Michael Passons who founded the successful Christian contemporary music group Avalon shared how he was forced out in 2003 for being gay. Some members from Avalon who forced his hand set him on a journey where Michael discuses how be blamed himself and dealt with PTSD. I saw Avalon several times when I was younger and listened to them when I was in the Christian music scene. This post would like to ask, why do some evangelicals feel so threatened by gays and where is the issue of empathy and compassion?
“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.“
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.
James 3:13 ESV
Michael Passons speaking at the beginning of this video.
In the 1998 to 1999 period I discovered Christian contemporary music. The first artist I listened to in a Christian bookstore was Greg Long who later became a part of Avalon. Avalon was on the scene for a couple of years and the Christian radio station I listened to at the time, K Love played them heavily. One of the most popular songs they sung is called Testify to Love and is identified with the Christian music group. Originally Avalon consisted of Michael Parsons, Nikki Hassman-Anders, Janna Long and Jody McBrayer. The group changed as musical groups often do with a couple of members. Nikki Hassman-Anders left and was replaced with Cherie Paliotta-Adams who was replaced by Melissa Green. Avalon became very popular inside evangelicalism and did a number of albums over the years. I have several in my apartment.
This was the time in which I discovered evangelicalism and was diving into the culture around it. It was the time that I discovered Campus Crusade for Christ, eventually got involved in an Evangelical Free Church and more. In the 1999 and 2000 time frame I listened to Avalon quite a bit. When I moved to Milwaukee and lived in Wisconsin for five years I still pursued the evangelical Christian music scene. In Wisconsin they held a Christian music festival that I attended called Lifest. It was held every summer in Oshkosh. It was one of the biggest ones in the upper Midwest and United States. Not as big as Cornerstone which was held in Illinois, but Lifest was huge. Avalon performed there and I remember standing in a downpour to watch them sing. I drove like a madman from my job in downtown Milwaukee to see them perform. But Michael Passons wan’t a part of the gr a part of the group when I saw them in July of 2003. Greg Long was singing and stood in as I recall. When Elmbrook Church held Avalon for a concert Greg Long again stood in for the role. I knew who Greg Long is because I am familiar with his previous albums. I didn’t think much about the changes and I subscribed to Christian Contemporary Music magazine at the time and I don’t recall them talking much about the change at Avalon. Looking back it was almost downplayed. I didn’t think anything more about Avalon and Michael Passons until this morning when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.
Michael Passons is Confronted About Being Gay and is Forced Out of Avalon
The other day Michael Passons did a podcast called Jonah and the Whale which is led by Josh Skinner. In that podcast Michael Passons shared about how he was confronted over being gay and forced out of the group. This took place on June 30, 2003. Melissa Greene was new, so the two people who must have forced the issue are Janna Long and Jody McBrayer. What happened as Michael discussed this situation is that they came over to his house and told him that he was no longer a member of Avalon because he is gay. They challenged him and wanted Michael to go through conversion therapy to make him straight. His job depended upon it. Its called reparative therapy and is deeply controversial. For the issues with reparative therapy I would encourage you to read what Warren Throckmorton has written about the topic. Michael talked about how he was blindsided by the action by Avalon, He did the counseling for about a month. It was also clear that the group raised the issue with management and that this was done behind Michael Passon’s back. Michael realized that his sexuality was not going to change and he ended the counseling. And with that Avalon, the musical group he founded, made him persona non grata.
Michael talked about how he is supported by Melissa Greene. And how he struggled with the issue for years. He realized he is a gay man and has accepted it. When he was a part of Avalon he struggled with his sexuality. Michael admitted that it was a hard issue for him. If you would like to read more about this situation it has gotten some press, and I will link in some posts for you to read.
- People, “Former Avalon Singer Michael Passons Says He Was Kicked Out of Christian Band for Being Gay.”
- Billboard, “Michael Passons Says His Sexuality Was the Real Reason for Leaving Avalon.”
- ET Canada, “Singer Michael Passons Reveals He Was Kicked Out Of Christian Group Avalon Because He Was Gay.”
- Friendly Atheist, “Michael Passons: I Was Kicked Out of the Christian Band I Founded for Being Gay.”
Podcast with Jonah and the Whale and Some Thoughts
The podcast which I listened to was emotional. Michael talked about how an issue was forced and his fear of how his family would react. He also spoke to the journey it set him on and how he accepted being gay. But he said some other things that bothered me as well. He talked about how there are people who are gay in the Christian music industry who get married and hide behind that decision. Michael said that he wanted to be honest. When he was with Avalon he also took his faith seriously and with one brief exception remained celibate. He blamed himself and has dealt with PTSD over what happened and how his hand was forced. This blog would encourage you to listen to the podcast and process the emotion. After I listened to it I went over to my old Christian CD collection and just stared at it in horror. How many other people live in fear within the evangelical Christian industrial complex?
In writing about the problems with evangelicalism I sometimes feel as if I am conducting a long term autopsy. I am going back and revisiting emotions and thinking about what I was involved in. And more stuff comes forward. In this case I find myself looking at all the Christian music I listened to and am wondering…how much of it is toxic? Did I support something that is contributing to other people’s suffering?
But here is another issue that troubles me deeply. Why are so many evangelicals hostile to people who are gay? Why do so many people feel threatened? The Bible is full of some many difficult issues. Its a complex book. What really gives me pause is hearing about how sinful being gay is and then contemplating all the sexual abuse and other issues that rage which many evangelicals turn a blind eye to. Why? How does a person arrive at a selective point in life where they pick and choose what is sinful? My stomach is in knots when I heard this story. And it reminds me of a close friend of mine from Milwaukee who had a long history with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship who came out as gay. Many rejected while some people accepted him. Today I am fortunate to call him a close friend. But the question remains for me…why are many evangelicals so fearful and hostile to gays? Michael Passons didn’t have to be treated in the manner that he was. I don’t understand evangelicals in this area. The newest album by Avalon is named “Called.” What are members of Avalon such as Jody McBrayer and Janna Long called to? You can still be conservative in faith and have decency. This blog will write more about this topic in the days to come. As I close out this post I am going to leave with Michael Passons and Avalon singing Testify to Love.