Bishop Jim Swilley, the pastor of Atlanta’s church “Church in the Now” recently came out in an hour presentation at a Wednesday night service. The Bishop found it necessary to reveal his sexual orientation especially after Rutger University Student Tyler Clementi jumped of the George Washington Bridge when he discovered that his roommate posted his sexual encounter with another male student on-line in addition to the recent outbreak of gay bullying in the country. The service was intentionally video taped to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.
In the one hour video called : A Real Message to Real People” Bishop Jim Swilley discussed that he knew early on that he was gay and that at the same time had a special calling to preach the Gospel. Since he didn’t think this was compatible, he decided to preach and live a “normal” life. He married twice and is the father of four children. He revealed that he doesn’t really know why his first marriage broke off and after staying single for two years he married his ex-wife Debye who knew his sexual orientation before they married. They were together for twenty one year. A year ago Mrs Swilley asked for a divorce because she wanted the message of the church to be authentically with their lives. They wanted people to come as they are and to be real and not fake. Mrs Swilley and several family members were present.Mrs Swilley pledges to support him for futures to come.
The Bishop insisted that there is a difference between sexual orientation and activity and that he’s intent is not to “gay up the church” nor to jump into bed with anyone anytime soon. He described his normal life style as living with his son and his parents next door and doesn’t understand when people all over sudden say they don’t approve his life style as nothing has changed.
The scandal free pastor mentioned that he is aware of the nine scripture describing Homosexuality in the bible and has struggled with it for years. He briefly mentioned leviticus because people in his congregation kept sending him those verses. Then he explained that in his opinion Sodom and Gomorrah was most likely destroyed by a meteor shower because of how wicked both city were and not because of homosexuality. He mentioned gang rape among one reasons. Then he went on describing Romans 1 as one of the scariest part of the scriptures for homosexuals. The apostle Paul seems to say in his opinion that people who don’t worship the Lord in a rightly manner will be punished by God by giving into their homosexuality.
After constant praying, trying to cast out his demons, counseling and anything he could think of he realized that he is still gay. Now he describes Paul as the “it person” for Christ but not really relevant when it comes to Human Relationships and Sexuality. He added that Paul has said in other scriptures the only reason someone should get married is for the guy not to fall into lust. That just doesn’t make sense to him. At one point he asked the congregation to stand up if they knew someone who was gay and always has been gay. Most of the people in the front rows stood up.
After that his former wife came on stage describing the pastor as a man of integrity and courage. His worship pastor added that when he hears the Bishop preach he doesn’t want to hear the Bishop preach but the word of God and that Swilley is an excellent vessel of god. Another Parishioner stood up revealing that she was gay but felt welcome at the Pastor’s church for a long time. Before she was struggling trying to understand the love of god.
I enjoyed the hour long video simply because I am often questioning the way Christians treat Homosexuality myself. It is good that this was done scandal free and the pastor is not known as one who speaks against Homosexuality and then practices it behind closed door. I however question why he only explained three scriptures when he says there were nine in the bible. Normally I would say that you shouldn’t match the bible to your actions but your actions to the bible. And in this case I also thought he was justifying a bit too much even so he enlightened me quite a bit. Maybe he needed to do that to bring a broader understanding of that issue to the people.
I was totally opposed to him telling the people who might leave his church now not only once but twice that they may be finding their son/daughters with a robe around their neck and they shouldn’t come back running to him. I thought that was a bit harsh and cliché as I don’t think the majority of gay people will end up killing themselves. I don’t think Jesus would ever say: “I told you so”. I also didn’t like that he insinuated that almost every worship pastor is gay.
Also the ex-wife cult like praise was a little over the top exclaiming that the pastor created her and her ministry and that she is submitted to him as a servant. I always get chills when stuff like that happens and not the good kind. The impression didn’t improve especially since Swilley was sitting sipping on his water bottle while a lady was speaking. Anyway a ministry is from God and God allows us to minister. No man can create that for you.
Swilley was also misinformed stating that some partners of gay military members won’t be able to know if something happen to their loved ones because the military chose to inform the parents, (“who hate the son anyway”)instead of the partner. Actually the military informs whoever’s name is mentioned on the emergency data.
In the end the Bishop did a good job bringing us a little bit closer to tolerance and acceptance. Only when we can demonstrate Love we can bring people closer to Christ. He doesn’t want his church to become a ‘gay’ church but if other churches don’t start welcoming people from all ways of life the gay community may just flock to him.