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. Adrienne

    Being a christian means accpeting people for who they are and not judging them. Judgement is reserved for the BIG MAN above. Humans love to spend their time judging others. "Judge not, lest ye be judged.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  2. moversdiary

    Nothing wrong of being a gay but i dont know why some peoples are afraid to say that they are gays.


    November 15, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  3. Rudy

    I have to say this is crazy! The man and his wife have known for 20 yrs of him being Gay but did not tell the church. Now he has a Mega-Church I wonder does people understand Mega-Church and how much money they generate!

    So, basically, he and his wife lied to the church for the say of keeping the money! Its a business for him and his wife and I bet he had things so tied up with the millions involved till its impossible for him to leave unless he take it all with him! At least Rev. Swaggert was with a woman I can understand and handle that but a man pumping another man's a** then get up for the pass 20 years to tell others to set an example is just crazy!

    November 15, 2010 at 7:55 am |
  4. doctore0

    I see a guy who is changing his view on his religion, to get more business.
    Until he gets an honest job, ditches his religion; Until then, this is nothing but a business plan

    November 15, 2010 at 7:35 am |
  5. Frog hater

    Another example of Jesus Christ coming back very soon. Like a thief in the night.

    November 15, 2010 at 7:22 am |
  6. p160


    Jesus said two things on the cross: “I thirst,” & “It is finished.”

    When Jesus said, “I thirst,” he was given wine. “A bowl of sour wine stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.” (John 19:29)

    After drinking from the fruit of the vine, he said, “It is finished.”


    The Passover sacrifice is finished. Jesus drank from the fourth & final cup of the Passover, the Cup of Consummation, and in His drinking, the Passover is finished.

    The lamb has been slain. The sacrifice has been consummated.

    Jesus is the Passover lamb. He is the Passover sacrifice. He is the perfect, spotless unblemished, lamb, no bones are broken.

    He is the ultimate sacrifice for sin. His blood, the blood of the Lamb of God, is the blood of the New Covenant, reconciling man to God. The gates of heaven are reopened. Eternal life is now available for all!

    Undoing the sin of Adam. Jesus willingly suffered & died, laying down his life for his bride, the Church. Adam, fearing death, refused to lay down his life for his bride.

    Jesus undid in the Garden of Gethsemane, what Adam did in the Garden of Eden. His blood is the blood of the new covenant. He fulfills the promises of Isaiah’s suffering servant, the servant king messiah.

    In the Eucharist we “zecher”, or make present, the Passover sacrifice of Jesus at the Mass. We re-present Jesus as the Sacrifice, this time in an unbloody manner.

    The law of Moses prescribed that the Passover lamb must be consumed in its entirety. We, too, at our sacrifice, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, must consume the Lamb.

    Jesus, God made man, comes to us body, blood, soul & divinity, in the Eucharist, giving us the grace we need to pick up our cross & follow in Him. Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us!


    November 15, 2010 at 7:05 am |
  7. jerry

    a person comes out and says \they are gay they are considered heros and a person comes out and says they are a christian they are mocked and made fun of and ostricized goes to show how immoral our society is today

    November 15, 2010 at 6:59 am |
  8. Belial

    hehehe, americans and their silly meaningless arguments

    November 15, 2010 at 3:08 am |
  9. Peace2All

    I believe it to be a good thing that this Pastor has c-ome out, and has declared his authenticity. Maybe, that will encourage more gay's to c-ome out and own who they really are without shame, guilt, or people of so-called 'faith' telling them they are horrible people who are going to burn in hell forever... or... that they are p-e-dophiles, just because they are gay. If this can also c-ontribute to less suicides, because of fundamentalist zealot Christian clergy, parents, teachers, etc.. that is fantastic. So, I don't see any down-side to this.

    Especially for the Christians, for your 'faith' to truly survive, you will need to change your att-itudes about gays.

    It is already happening with an ever-increasing number of Americans being more accepting, and you are also seeing a greater number of Christian denominations starting to be more accepting and tolerant–treating gays as equals, even having gay and lesbian clergy.

    This *is* absolutely a good-thing. I sincerely hope that this opens the door for a major change in our society. At least, in my opinion, this seems to be someone taking a stand to make a difference in the world in a positive way.


    November 15, 2010 at 2:55 am |
  10. Bologna

    @Winona Student

    its not your place to pass judgement

    November 15, 2010 at 1:18 am |
  11. WE

    It is amazing how the American media can preoccupy and distract so many Americans with the same topics over and over. The reality is that most that post on here are not even aware of their surroundings. Most think that because they can "anonymously" post whatever they like in the "country of the land and of the free" that they are privileged. Most are not aware that 90% of the information they read and see comes from all but 5 corporations; many people are not even aware that a couple of days ago, the U.N. found the U.S. to be in contempt of violating 238 human rights laws – and of course it is nowhere to be found on the mainstream media. Americans are playing into their governments hand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nifbIkjFzyc Many liberal Americans will read this post and automatically reach the conclusion that I am crazy and dillusional – but during their times Galileo, Pythagoreas, and Copernicus among others were also considered heretics by their contemporaries. WAKE AMERICA!!!!!

    November 14, 2010 at 11:41 pm |

    With every blasphemous word you utter, you are only fulfilling prophesy. Ateist-loosers.

    November 14, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  13. Jasmine88

    See that's the problem, the whole point of being a christian is to deny yourself and be like christ, but instead people want to be be "accepted for who they are." It's not about you anymore, to think that is trickery and that comes from the devil.

    November 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm |

    United States is supposedly fighting for democracy but within the U.S. they treat gays like secondary citizens. Being left-handed, black or being gay is just as natural. If blacks’ or women’s rights were cast to the masses to decide … then the majority or lunatic religious fringe in this case - has the advantage to decide minority rights.

    November 14, 2010 at 10:35 pm |

    There is no scientific evidence to prove any of the cross related bogus elements of christianity. Our early human ancestors; on this earth … go back more than 6 million years … 5,996,000 years before the Greeks, Romans and the Jews. Christianity is basically a 2010 year old fictional cult.

    In the year 300 AD when Emperor Constantine, who to some was the first pope; went on to fabricate & market Christianity – a fantasy – which turned out to be one of the most hateful & evil concoctions ever perpetrated on the world.

    I am the son of a catholic father who never went to church and a protestant mother who took us to church and Sunday school. Onward christian soldiers; I think not. Such absolute drivel. To be manipulated by a santa claus; an easter bunny and worst of all a bogus cross!

    November 14, 2010 at 10:32 pm |

    The pope is running a bigger fraud than Madoff’s $50 billion ripoff.

    November 14, 2010 at 10:32 pm |

    I sure respect Jim! It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return ... it is something that should be celebrated! If it is between two guys or girls all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!

    November 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  18. Mlopez

    You read alot of ignorant and just moronic comments and even disrespectful comment when it comes to Christianity. The thing I find hilarious is that most people don't read the Bible in the first place so how could they put a intelligent comment together. This bishop is very decieved and is blind man leading the blind. I'm a blood bought, sanctified, Holy spirit filled child of the most high God and I can tell you that my God will not be mocked. I pray that this man and the congrigation under is leadership wake up because Jesus is coming back sooner than you think!!!

    November 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  19. NCcoast

    I am sure it was hard for him to admit this. I am a christian, but I don't practice hate. Also when we point a finger we have 4 more pointing right back at us. I won't ever understand why those people who aren't christians will sit and tell christians how horrible they are and how horrible there religion is and shame on them for judging when they are doing the same thing!Judging christians and assuming we are all one way! How about everyone just wish this guy the best,send good thought or say a prayer for him, and quit spending your time arguing about something that won't be resolved because no one honestly has any intention on honestly listening and considering they might be wrong. In the end our thoughts on the matter doesn't matter. Its his life, his choice! Death threats coming from people who say they are christians is one of the most insane things I've ever heard of! Honestly makes no sense. We should be more tolerant!

    November 14, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  20. cmxsmitty

    Good for him. I hope that his honesty (albeit a bit late – but living in the south and being openly gay unless you live in Atlanta or New Orleans seems difficult) will help young people know that they are loved by God for who they are.

    November 14, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
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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.