We present Pastor Mitchell Jones, the final author, in our series of conversations with the ILTA Literary Café Event participating panelists. Mitchell discovered his same-gender attraction as a child; he suppressed that part of himself because he knew it conflicted with his religious upbringing. He began preaching at the age of 23; by 24, he delivered “passionate, fire-and-brimstone sermons condemning [himself] and others to an eternity in Hell.” Mitchell lived a fabled life in the suburbs with his blended family of five children while hiding in the closet. Five years into his marriage, he confessed to his wife he was gay and had multiple affairs with men.
The Journey to Authenticity: 8 Secrets to Getting the Life You Desire is a revealing look at Mitchell Jones and the secrets he’s used on his journey to authenticity. Here’s what he shared with us about his journey.
PrideIndex (PI): Tell me about yourself. And your journey to becoming a writer.
Mitchell Jones: (MJ): I am 49 years old. I was born in New York; I live in Virginia currently. My journey to becoming a writer started when I was on a television show and received so much positive feedback. Because so many people reached out, I felt it was important to put that in the book, so I decided to write.
PI: Why did you become a writer?
MJ: Initially, to get my story out there. I thought if it’s in writing, then it’s easier for people to call. It would be better than regurgitating the same thing over and over again through other different mediums. The writing was just easier.
PI: Going back to something you said earlier, I came across a clip where you were on an episode of Iyanla: Fix My Life. I was surprised that I’d missed that episode because I am a faithful watcher of the show.
MJ: Yeah. There were three episodes.
PI: I guess I’m not that faithful after all. (Laughs)
PI: Nobody has to know that I’ve missed, Iyanla screams at the person on the other end of the table. (Laughs) I love to death. I understand the messaging that she delivers or where she goes. I found her in your book; why did you feel it was essential to writing this book?
MJ: “You’re not the only one,” she said to me after all the taping was over. She looked at me, and she said, “I didn’t do this for you.” At first, I thought, Oh, wait a minute that was shady. Then I listened to the following statement she said, “I did this for the thousands of men who won’t sit where you’re sitting, but will see themselves in you.” That’s the same reason I wrote the book. It’s been six years since I wrote that book. I still get people reaching out and saying, “I relate to your story. I want a copy of your book.” Those episodes aired in 2015, and I still hear from people. It’s a means to help somebody. Maybe not everybody but somebody.
PI: Were you concerned about receiving backlash from your family, friends, or coworkers? Was that something that you thought about or even cared about when you did the Iyanla show?
MJ: Initially, I had not thought or care about it. The first day, Iyanla told me I was very insensitive to my family. I needed to be more sensitive because it wasn’t just my life that was changing. I’ve always made moves because I needed to make them. I have to be the priority of me and my decisions. In the end, when you start to think about others, when you’re going to do something or not do something, you tend to put others’ priorities in front of yours and not be true to yourself.
That’s not authentic or rewarding to you. And if you continue to go on a path for others, you’ve probably got to water it down or do something less than what you were going to do. Had you made yourself the priority. And that’s had so much care for when other people were going to think away; you know how it was going to affect them? Yeah.
PI: Who are some artists that have had the most influence over your style as a writer?
MJ: One of my biggest influences is Dr. Tony Burks. He contributed to my book. He guided me where I needed to be. He gave me writing assignments and pushed me to complete them. I’m a procrastinator; hence, that’s why we’re on the phone right now, close to the deadline. My sermons are not written word for word. I use an outline.
PI: When did you first know that you weren’t going to become a writer?
MJ: I was in my early 20s. I just never knew exactly when, even before this book, I thought there were a couple of other things that I would write about, like being successful, giving, and receiving. The first unpublished book I’d written was against homosexuality. Thank God it was not published. I’m sure that 29 million people would crucify me for something that dealt with what I thought I was delivered from at the time. I wrote that manuscript when I was 24 years old. I never had my sister transcribed it.
PI: What comes to mind when I hear anti-gay language is something Willie Ninja said on Donahue back in the 90s. “The person that screams gay or faggot the loudest usually is.”
MJ: No doubt.
PI: Are you still preaching?
MJ: I’m still preaching with a small group. We have an office building where we meet regularly. We do not have a physical sanctuary. I’m considered the leader; sometimes, I share. Other times, it is more conversational. It is very free-flowing, very organic.
PI: How is this project branded? Same-gender-loving? Is it affirming?
MJ: It is called Loving Unity Assembly. We don’t brand it.
PI: Do you now have a relationship with your children?
MJ: Yes. My youngest son has lived with me for the last four years. Since our separation and divorce, I see my children regularly. My son was just here with two of his college roommates. My children are always in my pocket. (Laughs)
PI: Do you work to pay your children? Or do you work to make a living? (Laughs)
MJ: I know. (Laughs) Listen, I gladly do it. For sure. I do not regret it. It is so rewarding and challenging.
PI: When is your next book coming out? What’s that going to cover?
MJ: I have a book in mind about training your spirit.
PI: Follow this; your grandchildren will pick up your book and read it. And they’re going to have a conversation with you about it and ask you about your life. What do you think that grandchild is going to say about you?
MJ: How did you get from that to this? How’d you get from chapter one to chapter nine? And I will answer, and then they will look at their other granddad to fill the blanks.
Meet Author Mitchell Jones in person at the ILTA Literary Café Event on Saturday, September 4th at the Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown, 35 14th St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 from 1:00 pm – 3:30 pm.