Daniel Gray, a 36-year old Chicago-area small business owner and openly gay man, had a secret life and spent years hiding his true nature from friends and family. But recent revelations have required Gray to own up to his supporters within the gay community, forcing him to come out of the closet as the founder and head pastor of The Living Life Church in Aurora, IL.
Despite outward appearances of having a normal gay relationship with his partner of 15 years, Thomas Donaldson, rumors had surfaced that Gray was living a double life as a firebrand charismatic church leader for the 15,ooo member megachurch serving the western suburbs of Chicago.
Initially, Gray denied any involvement with the church and rejected charges that he was a deeply devout man. But suspicions were confirmed when a video was found showing Gray slipping in the back door of the non-denominational house of worship to conduct his Sunday morning fire and brimstone sermons about human sinfulness and how homosexual behavior is ruining America.
Throughout his teenage years Gray found himself strangely attracted to narrow interpretations of the Bible and began to hide hardcore apostolic and Christian lifestyle magazines under his bed. By his early 20s, urges to approach strange men and ask them if they wanted to be saved were becoming an overwhelming force in his life. Gray also watched bombastic videos of evangelical sermons on his computer late at night and would discreetly order young-earth creationist DVDs online.
Before long, he was participating in online chats with Christian apologists, condemning the sins of sodomy and liberal science, all while maintaining the facade of a fabulously gay life.
When Donaldson found Gospel tracts on Gray’s computer he confronted him. Gray asked forgiveness for his transgressions but admitted only that he was merely curious about leading an evangelical congregation.
Gray sought counseling, convinced that being a pious faithful person was a choice and not something people are born into, despite the numerous studies which suggest that religious belief has biological origins.
“I rejected that,” Gray said. “I thought I was just being weak by falling victim to religious urges and believed therapy could fix my spiritual compulsions.”
But after continued loving support from his partner, his family and members of the gay community, Gray has fully come to terms with the fact that he was born a born-again Christian. While he still continues to preach a fundamentalist biblical worldview to large congregations, the intertwining of his two lifestyles demands that he ignore a few more parts of the bible than he did prior to coming out.
More importantly, Gray claims that coming out has been a liberating experience for him because he no longer needs to live a lie.
“I was in the closet for so long, secretly casting out demons and judging people with righteous indignation,” Gray said. “I feel so blessed that while my friends in the gay community still have some reservations about my alternative lifestyle, they still accept me as a man-loving man.”