If you know anything about gospel music the name Tonex will strike a chord. In 2004 he took the gospel world by storm when he released his Grammy nominated album Out The Box. Not only was it number one on the gospel charts, it also made a mark on the Top R&B charts.
While, Tonex, the artist was at the pinnacle of his career, Anthony Williams – the man -was facing controversy and turbulence.
In 2004, Tonex’s father passed away of a heart attack and then assumed the pastoral duties of his church.
“I was more of a skittish person then because I was torn between career and, and calling. And that’s the plight of many people who love God — have a calling to do something between the construct of the church and religion,” Tonex said.
But Tonex had yet to face his greatest challenge. It’s been less than a year now that he come out and let people know that he is a homosexual.
“That’s the quintessential difference, is to first struggle with it and then to know that that’s the least of who you are. That’s a portion that’s actually technically private, but because we live in such a repressed society — particularly in the African American church and congregation — those type of topics seem to keep surfacing,” Tonex said.
Tonex says he felt shunned from his peers–separated and alone.
“I just felt discriminated against. I felt like I was in the 60s or something. I couldn’t drink out the white water fountain. I am the same guy and they’re the same people,” Tonex said.
The backlash was not just facing the criticism within the Christian and Gospel community. For Tonex–it seemed–like his busy schedule suddenly stopped.
“Well recently I was booked to perform on Sunday’s Best season-three and the day of the event, I get a call and they mysteriously no longer need my services after the network had already approved it. So that let me know it’s not that I am going to stop singing gospel, but that I am going to present the gospel on my own terms,” Tonex said.
BET responded to Tonex’s claim by saying “the show was over-booked which resulted in the cancellation of Tonex’s performance.”
Despite the controversy, Tonex’s story has become an inspiration.
“By him coming out it kind of sets the tone for other people to follow the lead. It gives me that hope that I can still be successful, you know, within the mainstream society and I can still be who I am,” Keisha Brown, a church parishioner.
These days, when he is not singing for his fans as Tonex, Pastor Williams travels across the country preaching a message of acceptance.
Now his audience is a congregation and his stage a pulpit.