The recent rash of suicides by gay youths who were tormented at school for their sexuality provided the impetus for Swilley’s public disclosure, the pastor told Atlanta news station WSB-TV. As a father...Think about your 16, 17-year-old killing themselves. I thought somebody needed to say something."
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.