The Advocate reports
that Jonathan Merritt
, 29, was outed by gay blogger Azariah Southworth, with whom Merritt has acknowledged having an "inappropriate" relationship.
Merritt, who is the son of former Southern Baptist Convention president and current Atlanta mega-church pastor James Merritt
, and Southworth began emailing and sexting each in 2009 after Jonathan published an article urging Christians to "love people who experience sexual brokenness."
According to Joe.My.God
, the exchange led to a meeting, which in turn led to something more.
"As we were saying goodbye, we had physical contact that went beyond the bounds of friendship," Merritt wrote. Afterwards, he was "overcome with guilt." He sought the help of a Christian counselor to deal with his "brokenness."
"Those close to me know I have actually been planning to share the story of my brokenness for some time," Merritt wrote. "Because it is part of my spiritual journey. And because it underscores the power of the Gospel to transform lives."
On his blog, Azariah Southworth writes
that "exposing this truth of Jonathan's sexual orientation is not an easy decision... as I type this my stomach is turning because I know of the backlash he will receive" but that he places the utmost importance on "living an authentic and honest life."
"We must have radical honesty in the character, intentions and identities of our leaders," he writes.
Southworth adds that Merritt is "a good man with great intentions."
"Jonathan pushes for a society that understands 'the other,'" he writes. "He encourages conversation and relationship-building over arguments and division" and seeks "a future where... gay people are no longer excluded but included in every aspect of society."
Indeed, Merritt had run afoul
of more conservative evangelical elements after publishing multiple articles urging them to tone down their bigoted homophobic rhetoric.
In a 2009 USA Today article
, Merritt wrote in favor of "loving people in spite of our differences and advocating for our culture's disenfranchised groups."
"Now is the time for those who bear the name of Jesus Christ to stop merely talking about love and start showing our love to our gay and lesbian neighbors," he added. "We cannot pick and choose which neighbors we will love. We must love them all."
Still, Merritt remained a staunch opponent of marriage equality, writing that his "biblical convictions prohibit a redefinition of marriage," even while advocating "protecting our gay and lesbian neighbors from discrimination in the workplace and cleaning up the legal cobwebs that govern hospital visitation rights and inheritance for same-sex couples."