|Georgia Megachurch pastor comes out shaking America|
(Isa 61:1 NKJV) "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is
upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the
poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to
the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
The Senior pastor and founder of the "Church in the Now", Bishop Jim Swilley, 52, told his congregation last week that he is gay. The church was founded 25 years ago in 1985. There was no scandal, no 3rd party boyfriend. Bishop Jim Swilley is Bishop of the College of Bishops of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches (ICCC). He will be stepping down as Bishop of the 13 member college of Bishops.
The ICCC was once headed by Bishop Earl Paulk who resigned in 2005. Bishop Earl Paulk was also the mentor to Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta's Megachurch, the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Bishop Long is now facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct against young men in his church. However, there was no such 3rd party sexual affairs in the case of Bishop Jim Swilley. We are reminded of Pastor Ted Haggard who was forced out of the open and still living in denial, whilst Bishop Swilley willingly gave up his life's work, put it on the altar, that the GLBT community may be blessed and gain wider acceptance.
Bishop Swilley knew since a young age of his sexual orientation and was motivated to come out by the recent gay teenage suicides to bring a message of love, hope and acceptance. On being gay, he said “It’s like having blue eyes and saying that you can’t have blue eyes,”. He was encouraged by his ex-wife of 21 years, Debye Swilley, to be real and authentic, and to live with integrity. "I know a lot of straight people think orientation is a choice. I want to tell you it certainly is not. .... When you define 'natural' you define what is natural to your nature.", he said.
Bishop Swilley chose to out himself. He need not have to but chose to because he realised that he must lived out his Christian message with honesty and integrity before God and men. The price could be heavy even losing his entire ministry. "I wish after 38 years I could be known for the fruit of my ministry.", he said. But there would now likely to be an exodus from his church. Bishop Swilley knew the price, but the cost not to act was far higher - gay teenagers dying because of the toxic anti-gay religious environment.
Bishop Swilley is a testimony of a self sacrificing Saint. He knew he would probably be crucified for being gay by other churches. But it would have planted a seed of hope and encouragement to many gay christians living in condemnation by the church. For many, our outing would not be as dramatic nor reported around the world, but nevertheless progressive steps of faith. It could have been:-
a) Stepping into an inclusive church knowing that we may be outing ourselves to a community of faith. As the church is open to the public, one may be inadvertantly exposed. This was the fear I had for not attending the inclusive church in Singapore for many years. A dear friend of mine from the CHC bible school attended an inclusive church event and was so shocked to see me there, thus exposing himself for being gay, could hardly bring himself to shake my hands. He knew, I knew.
b) Ministry work in an inclusive church - Preaching, leading prayer, reading a scripture, or being a worship leader knowing that the Youtube broadcast of the event may implicate you as a gay person. It takes a lot of faith and self sacrifice to see beyond ourselves and be a blessing to the many gay christians who would be benefited from our Christian service and worship to God. The Gospel must be preached to the ends of the Earth and how could it be preached if there is no messenger willing to take the risk of being persecuted. But Christ has gone before us.
c) Outreach to the GLBT community into foreign lands where there will be opposition and media attention and your pictures or video clips pasted all over the newspaper and TV. A few years back, at the inaugural service of an inclusive church in Kuala Lumpur, I was asked to read the scripture reading for the service. I got the task perhaps because few would want to appear before the spotlight of the national media. I stepped out by faith disregarded the risk, because I felt the move and calling of the Holy Spirit. In the church service, in front of the cameras, when I read out the scripture reading from Isa 61:1, I felt the Spirit of the Lord coming upon me till I could hardly stand and I begin crying in the inside, and wept quietly for the rest of the service. When we step out in faith instead of fear, God honors us.
Each one of us has our own Cross to bear, our genuine fears to overcome. No one person is the same, each having our own journey of faith and a bible epistle to be written on account of our Christian walk in service to God and to continue the ministry of Christ to proclaim the Gospel message.
I like what Pastor Debye Swilley said "There is no agenda here. It is letting people experience God in a real world. This ministry is a ministry of integrity ... when you know you have integrity, when you know when you have been tested and proven, and you know what you are made out of is good, shit.... Let the shaking happen. Because What's gonna remain will be strong, will be vital, will be powerful, and will change this world."
This was followed by Pastor Robert who said "Listen to me, when this man dedicated your baby, he was gay. When this man preached the message of Salvation, and you bowed your knees to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, he was gay..... I am so proud to stand here today to see somebody in my tribe with this kind of guts. Moses grew up in Egypt. One day he saw his real people being abused.... you tell that system that has been so cruel to them... let them be free. The religious system put me in a place to fake my life and pretend like I was something that I wasn't for 28 years of marriage. I want to go to that system now and say you let my people go ...you stop persecuting my people.... stop telling us we are less than, stop telling us we can't be saved, stop telling us God can't use us .... I believe that God has raised up a man here that's gonna change how the church and the world sees ..."
God is asking us to step out by faith today. So many great saints of God have gone before us, the Troy Perry, Mel White, Gene Robinson, ..... leading the way and setting the path before us. They followed the call of Christ, who first came out of His heavenly closet that we may live again, and forever more. We are to come out not to hide again, but to die - to bear our Cross that others may know that God accepts them in Jesus Christ just as they are, no differently whether straight or gay. Will we answer that call or continue to hide and live in fear! Let us live by faith for great is the Harvest and much work to be done for the Kingdom of God.