Unexpected Community

In Georgia there’s a man I never expected to feel connected with, and am happy to learn I was wrong. Bishop Jim Swilley is the pastor of a megachurch, son of ministers, and now father to one. And he recently came out on camera to his congregation.

I spent years participating in and leading LGBT speakers bureaus. For a while it was officially my job to fight homophobia. Swilley’s one-hour talk is among the best I’ve ever heard, particularly because he comes from such a closed community and is speaking directly to people he cares about. He talks about his experiences, his understanding of the bible, his struggle to be himself while facing two incompatible truths (his attraction to men and his calling to preach), and his love for his community. He also calls out those who preach “hellfire and brimstone,” drawing a direct line between their actions and the self-hatred of queer youth that too often leads to suicide.

I thank him for his openness. And I wish him the best as he navigates his way into a new world.

(thank you to Ken Tam for pointing me towards the full speech)

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