Christian artist Ray Boltz discusses small town upbringing, coming out and his upcoming concert at Venice MCC

By : Krista DiTucci
Comments: 17

The Venice MCC certainly has a history worth celebrating. On Feb. 19, 1995, Rev. Sherry Kennedy founded the church after Venice and Port Charlotte residents faced increased difficulty in traveling to the Manatee County MCC every week. Rev. Kennedy helped organize the first meeting, at which 78 members were present—a denominational record.

Twenty years later, the congregation will celebrate a milestone with a weekend long celebration that includes a performance by out Christian performer Ray Boltz. on Saturday, Feb. 28.

Boltz was raised Methodist and always had a love for music. In 1984, he kicked off his full-time music career with his album Watch the Lamb. He married his wife Carol in 1975; the two were married for 33 years and had four children together.

Today he lives in Fort  Lauderdale with his talent agent and partner of eight years, Franco Sperduti. Boltz came out to his fans and the public in 2008.

In an interview with Watermark, Boltz shares his journey of becoming as a musician, coming out as a gay Christian artist and discovering his true self.

WATERMARK: How did you become involved with Christian music performance?

RAY BOLTZ: When I was 19—in the 1970s when contemporary Christian music was just beginning—I went to a Christian concert and it had a major impact on my life. I decided to pick up a guitar and start writing. The phones started to ring and I was asked to sing in nursing homes, coffee houses, pretty much everywhere within the community. You didn’t have to be famous to be asked to perform.

I recorded Watch the Lamb in 1984. The song was technically not one that should have done well (laughing). There was no hook, no bridge and it’s seven minutes long, yet people were incredibly moved and it ended up going to number one. It went from station to station and started my career. About six months after the album was released, my distribution company asked if I was ready to do this full-time.

I had four children and quit my job. The company went out of business, but about six months later I was able to sell records on my own through an independent distribution company. I went on to record my second album Thank You and spent the next 27 years touring.
Tell me a little bit about your family.

I have three girls and a boy, and we’re expecting our ninth grandchild in October. I feel like Grandpa Walton a little bit (laughing). All my kids accept me and love me.

Carol and I are still best friends. We talk every day. It’s difficult sometimes, but we decided feeling uncomfortable every once in a while is all right because we’re still a family.

What made you finally decide to come out?

For 30 years, I denied the fact that I was gay and did everything the church told me to do. I prayed, I fasted and I went to counseling. I confessed constantly. At the end of 30 years, I realized I was just pretending. I thought, ‘Here are the people closest to me and they don’t know who I really am.’ In 2004, a short time after Christmas, my family and I were sitting around the table and my son asked what was wrong. He could see I was going through something.

I thought, ‘I can either go ahead and keep pretending or I can tell the truth.’ That was the moment I came out to my family. They all hugged me and loved me—I couldn’t ask for more. Of course, there were tears. It’s not like it’s been perfect, but we’re being honest with each other and they feel like they know me.

My former father-in-law, who was in his 90s, told Carol, ‘There is nothing he [Ray] could do that could make me not love him.’ He knows me as Ray Boltz, not some gay guy he’s heard preachers rail against.
How did your Christian fans react?

I was invited to sing at the MCC church in Washington, D.C. The Washington Blade found out I had been there and sent me and email asking me why I chose an MCC church. I thought, ‘This is the time to come out publicly.’ I had no doubt about what the response would be from fundamentalists.

In 2008, I officially came out and received, like, 20,000 emails. I would say 90% of them were, ‘You’re going to hell’ and ‘I never liked your music anyway.’ But then there would be people writing to me saying it [my coming out] gave them hope.
So how have you managed to maintain your faith despite all the negative feedback?

I think faith is a journey. It goes back to the concept ‘honest doubt leads to great faith.’ I came to the realization that God loves me just the way I am. I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody, not trying to be a martyr. I’m very, very happy, and I still believe in God, but I just don’t believe all the things people have told me about God, especially the judgmental things.
Have you been to the Venice MCC before?

I’ve played in Sarasota and Tampa but have never been to the Venice church. However, I met some of their members when I played in Tampa.

I’m just looking forward to the anniversary celebration and I’m honored because I know what it’s like to come out and stand up and be rejected. The MCC churches have been firebombed as a denomination. They are really, really bold people and stood up when no one else would.

Share this story: