[Trey Pearson, the founder and former lead singer of the Christian band, “Everyday Sunday” made a surprise visit to our worship service on February 17 and sang. Trey came out about three years ago. The song above is “Silver Horizon” from his CD, “Love Is Love.” Trey also sang “Hey, Jesus” at the end of the sermon. Click here. Below is an interview we had with Trey during his visit with our church. This was timely since a special General Conference of the United Methodist Church is being held Feb. 23-26 to focus on the issue of same sex relations.]
You were born and raised in Columbus, Ohio which isn’t too far from Athens. How familiar are you with Athens and this area of Ohio?
I am a little bit familiar. I’ve been there a few times, and driven through many times on my way south, or coming home from tours. My main connection would be the Wesleyan church there I’ve been to a few times when I was younger, and performed there before.
What helped you to reconcile your sexual orientation with your biblical and Christ-centered faith?
I think from failed experience and an insatiable desire to understand my faith and relationship to God as a Christian. Growing up as a Calvinist, getting into a Wesleyan church as a teenager, and then continuing to progress thanks to people like Rob Bell and Adam Hamilton, I just continued to peel the assumptions that I grew up with in my faith and understanding of the Bible, and how it works.
You have experienced a lot of negative reaction from evangelical Christians when you came out. How has your faith sustained you during this very challenging time of your life?
As much as I grieve sometimes how long it took me to accept myself, I am very glad that I had done the leg work to understand why I believe what I believe. That has given me a foundation to know that I am loved and worthy of love. Even when people throw a theology at me that is contrary to that, I am very thankful to have continued going past being in that place.
How has your faith grown since you shared with the public that you are gay?
I have seen how sharing my truth has helped as an element in other people’s journeys freedom. I still see things happen in a beautiful way that reminds me what it means to be a part of a body of others, and our Divine reflection of the Christ. It has helped me see even more so how we are all created in God’s image, and how wonderful that is.
What’s been the response of your friends and family since you came out?
It’s a mixed bag. My oldest sister and her husband have been wonderful, and my sister has been my rock. It has been really difficult on the rest of my family, and I have lost a lot of friends, or a lot of those friends have kind of gone silent. But I have been able to slowly build a beautiful chosen family over these last couple of years, and I am very grateful to have the wonderful people around me that I do.
What helps you to be gracious toward Christians who disagree with you in how you interpret the scriptures, especially those scriptures that seem to be anti-gay?
I think the one thing that I try to remind myself is that I used to be where they are because that was the systemic belief I was raised in. I didn’t know how toxic, hurtful and damaging those beliefs were growing up, and it took having to go through some really difficult times to finally get to a healthier place. So I try to remind myself of why so many people are still in that place, but also why it is so important to speak truth about the reality of what those beliefs can do to people.
Your more recent solo album, “Love Is Love,” expresses a lot of your sorrows and joys during this significant time of transition in your life. What was the process like in writing those songs?
I think it was therapy for myself to write these songs. I had to find ways to express all of the emotions I was going through. It was quite a traumatic time to realize my life was about to never look the same, and to accept all of the things I had lost by not accepting myself sooner. But it was also quite freeing and liberating to finally be able to dig down and be so honest with myself, and then other people.
You mentioned that you are aware of our denomination’s special General Conference this week where they will decide on issues related to same sex marriage and the ordination of those who are gay/non-celibate. What would you like the 1,000 delegates to consider in addressing these very important issues this week?
When you grow up wondering if you are different, and if you are different realizing that people will think there is something wrong and broken with you, it is very likely it will do a lot of damage to your mental health and development as a child. Kids should not grow up wondering if they are worthy of being loved, or worthy of being able to fall in love. A church rooted in following Jesus and loving your neighbor should continue to seek if their teachings are producing good fruit or bad fruit. If we ever find our teachings are destroying lives like we have with the LGBT community, we should do the same as what we have done in the past, and choose to do better. This is not the first obstacle we have had to overcome as a church. From slavery to treating women as property to so many other things, we need to see that what we have done in the past is not good enough, and that we can do better.
Regardless of what the special General Conference decides this week, what words of advice would you offer to Athens First in how we can be the most welcoming congregation we can possibly be to all people in our community especially the LGBTQ community?
I would encourage you to find ways to show the LGBTQ community that they are just as worthy of love as anyone else. If there are things within your denomination that cause questions to that, I would continue to speak up in ways that show that we can do better and that we will.
You have been touring the country to help provide a safe space for those who are struggling to reconcile their sexual orientation with their faith. What has this experience been like and how have you seen God at work?
It’s been extremely wonderful to get to go out and share my story, but it has been just as powerful to hear others all over the country, and around the world, share their stories back with me. Truth leads to freedom. I am so thankful to be in a place where I can just be fully me, and share my truth. I love that I get to do work and create art that helps people continue to experience theirs as well.