Megachurch Pastor Comes Out 

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 29 2010 6:45 PM ET

The pastor of a megachurch in Conyers, Ga., told his congregation last week that he’s gay, saying that while he knows his announcement might ruin his career, the recent rash of suicides pushed him to speak out.

Jim Swilley, 52, founded Rockdale County’s Church in the Now 25 years ago. His wife, Debye, was the associate pastor, and together they had four children.

Swilley says he’s known that he’s gay since he was a boy, and his wife knew when they got married. Jim and Debye are now divorced, but they kept his secret for more than 21 years. Earlier this year, Swilley says, Debye told him she thought it was time he stop living a lie.

Swilley says he decided she was right after reading stories about kids being harassed by antigay bullies and committing suicide.

“As a father, thinking about your 16-, 17-year-old killing themselves, I thought somebody needed to say something,” he told WSB TV in Atlanta. “I know all the hateful stuff that’s being written about me online, whatever. To think about saving a teenager, yeah, I'll risk my reputation for that.”

Watch Jim Swilley's interview here.