Trey Pearson, 35, was overcome with emotion halfway into the interview, and it is easy to understand why. For the past 15 years, he’s been the lead singer of the popular Christian rock band Everyday Sunday. But he decided to put his career on the line this week and acknowledge to his fans that he is gay.
“I finally decided to come out because I couldn’t keep trying to be something that I wasn’t,” he tells me.
Pearson’s announcement is no small story. Since 2001, Everyday Sunday has sold around a quarter of a million albums. His song “Wake Up! Wake Up!” was the most-played Christian rock song of 2007, and his 2009 album, “Best Night of Our Lives,” broke onto the coveted Billboard 200 chart. Pearson has toured in all 50 states and 20 countries, playing with top Christian musicians such as Toby Mac, Switchfoot, MercyMe, Jeremy Camp and others.
(614) Magazine, an entertainment and culture magazine in Columbus, Ohio, will tell Pearson’s story in a 12-page cover story for its June issue. His narrative will ring familiar to many who grew up in a religious community. Pearson was raised in a conservative Christian home where he was taught that sexual orientation was a matter of choice. Though he knew from an early age that he was attracted to other males, he attempted to suppress his feelings and “be straight.”
“I never wanted to be gay,” he tells (614). “I was scared of what God would think and what all of these people I loved would think about me; so it was never an option for me.”
Nearly eight years ago, Pearson married a woman in hopes of achieving the kind of straight dream-life his community would support. Though he and his wife had two children, his hopes never materialized and Pearson realized he “was never going to be who my wife needed me to be.”
“I was not making it an option to be gay so I could be loyal to her and my children,” he told me. “But then I realized the only way I was ever going to be my best for them was to be healthy myself.”
As Pearson started accepting his sexual orientation, he sought guidance from other Christian leaders. The first person he told was pastor Jonathan Martin, author of “How to Survive a Shipwreck,” who helped him connect with a counselor. His mentor and friend Rob Bell, former pastor and author of “How to Be Here,” also helped him process.
While Pearson says he will no longer live a lie, he is not abandoning his faith. The rocker says he still prays regularly and reads the Bible. He even once memorized the entire epistle of James. His study of the Scriptures, he says, has led him to believe that the handful of Bible verses that directly address homosexuality do not prohibit the kind of loving, committed gay relationships known to the modern world.
“There is absolutely no conflict with accepting who I am and following Jesus,” he said. “God wants me to be healthy, authentic, whole, integrated and my truest self.”
Pearson’s shift places him in the center of a growing movement of popular Christian musicians who are coming out as gay and are advocating for a more open and accepting posture in the church. Ray Boltz, whose songs were staples in evangelical churches throughout the 1990s, came out as gay in 2004. Grammy-nominated Anthony Williams became the first openly gay gospel artist in 2009. Jennifer Knapp, another Grammy-nominated Christian artist, acknowledged that she was a lesbian one year later. And in 2014, popular worship music artist Vicky Beeching told The Independent that she too was a lesbian.
These musicians paid a hefty price. Since Christian music fans tend to be conservative and believe that homosexual acts are sinful, you won’t hear these artists’ music played in most churches or on Christian radio these days.
Pearson accepts that his announcement could mark the end of his music career too, but he hopes it will signal a fresh start instead. He plans to continue making music and will release a new single later this year. He will perform at Wild Goose, the Christian festival in July, and hopes to become a voice within the burgeoning “gay Christian” movement.
“I definitely know how hard it was on my journey to be able to accept myself, and how other people’s voices and stories helped me. So I absolutely want to be a voice for other people,” Pearson says. “I know there are more and more Christians that realize how important this is, and I hope I can join with them in seeing this change.”