Georgia | Religion

Georgia Megachurch Pastor Comes Out

This story will certainly inspire.

Jimswilly Earlier this month, Georgia Church in the Now megachurch leader Jim Swilley, who very recently divorced from his wife of 21 years, came out and he bravely did it in a very public forum - during a sermon in front of his congregation.

Swilley, a father of four himself, said that he was prompted to come out now due to the recent increased reports of gay teen suicides.

The Rockdale Citizen reported on his coming out:

For many church members, Swilley’s coming out during last Wednesday’s service was not a surprise. Swilley said he had been aware of his sexual orientation since a young age. He and his wife and co-pastor, Debye Swilley, separated about 18 months ago and have subsequently divorced after 21 years of marriage. A video of the service was posted to the church’s website Saturday that shows Swilley explaining to his congregation that he needed to be himself to continue his ministry and that meant explaining his homosexuality and debunking rumors about him.

“There are two things in my life that are an absolute. I did not ask for either one of them. Both of them were imposed on me. I had no control over them,” Swilley said. “One was the call of God on my life ... the other thing was my sexual orientation.”

Swilley gives a 50-minute talk in the video and says that his sexual orientation is something he has struggled with his whole life. He adds he was always attempting to come to terms with his orientation and his faith in God.

“It’s like having blue eyes and saying that you can’t have blue eyes,” he said. “So I would put the contact lens in and say I don’t have blue eyes ... I was doing it not to hide something but to change something.”

The announcement brought some immediate changes to the church, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in May. Swilley will no longer be referred to as a bishop after he agreed to step down from the College of Bishops of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, a coalition of church ministries of which Church In The Now is a member.

In the candid sermon, which you can watch AFTER THE JUMP, Swilley carefully explains to his congregation how being gay is not a choice. He also clears up some rumors (no, he did not leave his wife for another man nor is he not involved in the Eddie Long scandal).

Swilley tells WSBTV in Atlanta that he would not be able to survive if there's a mass exodus of his church. You can watch video of that report, also AFTER THE JUMP.

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  1. I fail to see how this could possibly be inspiring. A man who doubtless led a homophobic congregation for decades while living a closeted life is now coming out in old age and is being stripped of his title within his superstition.

    Hmmm...what some find "inspiration" in is quite sad. It's more pathetic than anything else.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 3:53:17 PM

  2. Watch the long video. It's really nothing of the sort. He is not of those self-loathing homophobes. As an atheist I cringe at the whole Jesus/faith-speak, but what he says comes from the heart and he has the fully support of his parents, his family and it seems a large part of his congregation.

    At the end there are some other speakers. One of them is a lesbian who hid it for most of her life. She is now an interracial relationship and lost her job because she "has become gay" and dating a black woman. It's really infuriating how stupid people can be there.

    Posted by: Steve | Oct 30, 2010 4:04:34 PM

  3. "Old age"? He's 59. What's your damage?

    Posted by: Roger K | Oct 30, 2010 4:07:46 PM

  4. No? I think a georgia megachurch pastor who is being "defrocked" due to his coming (belongs to a homophobic denomination) out led a largely homophobic church, and for much of his career was closeted and outwardly presented a heterosexual identity. I wouldn't doubt that he preached against gay people, and was complicit in the problem. Also, a man who hid his sexual orientation for most of his life (probably about all of it until very recently)...isn't a role model for people to aspire, let alone inspire...and if that doesn't indicate self loathing, nothing probably will to someone like you. Of course, the beauty of being infected with belief in the supernatural is that you justify and spin anything--if you want to believe.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 4:12:10 PM

  5. Yes, he is 59, and most men live to be about 77 in the united states, so most of his life is actually over by that metric. Damage?'s honest. The man's practically sixty years old. That is old age...when over 75% of your life is over.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 4:15:14 PM

  6. You're a total and complete idiot. He didn't preach against homosexuality. He maybe the exception down there, but his church was always inclusive.

    And his wife knew was gay when they married. That's also not exactly typical.

    Posted by: Steve | Oct 30, 2010 4:16:53 PM

  7. @Tank - I don't know what he has preached to his congregation for the 25 years prior, but if what he said just before the 1 minute mark of the news clip is true, then he preached tolerance and acceptance. At least that is what I get when I hear the words "being who you are... God loves you as you are..."

    It is sad that it took the suicides of those kids for him to finally come out, but thank goodness he did.

    I say good for him and "welcome".

    Posted by: Jeremy | Oct 30, 2010 4:19:25 PM

  8. Really? I think you're not actually an atheist, but a dyed in the wool believer. Um, what is the megachurch's position on same sex marriage? I'm sure it's something you could justify to yourself.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 4:26:35 PM

  9. I think it's vitally important to figure out just what kind of "inclusivity" that pastor preached before throwing up our hands and singing hallelejah...embarrassing idiots. Also, apparently the threat of his congregation leaving over this is real...doesn't bode well for your narrative that it's a gay friendly and inclusive church.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 4:29:18 PM

  10. Uh. Did any of you actually watch the longer video? Multiple times he said he is 52. Never preached hate. Personally, I was moved by his message and especially moved by his congregation's reaction. Should be interesting to follow this story.

    Posted by: Philwin | Oct 30, 2010 4:36:21 PM

  11. if you watch the full movie and also bother to read his church website and archived blogs etc you will find that he was not preaching the homophobic mantra of the typical megachurch.

    I am not a religious persons but i would go see him speak if he was in the area.

    the lgbt community needs to find and support churches of this type and people who come out instead of those who are "found out".

    As for the poster "tank", you are an imbecile if you believe what you posted.

    Posted by: mikenola | Oct 30, 2010 4:40:21 PM

  12. This is no longer something that inspires. What inspires me is a Pastor that stands up and preaches EQUALITY for all citizens. A Pastor that challenges his religious peers and calls them out on their hate speech. A Pastor that preaches new ideas and ways of thinking and acting. Coming out of the closet at his age suggests he has been "outed" against his desire which I suspect is the case.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Oct 30, 2010 4:41:16 PM

  13. Yes, Tank, it would obviously be better for him to have stayed in the closet and live the lie, encouraging other older people that if they haven't come out by now then why bother?

    Also, obviously the fear of professional or social repercussions means that no working closeted person should come out, ever.

    Right on!

    Posted by: Josh | Oct 30, 2010 5:07:35 PM

  14. Tank and sargon bighorn,
    I can't believe you are making comments dissing the guy when you obviously have NOT watched a second of the video! If you had, you would realize everything you're assuming is quickly refuted by both him and his wife, who knew he was gay before she married and had two kids with the man. Yes, He is inspiring and a breath of fresh air to this agnostic. He has the potential to turn the talibangicals on their head!

    Posted by: KEW | Oct 30, 2010 5:25:59 PM

  15. Can someone please forward this to Tony Perkins and all those other homophobic religious assholes?

    Posted by: David in Houston | Oct 30, 2010 5:26:33 PM

  16. Yeah...that's just awesome. So I guess according to some true believers here, he was never in the closet to come out in the first place. His marriage to a woman, and four kids...he out and about. As to whether or not this megachurch preaches homophobia or has a homophobic congregation, that has yet to be resolved. I have a different criterion than your typical church faggot on that score, though. Your typical church faggot will take opposition to same sex marriage but "tolerance" of the "sin" as a cue that it's an inclusive and gay friendly church. These people are not to be consulted about gay equality.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 6:01:16 PM

  17. As to older closeted people coming out, more power to them...after the majority of their lives have been spent essentially reflecting shame about themselves and homsoexuality, they finally came out. Why not. It just doesn't make that big of a difference to anyone but themselves...and the reason is that they've lived their's not completely over (of course), but their lives are pretty well defined, and that's that.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 6:03:45 PM

  18. With each post, Tank, you continue to prove what a moron you truly are. It's amazing that a worthless piece of wasted flesh as yourself has managed to survive this long in life.

    Posted by: LiamB | Oct 30, 2010 6:11:45 PM

  19. The long video ("A Real Message to Real People") is entertaining, and informative, to say the least. Too bad he didn't give this sermon 20 years ago. But then he wouldn't have built his megachurch.

    Posted by: Philo | Oct 30, 2010 6:21:36 PM

  20. Swilley is bisexually oriented, not gay. Stop trying to turn him into a Gay Inc pin-up boy. He's got 4 children for Pete's sake. You can't have 4 children if you aren't at least a little turned on by women.

    I think he's playing the gay pity card just like that other bisexually oriented man, Jim McGreevey, former governor of New Jersey.

    In any case, I applaud the fact that he's overcome the stigma on the same-sex component of his bisexual orientation.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 30, 2010 6:25:38 PM

  21. I'm always glad when a person, at any age, finally is open with themselves, those they love, and their community about being gay. I'm also sad that they waited so long.

    But, I'm more than a little annoyed that this man, who is my age, is going to get lots of publicity for something I did when I was 18. I am myself a Christian pastor, in the United Church of Christ, which first ordained an openly gay man in 1972. 1972, people, just three years after Stonewall! There are hundreds of openly gay and lesbian ministers serving in the United Church of Christ. I have never hidden my sexual orientation from the congregations I serve.

    But Jim Swilley gets the "courageous" award after deceiving himself, his wife, his children, and his congregation for over two decades. I wish him no ill, but, I'm more than a little annoyed when people wait until their success is assured before they come out.

    I will watch the videos later. I've got my own sermon to prepare.

    Posted by: jpeckjr | Oct 30, 2010 6:26:30 PM

  22. Georgia Megachurch sounds like a drag name.

    Posted by: matthew | Oct 30, 2010 6:27:44 PM

  23. you go off talking smack about things you don't know. Sheesh.

    No one said you had to like the man or agree with him, but at least inform yourself before hand.

    Posted by: silverskreen | Oct 30, 2010 6:45:16 PM

  24. JASON, you're working on challenging TANK as the craziest commenter on the thread.

    You've actually argued with ME about MY OWN sexuality. You angrily argued that the fact I had sex with women and have children is PROOF that I'm bisexual. It ISN'T proof of any such thing. It's simply proof that I insemenated a woman, nothing more. I can write my name, very poorly, with my left hand. I guess you'll also argue that I'm not right handed but ambidextrous?

    I've heard countless arguments on whether or not male bisexuality exists with ridiculous arguments on both sides but arguing with people who tell you that they are gay is probably the most ridiculous argument of all.

    I had a friend who had seven children and he will tell you that he was never bisexual, just desperately trying not to be gay and having kids because it was the only thing about heterosexual marriage that made it bearable because he loves his kids.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Oct 30, 2010 7:01:47 PM

  25. Uh, Jason, you do realize we get to self-identify in this lifetime right? He identifies as GAY not BI. Just because someone fucks both men and women doesn't make them bi. There's a bit more to it than that.

    Oh BTW: there are PLENTY of men who've fathered children and are NOT attracted to women. Please educate yourself on the subject before spouting off next time.

    Posted by: wtf | Oct 30, 2010 7:05:45 PM

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