Michael Passons has claimed he had to leave Christian singing group Avalon for being gay and for refusing ongoing gay conversion therapy.
When he left the Grammy-nominated group in 2003 after eight years, the official reason given was that he was pursuing a solo career.
Speaking on to Josh Skinner on his Jonah and the Whale podcast, Michael shared: ‘It was hard to leave. It was not totally my decision. But that’s the person I am today. I’m just going to tell it like it is.’
The 54-year-old added: ‘This is the first time I’ve ever talked about this’, before explaining: ‘It was all because of who I am. At that time I internalised that and took it as being my fault.
‘There was a lot of PTSD involved from that point on for many years, because that was my identity.’
Michael, who was a founding member of Avalon, added: ‘I am out now, I’m a gay man, and I’m glad to be. At the time I was conflicted because I was involved in a culture where that was not accepted. I knew if I was honest I’d lose my career, many things. And I did.
‘But […] all things have worked out better for me. I have made an evolutionary journey I would not have made if I’d stayed in that place.’
He later explained that he had to ‘drive a couple hours every week to see this person in Chattanooga. It was basically someone sitting there listening to me speak and looking like they felt really sorry for me. [I was thinking] “Is this all there is? Do you have an answer? Do you have a cure? Let’s speed this up.”
‘I knew, of course, they didn’t [have a cure] but I was trying to play along. After about a month I said, “I’m not going back to that guy, let the chips fall where they fall. I’m not going back.” It wasn’t long after that.’
Melissa Greene, who was a member of the band in 2003 but left in 2009 today confirmed to Metro.co.uk that Michael’s claims are true.
She commented: ‘That day will forever be a pivotal moment for me. On that day, although I had no power in the decision, I was under the same conservative Christian influence that told me that being gay was a sin. So at that moment, although I loved Michael, I thought that being gay could not be reconciled with being a Christian artist, for it was considered a sin. I, years later, thankfully deeply changed my mind on that amongst many other things.’
Michelle, who now leads a non-religious spiritual and inclusive community called IMAGINARIUM added: ‘I became a progressive-minded person and LGBTQ+ inclusive pastor at an affirming church. Michael would later join me in that church as a member and our journey reconciled. My brief reflection on the podcast and this moment for Michael is how deeply grateful I am that he is finally able to both live in peace with his truth and tell the reality of his exit from Avalon and Christian music.
‘I, also, am reminded of the harm that so much of Christianity and the various institutions and businesses within have done and continue to do to the LGBTQ+ community all the while hoping to continue to profit off their business. There are many more of these stories that need to be brought to light and told.’
In July, public figures including Sir Elton John, Dua Lipa and Stephen Fry backed a letter by the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign group calling for an end to the treatments ‘for all lesbian gay bi, trans and gender diverse people in the UK.’
Avalon have been nominated for three best pop/contemporary gospel album Grammys: in 2000 for Joy, in 2001 for Oxygen and 2004 for The Creed.
They are known for songs like Take You At Your Word, I Don’t Want To Go and We Are the Reason.
Metro.co.uk have approached Avalon for comment.
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