Trey Pearson, the openly gay lead singer of CCM band Everyday Sunday, was removed from the lineup of a major Christian festival after several members of the event's production crew threatened a walkout if he was included.
According to the organizers of Joshua Fest, an annual three-day event in Northern California described as a nonprofit "family friendly Christian music festival" that ministers to "young families and teens," 11 members of the production team approached them days before the Labor Day festival to say that they would drop out if Pearson performed.
"The information about the stage crew came from our production manager," Joshua Fest owner Aaron Diello told Billboard. "There was a team of about 14, and he said that about 11 were going to back out. He was trying to get them to change their minds, but it really put our back against the wall. This was just under two weeks out from the event."
"All of our staff are volunteers and none of us are paid," he added. "And the fact that this team works the event for cost really put us in a bind to find a knowledgeable team that was available, let alone affordable. The event is Labor Day weekend, so you can imagine how hard it would have been to find a team that was experienced and available."
Pearson came out as gay in May, claiming at the time that "there is absolutely no conflict with accepting who I am and following Jesus." Despite having two young children with his wife, Lauren, the singer said he believed that "I am never going to be able to change how I am," and so, "no matter how healthy our relationship becomes, it's never going to change what I know deep down: that I am gay."
Shortly after announcing he was gay, Pearson went on ABC's "The View" and declared that he still considered himself a Christian and hoped the church would soon change it stance on gay marriage.
"Yeah, I feel like I'm more in love with Jesus and the Scriptures than ever. As I've progressed in my faith and as I've experienced this grace, this restoration, being able to embrace truth without being scared," he said.
He added, "I want to see my denomination change. I want to see people to be willing to have the conversation in an open way where we're willing to listen to people's stories, and that's why I think it's so important to tell because there are millions of people going through what I am going through right now."
Almost every year for the last decade, according to Billboard, the gay singer had performed at Joshua Fest alongside artists like Tenth Avenue North, Switchfoot, Building 429, King and Country, and others.
When it was announced he would be performing at the Christian music festival for the first time since coming out as gay, Pearson took to social media to celebrate: "I am overwhelmed, and honored, to announce that I will be the FIRST OPENLY GAY ARTIST TO EVER PLAY A MAJOR CHRISTIAN MUSIC FESTIVAL!!! I will be playing main stage on Sunday evening at JoshuaFest, in Quincy, California. Joshua Fest happens Labor Day weekend, and I will be there with Skillet, Switchfoot, Relient K, Crowder Music, NF, Five Iron Frenzy and more!" he declared.
However, after discovering he would no longer be performing at the festival, Pearson told Billboard he decided to attend Joshua Fest anyway as a spectator. Prior to their performance, Five Iron Frenzy, a ska-punk band whose drummer Andrew Verdecchio is atheist, asked Pearson if he would perform with them.
"They were like, 'Hey, what would you think about coming up and singing our last song with us' - 'Every New Day,' which is one of their biggest songs," Pearson said. "They were a band that I went to tons of their concerts in high school and looked up to, and so to have them ask me to do that was amazing. They checked with the owners first, and we all decided - it's not me doing my own set, but it's still a way that I can go up there and be a part of the festival.
"So it turned out to be a really beautiful thing. I think there were a couple of surprised looks that I was there by a couple of people who didn't want me there, but everybody was friendly. Of course I wish I could have done my own set, but in some ways this almost felt more powerful, because it was this band that I looked up to growing up that a lot of the fans looked up to, and all these guys from the other bands, too, standing with me in love."