A month after coming out to his congregation as gay, a Georgia pastor said he's never been happier or more at peace with God and with himself.
"I have favor with God and man, and the positives in my life so far outweigh the negatives, that I can't think of myself as anything but blessed," said Bishop Jim Swilley of Church in the Now on his blog Tuesday. "I am surrounded by love, even in the midst of some expected persecution."
It was on Oct. 13 when he told his congregation that he was gay. The 52-year-old, who founded Church in the Now, explained to them that he was given two things in his life that he didn't ask for – the call of God on his life and his sexual orientation.
Swilley, who was married twice and has four children, has made media rounds over the past month, recounting the day he came out and asserting his belief that one can't change being gay.
It was his ex-wife, Debye Swilley, who encouraged him to be "real" with the congregation, in line with the church motto: "Real People Experiencing the Real God in the Real World."
The two were married 21 years. Debye, who co-pastors the megachurch, knew Bishop Swilley was gay before they got married. She has insisted that they were in love and that their marriage wasn't a sham.
Bishop Swilley told CNN, however, that "at a certain point, you are who you are. It went against my nature."
The Pentecostal pastor said he knew since he was four years old that he was gay.
Since coming out, Swilley has refused to engage in any theological debate about homosexuality.
"I have no desire to defend myself, or to argue the Scriptures with those who would not be open to anything I would have to say. Integrity can't be proven, it must be discerned," he wrote on his blog.
During an earlier CNN interview, he indicated that he initially felt the call of God on his life and his sexual orientation weren't compatible. But he has not responded to The Christian Post's request to articulate his current theological stance.
On Tuesday, however, he provided a brief argument on his blog.
He stated that he was "well aware" of what the Bible calls "an abomination." But he added, "Here's a short list of just some of the things the Bible calls an abomination ..." and he went on to list about three dozen things, including cheating, the proud of heart, a false witness, and eating unclean things.
"I could go on, but, suffice it to say, we are probably all guilty of regularly committing abominations (ever had a 'proud look' on your face, or eaten a pork chop?), so we need to keep the use of that word in perspective," he wrote. "Thank God for the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world!"
In his media interviews, Swilley has also made it clear that he does not believe someone could be "free of gay urges" or change their sexual orientation.
The Rev. Tom Brock, who was outed earlier this year by GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) magazine Lavender, disagrees. There are some who have found that kind of freedom, he said, and others who simply choose not to act on their desires, including himself.
"I've got the same-sex attraction struggle in my life but do you choose it? I don't know if anybody chooses their temptations," he told The Christian Post.
"My belief is we're all born sinners because of Adam's sin – original sin – and it takes different forms. And you might not consciously choose your temptations in life but you do choose what you do with them," he said.
"I don't know where this bishop is at spiritually but if he's of the belief that you can engage in homosexual behavior and still be following Christ, he's wrong," Brock, who formerly pastored Hope Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, maintained.
Brock is a 57-year-old virgin who continues to struggle with same-sex desires, but he said he still says no to them for the sake of Christ.
Bishop Swilley willingly stepped down from the College of Bishops of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches and is no longer affiliated with the organization. He is, however, in dialogue with another international network concerning possible ordination and affiliation. Meanwhile, he continues to pastor Church in the Now. With much support from his congregation, he said he plans to keep preaching on love, grace and tolerance.