My only conclusion has been that there were factors, somewhat unique, that allowed me to dismiss certain teachings that didn’t resonate with my faith, my experience, or my story.