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bruorton in christianchange

Megachurch pastor comes out of the closet

Whoa... interesting.  Long story short: Jim Swilley, leader (bishop?) of a megachurch in Atlanta, GA, came out as gay to his congregation after encouragement from his ex-wife, children, and a sense of conviction from hearing homophobic reactions to the recent gay teen suicides.  (NPR story here, incl. extended interview and full video of his church address in which he told his story.) 

It's a startling step closer to the day when a rejection of homophobia is no longer a conservative or liberal issue, in the church or in society.  There is so much that distinguishes this from other high-profile outings (like Ted Haggard), most importantly that Swilley isn't just trying to get out in front of some scandal.  In fact, it bears none of the usual sense of hypocrisy: he doesn't treat it as a sin from which he must repent, and he says that he's never made derogatory or homophobic remarks.  He just wants to be honest about who he is.

There's lots of good stuff in the interview; for instance, Swilley seems willing to consider marrying a gay couple, and rejects the "marriage only for procreation" argument by saying "I marry folks on their 2nd or 3rd marriage who aren't going to have kids... and am I supposed to do fertility tests on all the couples I marry?" I'm not clear exactly what your title as bishop means, but -- right on, Bishop Jim!

It was also fascinating to hear him seemingly working through the issues anew even as he's talking to the interviewer, as if he's still just realizing the new vistas that have opened to him for thinking about civil rights, marriage equality, and so on.  For me, his most touching comment was: "Saying all these things out loud is just so new for me..." 

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dove

November 2010

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