(RNS) -- Prominent evangelical author Jonathan Merritt has revealed in an online interview that he had an encounter with another man that "went beyond the bounds of friendship."
Merritt talked about his past in an interview on "The LifeWay Research Blog" of Ed Stetzer, a researcher with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The revelation came after a "gay, former evangelical blogger," according to Stetzer, claimed he had evidence that Merritt was gay after he publicly supported Chick-fil-A restaurants. The president of the fast-food chain public opposes gay marriage, leading to a public debate over the controversial issue. Merritt has said he believes that homosexuality is a sin and favors traditional marriage.
Merritt said the blogger contacted him in 2009 after he wrote an article saying "Christians must love people who experience sexual brokenness." He met the blogger for dinner when he was traveling nearby.
"As we were saying goodbye, we had physical contact that went beyond the bounds of friendship," Merritt said. The two never met again and stopped corresponding "after a period of time," Merritt added.
Merritt said in the interview that he had plans to reveal his past, but the blogger prompted him to disclose it sooner. He also said that he does not consider himself gay.
"I don't identify as 'gay' because I believe there can be a difference between what one experiences and the life that God offers," Merritt said in the interview posted Thursday (July 26).
Merritt also told Stetzer that an older man who lived in his neighborhood sexually abused him when he was a child.
"The experience was followed with a tidal wave of shame and guilt so great that I never told anyone for many years," Merritt said.
Merritt, who recently authored A Faith of Our Own and has written for USA Today and Religion News Service, where he sits on the advisory board. He told RNS that Stetzer's blog "has my full comment on the matter."
c. 2012 Religion News Service. Used with permission.
Publication date: July 27, 2012