Megachurch Pastor Jim Swilley Announces He Is Gay

The pastor of a Rockdale County megachurch has publicly announced he is gay.

Jim Swilley, bishop of Conyers’ Church in the Now, said he hopes his coming out will change attitudes toward homosexuality.

“I know a lot of straight people think it is a choice. It is not,” Swilley told Channel 2’s Diana Davis.

Swilley, 52, founded the church 25 years ago. He seemed the stereotypical picture of a pastor, with four kids and a wife who doubled as his associate pastor.

But Swilley said he’s known he was gay since he was little boy. He said his wife, Debye, also knew his secret from the start.

“I think some women marry gay men because they really think they can change them,” Swilley said.

The now-divorced couple kept their secret for 21 years, but earlier this year, Swilley said Debye told him it was time to stop living a lie.

She said he should practice what he preaches and follow the church’s motto, “Real people experiencing a real God in the real world.

So, Swilley came out to his kids and his congregation. He said he knew he might risk everything, but the recent rash of gay teen suicides pushed him over the edge.

“As a father, thinking about your 16, 17 year old killing themselves. I thought somebody needed to say something,” Swilley said through tears.

He says he’s received support from many in his congregation, but at least one conservative Christian blog has called him sick, twisted, unclean and an instrument of the devil.

“I know all the hateful stuff that’s being written about me online, whatever,” Swilley said. “To think about saving a teenager yeah, I’ll risk my reputation for that.” [Read more...]

Iowa pastor preaches politics to oust 3 justices who backed gay marriage

The Rev. Cary K. Gordon has a prayer he recites as he campaigns against the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who are up for retention in next month’s election.

“Dear God,” he says, “please allow the IRS to attack my church, so I can take them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Gordon, an associate pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, says he will defy federal law this month when he urges the congregation to vote to not retain the three justices, who participated in a unanimous ruling that allowed same-sex couples to wed. His mass mailing to 1,000 church leaders in September prompted one national religious liberty group to file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service.

Advocates of the separation of church and state and some religious leaders say Gordon’s plan is illegal, immoral and an attempt to falsely frame his dispute as a freedom-of-speech violation. The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C., called Gordon’s actions one of the most outrageous attempts to politicize a church that he has ever seen.

Others, such as Jeff Mullen, senior pastor of Point of Grace Church in Waukee, are urging Iowa pastors to communicate to their congregations the “biblical mandate for involvement in local and national elections.”

Seems to us at Religion News Blog that some other, more important Biblical mandates are being skipped in the process. [Read more...]

Christian group pulls support for event challenging homosexuality

A U.S. Christian organization will stop sponsoring an annual event that encourages school students to “counter the promotion of homosexual behavior” because the event has become too divisive and confrontational, the group’s president told CNN on Wednesday.

“All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they’d like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the group that sponsored the event this year. [Read more...]

Anita Hill, 2 other lesbians in committed relationships welcomed as ELCA pastors

In a ceremony that started with a public mea culpa and ended with a prolonged standing ovation, three lesbian ministers were officially embraced Saturday by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The three were the Rev. Anita Hill, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, and two Minneapolis chaplains: the Rev. Phyllis Zillhart at Fairview Home Care and Hospice and the Rev. Ruth Frost at the Hospice of the Twin Cities.

Although they never had been officially recognized by the ELCA, the three of them have a combined 60 years of service as Lutheran pastors.

The official recognition of the three was set in motion a year ago when the denomination’s general assembly voted to drop its ban on gay and lesbian preachers who are involved in committed relationships. [Read more...]