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One megachurch pastor comes out; another fights charges
2010-12-01

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Jim Swilley—the pastor of Church in the Now, the Georgia institution he found a quarter-century ago—has officially come out of the closet, according to ABC News.

In a video, Swilley, 52, said, "I know a lot of straight people think orientation is a choice. I want to tell you that it is not." He said that he made the decision to announce his sexual orientation to save lives. Swilley told ABC News' Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV, "To think about saving a teenager, yeah, I'll risk my reputation for that. As a father, thinking about your 16-, 17-year-old killing themselves."

Swilley, who has four children, said that he was up front with his wife, Debye, from the start about his sexuality, according to EDGE Boston. After they divorced, Debye reportedly encouraged him to tell the truth.

Anti-gay Christian websites have attacked Swilley, calling him names such as "unclean" and "an instrument of the Devil." However, ABC News reported that Swilley's Facebook page has reached its 5,000-friend limit and that his wall is filled with praise.

Meanwhile, another Georgia megachurch pastor, the Rev. Eddie Long, is fighting charges that he sexually abused several young men. According to the Georgia Voice, Long has filed papers denying accusations he sexually forced the young men, who were members of the pastor's gigantic New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande filed lawsuits. Long admitted that he took the men on trips but denied that any sexual contact occurred, adding that he sees himself as a mentor.

Long has espoused strong anti-gay views. LGBT-rights leaders said that if the charges are true, it would be the height of hypocrisy.

On Sept. 26, Long told some 8,000 congregants, "There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man, but I am not the man that is being portrayed on the television. That is not me."


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