In the wake of the recent spate of publicity around suicide among queer youth, Georgia evangelical megachurch pastor Jim Swilley has come out publicly. In a sermon to his congregation, he equated two major themes in his life: his call to God and his sexuality. Swilley and his wife of 20 + years recently divorced amicably, and Swilley credits her with urging him to live openly as the gay man they have both always known him to be. The couple have four children and together grew the Rockdale County Church into the huge Church in the Now. Pastor Swilley has stepped down from the College of Bishops of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches – at their request.
Pastor Swilley is to be commended for his decision and action to come out. His life will never be the same. He is no longer a bishop. He may lose his church. Certain good “christian” bloggers are savaging him on-line, throwing up dreck about his being a “tool of Satan.” But most religious people are not like that. The fringe has been representing the center too long. The military is already teeming with gays. So are many churches. Most soldiers don’t care. Most folks sitting in church Sunday morning don’t care. Most already know gay people: a friend, a cousin, a co-worker. Attitudes are changing, and actions such as the pastor’s are key in this shift. We really are everywhere. Even in the mainstream.
Enormous physical and emotional harm is done to queer youth at the hands of cowardly bullies and disinterested school administrators. Enormous harm is also done daily to many of these same kids in the pews of their churches. The effects of spiritual violence can be as devastating as any other trauma. For queer people of faith, seeing young people alienated from the Divine because of the actions of bullies in pulpits is tragic. Out people of faith, including clergy, are powerful antidotes to religious hatred. God loves all His children. As friend of this site Tim’m T. West has been known to say: “If it ain’t Love, it ain’t God.”