November 13th, 2010
10:47 PM ET

Pastor says student's suicide was tipping point for his coming out

The founder and pastor of a Georgia megachurch said Saturday that the September suicide of a Rutgers University student was the tipping point for his decision to come out of the closet to his congregation.

"For some reason, his situation was kind of the tipping point with me," said Jim Swilley, who calls himself a bishop. "There comes a point in your life where you say - how much time do we have left in our lives? Are we going to be authentic or not?"

Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off a bridge after a secretly-taped sexual encounter between him and another man was posted on the internet.

Swilley, 52, said that he has known he is gay since childhood, but that he never thought he would live openly. He came out recently after more than 20 years of marriage to his former wife, who continues to work at their church.

"At a certain point, you are who you are," said Swilley, who has four children from two marriages.

He ministers at the Church in the Now, an inter-donominational Christian church in Conyers, Georgia, about 25 miles east of Atlanta.

"What I told my church is that I was given two things in my life that I didn't ask for... one is the call of God in my life and the other is my orientation. I didn't ever think that those two things could be compatible," Swilley said.

On the whole, he said his congregation has been supportive of his coming out, though some people have cut ties with him over the decision.

Homosexuality is a hotly contested issue by many faith traditions.

Earlier this month, Gene Robinson - the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church - said that death threats and the continued controversy around his selection contributed to his decision to announce his retirement.

Speaking specifically about evangelicals, Swilley said gay people are sometimes seen as trying to build a movement, or "recruiting" - views he took serious issue with.

"My position is not about gaying up the church," he said. "It's about people being who they are."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Georgia • Homosexuality • United States

soundoff (977 Responses)
  1. MANOFGOD2010

    New International Version


    Overseers and Deacons

    1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer,a he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

    8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

    11In the same way, their wivesb are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

    12A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

    14Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:

    Hec appeared in a body,d

    was vindicated by the Spirit,

    was seen by angels,

    was preached among the nations,

    was believed on in the world,

    was taken up in glory.

    November 14, 2010 at 3:28 am |
    • Someone

      And yet his church I bet didn't get upset when he married his second wife....

      November 14, 2010 at 7:58 am |
    • agw

      All this double-talk by "Christians"!

      They tout loving everyone without judgment, all the while saying they "don't agree" with how a gay person lives out their life. Doesn't disagreement mean that one has judged?

      Also, why do "Christians" resort to scriptures/fables/parables to force people to live in fear?
      Where is it said to use the "Bible" in such a threatening, scary and mean-spirited manner?

      And, if being a "Christian" is such a blessed, better way to live, they why do so many "Christians" fault/fear those who are non-Christian or live contrary to Christian beliefs? Why do "Christians" feel so threatened?

      Finally, if worldly sin is truly between an individual and "God," then why don't "Christians" leave it that way and stop acting like "God?"

      November 14, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  2. smurfette

    I am definitely a believer in God, but am no saint by any means...but one thing that I consider as one of the most honorable traits in a person (if not THE most) is honesty. Haven't exactly lived up to that belief myself throughout my life, but my reasons stemmed from either fear of getting in trouble mainly when I was a teen), not wanting to upset my loved ones or shame. You have nothing to fear or be ashamed of...I admire your honesty. Just keep being you...and don't let all of that mean crap people are posting get to you! They are the ones acting like pigs

    November 14, 2010 at 3:23 am |
    • Justina

      Smurfette, believing in God is never enough. You need to believe Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Without Jesus' atonement in you by faith, God is the holy Judge to punish you for your sins for all eternity. Receive God's free grace by trusting in Jesus.

      November 14, 2010 at 4:30 am |
    • Kelly Garrett


      Bless you, that is also the meaning of god to me. But, my god is not the christian god. If you like what little is left of the Prophet Yeshua ben Yosef in the christian bible, you will find all of him in the "Teachings of Yeshua ben Yosef, as Told by Didymus" which is also known as "The Gospel of Thomas." The parable of the 5 Trees is very enlightening...Yeshua was henotheist, The God of Abraham for the Jews, The Hindu Gods for the Hindu, etc. Her would have walk proudly, hand-in-hand with the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and any other prophet of the fellowship of man. Yeshua is all about Agape between all.

      "When nature, herself, decides there should be only one kind of flower, only one kind of bird and only one kind of human being will I believe there is only one true god above all others, and only one true way to worship."

      November 14, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • BradLW


      Since they are the four primary books of the "New Testament" upon which modern xtianity is built, I did a word search on the root "belie" for the three synoptic gospels and the gospel of John; the following is what I found:



      {16:16} He that believeth and is baptized
      shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

      {16:17} And these signs shall follow them that believe; In
      my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with
      new tongues; {16:18} They shall take up serpents; and if
      they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall
      lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

      1) I have never seen any proof that there are any "devils" let alone a "Devil".

      2) Glossolalia is in the head of those who practice it and no meaning except to the subject individual; and that might even be open to question.

      3) Thank goodness even most xtians have good enough sense not to participate in the handling of poisonous serpents that they know nothing about. Even though most poisonous snakes are not deadly to adults, they can make you very, very ill.

      4) Same thing for drinking or eating toxic things that experience has taught us are hazardous to our health and well being.

      5) I have never seen a "faith healing"(laying on of hands) that wasn't a total charade and didn't have an explanation in science.


      {3:14} And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
      wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
      {3:15} That whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
      but have eternal life.

      {3:16} For God so loved the world, that he gave his only
      begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
      perish, but have everlasting life.

      {3:18} He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he
      that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath
      not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

      {3:36} He that believeth
      on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not
      the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on

      Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and
      believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and
      shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death
      unto life.

      {6:40} And this is the will of him that sent me, that every
      one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have
      everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

      1) That's a pretty select group of people; it certainly doesn't include any of us!

      {6:47} Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on
      me hath everlasting life.

      {8:24} I said therefore unto
      you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I
      am [he,] ye shall die in your sins.

      {10:37} If I do not the works of my Father, believe
      me not. {10:38} But if I do, though ye believe not me,
      believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the
      Father is in me, and I in him.

      1) And thus enters the whole mess of works + faith vs "Faith" alone.

      {11:25} Jesus
      said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that
      believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
      {11:26} And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall
      never die.

      {12:44} Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me,
      believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. {12:45} And
      he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. {12:46} I am come
      a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me
      should not abide in darkness.

      {12:47} And if any man hear
      John Page 794
      my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not
      to judge the world, but to save the world. {12:48} He that
      rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that
      judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall
      judge him in the last day.

      He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do
      also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I
      go unto my Father.

      1) In 68+ years, I have never seen any one professing xtianity who has done anything approaching what jesus supposedly did; seems rather strange in light of the above words!

      {20:31} But these are written, that ye might believe that
      Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye
      might have life through his name.

      Only one of the verses above mentions anything at all about "works" so it seems quite clear to me that, according to the words that jesus spoke, "belief" alone is all that is required. No other dogma or doctrine really matter.

      November 14, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  3. mr insh of victory

    and oh yes...when you solve your kenya problems then speak about trusting your circus freaks and clown women.. Those kenyan people do not trust your circus or like you very much... Hilarious losers.

    November 14, 2010 at 3:03 am |
  4. mr insh of victory

    they are now the circus freaks like their women and corrupt police... For the entire world to see.., we do not judge... We laugh at the end of your rulers over the true people.. And allow you to cease to exist for true world peace.. Goodbye...you will not be missed.

    November 14, 2010 at 2:53 am |
  5. kbs

    I don't think he should be the pastor of that church of that is how he is going to live his life. It clearly states in the Bible that his lifestyle isnt right. So perhaps it would be better for him to lead a church or just be a part of a church that agrees w/ his lifestyle.

    November 14, 2010 at 2:49 am |
    • jed

      Unlike all the pastors who somehow manage not to sell all their belongings. Or those who feel lust in their heart. Or those who eat cheeseburgers.

      November 14, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  6. mr insh of victory

    and behold the liars and animals who hid behind the murder and blood of the jews... Lower than insects and with apologists of endless profits. They seek to own the entire world as atheists and religious liars...but their lives are empty and failing just as their corrupt armies... Peace...? hilarious.

    November 14, 2010 at 2:34 am |
  7. Don

    It is not of you are this or born with this. It is about faith, after all we all born with a sin nature since the fall of Adam and Eve. Does that mean we should stop living because we will make mistakes and sin. No, we have our Lord Jesus Christ to cover our sins of the present, past and future if we keep in trusting in him weather we fall or have any sin inclination. Everyone has a sin inclination we where born with it since Adam of Eve at the fruit. It is about not giving up and keeping the faith to the end to the finish line and carrying the Cross everyday to not give up if you falter because we will.

    November 14, 2010 at 2:20 am |
  8. PGF

    its a pity to have a situation like this at this time but good for the "man of god" for at least he confessed; however he MUST step aside as the pastor of that church because souls will be lost as the church will be divided over this development and his intention to remain as the "pastor in charge"

    November 14, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • outofcontextthumpers

      most of those souls are already lost if they even went to a mega-church in the first place. that's pretty trashy religion if you ask me.

      November 14, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  9. Gary

    As a happily married straight agnostic. I plead to all gays not to be influenced by religious hate filled preachers and their followers...People are either born gay or born straight. If you are gay be gay and be proud. Do not take your life or even be depressed over it. Dont let religious idiots have that kind of evil power...

    November 14, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • oleg

      Well, the term gay was created by media, not by god or some other higher creature. and media is created by evil. I mean, there would be no gay, if there was no term for it. They have created the spirit of Gay. Then gave this "spirit" a name of "Gay" and now this spirit evolves and trying to get stronger. This Gay Spirit is fed by ignorance of ordinary person. The more people think it is OK to be Gay, the stronger this Spirit gets. The more people will fall for it. If we let this Gay Spirit to get stronger, This will undermine the whole human universe. Then, after the Gay Spirit, other evil creatures will follow into our universe.... can't you see people... It is not that these people Gay, they are not, they are lost souls. The Gay spirit takes control over a lost soul...

      November 14, 2010 at 2:24 am |
    • Jaime

      What the heck? Man, you are one scary dude. Gay spirit? Please dont reproduce, and if you do, make sure to give your kids up for adoption. That is probably the most comically bone headed thing i have read in a while. I really cant believ you honestly think that is true. Youre like a kid living in a fantasy world. There is no gay evil spirit, and if there is then there is also a stupid evil spirit and its obviously got ahold of you. Looks like youre F-ed.

      November 14, 2010 at 4:03 am |
    • Kelly Garrett


      Well, Gay certainly beats what you christians call us. The "F" word is old English, for a measure of fuel wood, comprised of a bundle of sticks, a forearm in diameter, composed of sticks two arm-lengths long and one thumb thick. That term was applied to us by christians, and is still part of the pulpit rant "H..... are F... for the fires of hell." You christians would burn us in groups, and when the screaming dies down from one group, the crowd would chant "MORE F....S, MORE F....S" and the next group would be brought out to be burned alive. Such a loving god. Like your bible says "Nothing happens that is not the will of (your) god." Since it happened, it was his will...just as everything that happens to us to this day is the will of your god.

      November 14, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  10. bianca

    He is gay. Good for him. All those who hate are stupid followers. YOU'RE ALL SHEEP BBBAAAAAHHHH!

    November 14, 2010 at 2:13 am |
  11. deedadee

    Why does anyone need to know who he likes to sleep with? sheesh keep it in the bedroom. Lets get over it all ready

    November 14, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • Fred

      What an idiot? What part of Gay dont you understand you Moron YOU

      November 14, 2010 at 5:10 am |
  12. lucky

    women are naturally more sinful than men (look at eve). because they are like children in mental capacity, they must obey their husbands and fathers. righteous and upstanding people believed this b.s. for the past hundreds of years. why does it surprise anyone that hate and ignorance are still widespread today? there is no point in trying to make a man with his eyes closed see...you can try to pull on his eyelids, but you'll most likely end up ripping his eyes out.

    November 14, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  13. marie

    The truth abouT yourself sets you free, always be yourself love yourself.we tend to be someone else especially around others.we think we have have to be accepted by others.we do not judge or condemn to make that person be just like you. Don't be asamed to be yourself God knew us before we did. I know God loves me unconditionally and it is written in the word God perfects that which concerns me. Love yourself change what you don't love about you. Stop trying to change others when its you that needs to change. So love love love be love to others.

    November 14, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  14. sara

    Watch ....................................Eddie Long will be following him. How come who says he is believer God said he was born Gay? You are born u stupid moron. Go worship satan. Wait, satan believes in God too

    November 14, 2010 at 1:49 am |
    • LOL

      Good one! Perfect!

      November 14, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  15. oleg

    I can tell one thing people, those bishops who are gay, do not go to their churches because they warship evil

    November 14, 2010 at 1:46 am |
    • Starling


      November 14, 2010 at 2:14 am |
    • oleg


      November 14, 2010 at 2:17 am |
    • Jaime

      Rofl you are a pathetic excuse for a life. Bishops that are gay are evil? How the heck did you get to the 21st century from 13th century Europe? Worship evil? ROFL?!

      November 14, 2010 at 3:56 am |
    • auguron

      IF you were honestly concerned about evil the last place you would be these days is a church. The jig is up, more light is being shed on the facade!

      November 14, 2010 at 9:04 am |
    • JQ

      They just want your money 🙂

      November 14, 2010 at 9:48 am |
    • Jean Luc Picard

      Warship Evil? Warf! Raise the shields, ready the photon torpedoes and get us to the nearest church!

      November 14, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  16. Moon_Safari

    Looking back at all these emails, just confirms what I always believed religion (Christians or Muslims) when taken to the letter does more harm than good (holly wars, crusades, inquisition, etnic cleasing, etc...).
    Some Christians are no better than fundamentalist who bare hatred for people who don't agree with their belief.
    Only buddism, which is a philosophy, a way of life seems to bring something positive.

    November 14, 2010 at 1:44 am |
    • lucky

      i would say any religion that is more like a philosophy and less centered on god-worship tends to be peaceful.

      November 14, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • jake

      Holly Wars? Do they throw little red berries?

      Buddism? Are you smoking the bud now?

      November 14, 2010 at 6:18 am |
    • Just Sayin'

      And I suppose you know as much about what you speak, as you know the difference between an email and a post here.

      Your first line quallifies you as a fool, the rest is not going to be taken seriously.

      November 14, 2010 at 8:14 am |
    • Rico53

      Moon don`t judge Christianity based on the actions of men , men are weak ,so is the flesh, even the greatest men of the bible fell short of perfect obedience,true Christianity is like democracy , ideally democracy is the best way of life ,on paper , the problem is it is administered by greedy ,selfish and downright corrupt people, same with Christianity , we have men like this pastor in the pulpit claiming to be a teacher of GODS word ,and then he goes and commits this abomination ,he is a terrible example of Christianity , if you want the truth read GODS word for yourself ,dont` follow this pastors example.

      November 14, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  17. livinglife

    Why so much hate in this world? Try being told you have Cancer, you will quickly realize what really matters.

    November 14, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  18. livinglife

    Why so much hate in this world? Try being told you have Cancer, you will quickly realize wha really matters.

    November 14, 2010 at 1:41 am |
  19. Mr Anderson

    It doesn't matter what happens. In the end every knee will bow before the king.straight or gay..

    November 14, 2010 at 1:39 am |
    • Q

      "Well, that's alright mama. That's alright for you!..."

      November 14, 2010 at 1:47 am |
    • BradLW

      Prove it!!!

      November 14, 2010 at 7:54 am |
    • Hellscreamgold

      Prove it!!!

      Prove that we won't...or God doesn't exist. Since y ou can't prove he doesn't exist. Christians can't physically prove to you that he does (physically prove is the only way a non-believer would believe), then it's a nice stalemate, no?

      November 14, 2010 at 8:50 am |
    • Rico53

      I can show proof , GOD foretold us of Christs agony on the cross 2000 years before it happened and the prophecy was so accurate he even told of how 2 soldiers would cast lots to see which of them got Christs robes when he died, of how those same soldiers would shove a spear in his side and that water and blood would come from the wound ,yes 2000 years before it happened ,men do not have the ability to see 2000 years into the future.
      The bible is full of prophcies the were correct down to the smallest detail , yet you refuse to see the truth.

      November 14, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • YBP

      @ Rico53. Oh, Rico you really drank the Kool-Aid. Didn't it ever occur to you that the Gospels were written hundreds of years after the Old Testament, and that the Evangelists therefore mined the Hebrew Bible for the prophecies that they intentionally included in the Gospels? Any seven-year-old could have figured that out.

      November 14, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • BradLW


      I wish that Stephen J. Gould had never made his statement about "non-overlapping magesteria"!

      No, it is not at all a "stalemate" no matter how much xtians try to make that case. For example, science has proven beyond the doubt of any reasonable person that intercessory prayer does not work. This is an experiment that, by applying the scientific method, can be tested and tested again with almost always the same result; I use "almost" in this sentence because good science normally does not try to prove that any hypothesis is absolute. jesus said that if you believe in him you can do everything that he did and more. In testing the truth of this statement, we have yet to find a "believer" who has acquired the power to perform what should be a relatively simple task such as turning water into wine. So you see, so far, almost 100% of the probability that your god does not exist is on the side of those of us who are unbelievers. Nope; no stalemate at all as best I can see!

      November 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  20. ybs

    If you don't beat off (or touch yourself), share us your words of wisdom. Otherwise, go beat off & STFU! 🙂


    November 14, 2010 at 1:33 am |
    • ybs

      ...share your words of wisdom...

      November 14, 2010 at 1:35 am |
    • Q

      I don't "beat off" but I do "procrastibate"...

      November 14, 2010 at 1:48 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.