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. Oh lookee, I just got sassed by a whore. You've sassed your last, whore! LOL! Seriously, you're about as perceptive as navel lint, zeke.

    I have watched the videos. None of my questions have been answered by them...none. What is the church's stance on gay civil rights? Is the congregation homophobic? Has he ever "compassionately" expressed "christian love" for homosexuals by condemning them in a sermon to play to that congregation's bigotry? Has he allied his church with homophobic churches? You mean he wouldn't have been able to create a lucrative megachurch if he gave this speech twenty years ago...what, after his first marriage to a woman? Why is that? Why is he being demoted? Hmmmm, couldn't possibly be homophobia...not in christianity! You FOLKS uncritically eating this up are...the salt of the know, idiots.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 7:11:16 PM

  2. @Tank: You need to up your Cymbalta and/or Ex-Lax intake. Obstreperousness and constipation are a vicious cycle.

    Posted by: Please | Oct 30, 2010 7:13:54 PM

  3. LOL....The Gay 'Community' is wonder there are so many suicides. Next time one of you internet sages post about how it's all societal homophobia,8 years of Bush and the Republican's fault, try a hard, honest look in a mirror. I'm Agnostic, but admire that some devout Christians and others preach we're all sinners [flawed human beings] and really do practice forgiveness and understanding,within reason. This is a far cry from the holier than thou, walk on water,narcissistic personalities [of every political and ideological persuasion] who rant online.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 30, 2010 7:36:20 PM

  4. Uh, people, what's with all the cyber-bullying? I did have a comment to add to the thread but, my first sentence will have to suffice.

    Posted by: JOEBLOE | Oct 30, 2010 8:09:42 PM

  5. Tank, 59 is not old. I'm 62. Your ageism is a little misdirected. And I agree, your doctor needs to up your med level. Your own self-loathing is coming through.

    Posted by: mad1026 | Oct 30, 2010 9:06:22 PM

  6. Gentlemen, Swilley is 52. Not that it matters, but it proves many people commenting have not watched the videos. Yet feel informed enough to comment. Which is pathetic. And, had you bothered to inform yourself before demonstrating your idiocy, you would have known that is exactly one point Swilley touches upon in his eloquent speech. But, I suppose, investing an hour to learn about something before demonizing it would be asking too much. And that is beyond pathetic.

    Posted by: Philwin | Oct 30, 2010 9:32:35 PM

  7. Just took the time to watch the whole video. AMAZING! I recently renounced my Christianity and am now an agnostic, humanist Buddhist but this man really moved me with his sincerity, his wit, his power to speak truth to Christians in a way that few people can. I would love to give this man a hug, tell him welcome to your life and wish him all the best in his personal life and in his ministry.

    And WOW, the mother of his children frickin ROCKS!

    I truly believe that it will be people like him who will effect the new Christian reformation and that can only be a good thing.

    Thanks to both Rev. Swilleys and their church. I hope you are a HUGE success.

    And TANK, bless your little ole heart. Watching you get your panties in a pissy bunch is just adorable. Having you sling insults at me just makes my day. When I'm on YOUR wrong side then I know I'm on the right side of sanity. Please, please, please keep it up. Love ya, mean it, don't change a thing!


    Posted by: TampaZeke | Oct 30, 2010 10:03:24 PM

  8. Hey, that's great. You are an absolute flake, tampazeke...and your name will forever remind of a certain character in pulp fiction...a certain rather detestable character who got exactly what he deserved...not to suggest that you deserve anything like that. I'm sure you and that character are very different...I hope, anyway.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 30, 2010 10:31:35 PM

  9. ***If you have ever been really hurt by going to a service where they decried homosexuals***

    ...watching the long video may help create a(nother) little space for you inside that feels better about having gotten through the experience. It's good to create love within ourselves, but it's also good to hear it from others as well. Just mho.

    PS (Presenting: Ms. Georgia

    Posted by: Ccc | Oct 30, 2010 10:37:00 PM

  10. "But Jim Swilley gets the "courageous" award after deceiving himself, his wife, his children, and his congregation for over two decades."

    @Jpeckjr: I haven't watched the second video, but the news report gives no evidence that he decieved himself or his family.
    He told his wife he was gay before they were married. It sounds like the couple decided together to put up a fake front for the church community.

    I would hardly say he has received a "courageous award." It does take some bravery to finally own up to the truth after all those years of pretending, but that doesn't negate the fact that it takes a lot of (and maybe more)courage to have been honest from the beginning, even in decades when the threats and misunderstandings were much greater.

    Posted by: GregV | Oct 31, 2010 12:05:17 AM

  11. As far as I'm concerned, it makes no difference WHEN someone comes out. The important thing is that they do. What it does is signal that point in ones life where a positive step is taken to reconcile ones internal and external selves. To me, it's one more family member for The Tribe and that's always a good thing.

    Posted by: flatlander_48 | Oct 31, 2010 1:48:48 AM

  12. the whole religious thing taints all aspects of human development. Using superstitions to build ones own wealth is such a wolf in sheep's clothing to begin with.. all of this BS just shouts intellectual dishonesty !

    Posted by: MarkBoston | Oct 31, 2010 2:10:49 AM

  13. Who cares what "tank" writes. I usually see who is writing a post, and if it's this UGLY self-loathing queen, I just PAGE DOWN

    seriously, no one should even bother responding to this OLD closet queen writes. It does NOT MATTER What he says only provides COMIC RELIEF if he does say anything worthwhile, so INGORE HIM!

    Posted by: FunMe | Oct 31, 2010 7:16:31 AM

  14. If you watch the whole coming out video you will see that he has ben preaching inclusion for years, has never preached against gay people (and the tapes exist to prove it).

    He has other preachers on staff who are openly gay too , who got up and spoke.

    He made very clear that he is for inclusion of ALL people ...stragiht/gay/black/white, etc.

    Posted by: Alex | Oct 31, 2010 12:34:14 PM

  15. Wow, bitter party of three. Between the whining "why is he being applauded" of a supposed UCC minister, Tank's usual piss and venom, and Jason having to in some way critique the guys sexual orientation, I can't imagine why more people aren't coming out.'

    Sick and pathetic. Especially the supposed minister. At least we expect the craziness from Tank and Jason.

    Posted by: DR | Oct 31, 2010 12:45:13 PM

  16. Yes, it's just insane and...self loathing (oh my goodness, there's a reason why your lives are doubtless the way that they are...failed) to point out the obvious about this case and christianity, and to reject the narrative being spun by church fags, who, if they had the opportunity, would whip themselves with chains as apology for their existence.

    Yes, I just won't...uncritically accept this and praise the closeted old reverend (and saying nothing for over twenty five years is a negative action)...hmm, or anything any of you were to say, actually.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 31, 2010 1:03:34 PM

  17. Oh, and just in case you didn't get it the first time: I don't think that this is "great," "inspirational," or that he's a role model...and if you do, you're fucked up. Really fucked up (to be polite, actually) to put a deeply closeted christian megachurch preacher (who also serves homophobic congregants, btw...and I guarantee that his message of "tolerance" isn't nearly as aggressive when it comes to lgbt as just about any ucc pastor) on a pedastal....he's no one gay youth should aspire or be encouraged to aspire...his closeted life is no template for "success". He could very well be a nice guy...I'm not disputing that.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 31, 2010 1:11:17 PM

  18. Where in the video does he admit to ripping off his congregation by promising them that if they donate to his church he can get them into heaven in the next life? Megachurches make megabucks by telling their congregations how wonderful they are. It's the congregations that are self-loathing. Flattery will get you far.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 31, 2010 2:36:44 PM

  19. I applaud his courage - and his coming out in front of his Congregation. I do NOT believe he was outed in any way, I accept that it was something that he and his wife talked through thoroughly before she asked for a divorce, freeing each other to move on in other relationships if that should occur. I do hope that it is given coverage in the right-wing press - Clearly at least SOME people will become accepting ... Although I am a non-Christian, I am a full member of MCC Toronto, and would certainly attend any service at which he was asked to speak in my area ...

    Posted by: Bodhi | Oct 31, 2010 5:04:16 PM

  20. Good for him.

    Also, NOTHING ABOUT THAT IS BRAVE, LOOK THE WORD UP. BRAVE would have been doing it as a teen. You are just using the wrong word, like calling someone who catches a fly ball a 'hero'.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Nov 1, 2010 10:33:22 AM

  21. Tank, you've succeeded: everyone here knows you're a moron. Now, go troll somewhere else.

    Having lived in GA, I understand his being closeted even if I disapprove of it. I came out at 21 because I knew I could survive the repercussions: my job was secure, I had several close friends, and I didn't give a rip what my biological family thought. That said, to come out at 52 in front of a church congregation (even if that congregation thinks of itself as 'welcoming') *is* an inspiring act - it shows that even the most fearful in the closet can come out and act to improve the life of others.

    Posted by: darkmoonman | Nov 1, 2010 1:11:39 PM

  22. Just to let people know, for those wishing to add Jim on facebook, he has now reached his 5000 friend limit. He took the time however to add a new Page for people to like/join:

    Posted by: GC | Nov 2, 2010 1:39:39 AM

  23. I didn't do the megachurch route, my churches were of the medium to small variety. Regardless of the size, coming out while a minister is a traumatic event. Instead of killing our own for their bravery and making it easier for all men and women to come out, we should applaud this man's courage for his rather difficult decision. If you've never been a part of organized religion from the inside you can never fully appreciate the type of pain these people experience. My kudos to this man for having finally gained the courage to live his life openly and to borrow a phrase that is currently in the public domain: "it gets better." Believe me.

    Posted by: Parker LA | Nov 2, 2010 7:44:27 PM

  24. Does this man believe ANYTHING that the Word of God says? God says in his Word, "I can do ALL THINGS through Jesus Christ who STRENGTHENS ME." I was an ALCOHOLIC. I went to church and continued to drink, but the Holy Spirit was dealing with me to quit. I tapered off, because the scripture is TRUE, that as Christians, we can surely do all things through Christ Jesus. Do you believe that preacher???? We FIRST must have a desire to turn away from the SIN. (and DON'T TELL ME YOU CAN'T, AS YOU ARE MAKING GOD A LIAR)!! He should have QUIETLY left the church. LESS DAMAGE WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE. Those who stay, based on the Word of God, are "partaking in this man's SIN." Lost people will now justify their homosexuality, based on what this man says. I too, care about the FEW TEENS who committed suicide, but WHAT ABOUT THE POSSIBLY MILLIONS THAT WILL THINK THEY WILL ENTER HEAVEN BY LIVING A HOMOSEXUAL LIFE-STYLE, (based on this man's FALSE teaching), AND WILL GO TO HELL,FOR ETERNITY, AS THE BIBLE SAYS THAT THIS BEHAVIOR IS UNNATURAL AND BRINGS SPRITUAL DEATH!!!! I believe with all my heart, that this man has no intentions of giving up this life-style as he loves it. I also will add, that the scripture says, that in the LAST DAYS, men will call evil good, and good evil. No wonder so many non-christians laugh at us, and want no part of Christianity!!!

    Posted by: Louise | Nov 4, 2010 4:44:59 PM

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