Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Q and A

Grace and peace to you all…thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone (again), for the great demonstration of love and show of support! I haven’t posted anything here for a few days (been a little busy), but I do so appreciate the beautiful comments received on the last two posts. Please take some time to read them if you haven't already. Really good stuff. Anyway, I want to respond to a few re-occurring questions that keep being asked, if you don't mind...

Q. In light of recent events and revelations about your personal life, is your ministry, and/or that of Church In The Now going to dramatically change now?

A. Absolutely not. I still will teach/preach the unconditional love of God (or, better said, that God IS love) as I always have, and Church In The Now will hold to its vision of creating a community of REAL PEOPLE EXPERIENCING THE REAL GOD IN THE REAL WORLD with more conviction than ever before. The only thing that has changed is that I/we have been given a much larger platform and greater sphere of influence than we had a few days ago.

"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:14-16 - The Message)


Last week when I ministered at the CCC, I referred to the 4th verse of the great hymn of the church “There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood” which says:

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die,
and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die.


Whatever you think of me, and regardless of how your perception of my ministry may have changed in recent days, you can be assured of this one thing...REDEEMING LOVE HAS BEEN MY THEME, AND SHALL BE TILL I DIE!



Q. Why don’t you post negative comments and opposing viewpoints here on the blog?

A. Well, first of all, this blog wasn’t created to be a cutting-edge forum for endless debate on hot topics, so I try to keep it on track, and true to its original purpose (encouragement, communication, exchange of ideas, inspiration...). And when it comes to negative or insulting comments, I make no apology for using my own discretion in what I deem to be appropriate to post here.

In a word, it’s my blog to do with as I see fit, and I’ve never presented it as anything but that. Actually, there really aren’t that many negative comments that come in, relative to the ones posted which are positive and affirming, and those that are negative pretty much all say the same thing. There’s a lot of cutting and pasting of the same two or three Scripture passages, and, while I appreciate the effort of those who do the incessant cutting and pasting, I do have many, many Bibles, and I have read (and studied) those passages for many, many years. In other words, it‘s really not necessary to keep sending them to me. It would be redundant to post them all.

But while I’m on the subject, I will say that in some of the un-posted negative comments I‘ve received, the question of whether or not I’m aware of what the Bible calls an “abomination” keeps coming up, and the answer to that is yes, I am well aware. In fact, here’s a short list of just some of the things the Bible calls an abomination, in case you’re wondering about it…

Cheating is an abomination (Mic. 6:10). A proud look is an abomination (Pro. 6:16-17). A lying tongue is an abomination (Pro. 6:17; 12:22). Hands that shed innocent blood are an abomination (Pro. 6:17). A wicked scheming heart is an abomination (Pro. 6:18). Feet that are quick to sin are an abomination (Pro. 6:18). A false witness that speaks lies is an abomination (Pro. 6:19). A sower of discord among brethren is an abomination (Pro. 6:19). A false balance or scale is an abomination (Pro. 11:1). The sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination (Pro. 15:8; 21:27). The proud of heart are an abomination (Pro. 16:5). Condemning the just is an abomination (Pro. 17:15). Divers, dishonest weights are an abomination (Pro. 20:10, 23). Divers, dishonest measures are an abomination (Pro. 20:10). Refusing to hear the law is an abomination (Pro. 28:9). The prayers of a rebel are an abomination (Pro. 28:9). Eating the flesh of a peace offering on the 3rd day is an abomination (Lev. 7:18). Taking ornaments from idols when they are being destroyed is an abomination (Dt. 7:25-26). Any Idolatrous practices are abominations (Dt. 12:31; 13:14; 17:4; 18:9; 20:18; 29:17). Offering an imperfect animal to God as a sacrifice is an abomination (Dt. 17:1). Re-marriage of former companions is an abomination (Dt. 24:1-4). Cheating others is an abomination (Dt. 25:13-16). Making images or idols is an abomination (Dt. 27:15). Incense offered by hypocrites is an abomination (Isa. 1:13). Eating unclean things (pork, shellfish, etc.) is an abomination (Isa. 66:17). Offering human sacrifices is an abomination (Jer. 32:35). Robbery is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13). Oppression of others, particularly the poor or vulnerable is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13). Violence is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13). Breaking vows is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13). Lending with interest to a brother is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13). Sleeping with a menstruous woman is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13). Hardness of heart is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13). Injustice is an abomination (Ezek. 18:6-13). Things highly esteemed by man are an abomination (Lk. 16:15). (Thanks, R.G.)

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 (and please don't bother with a rebuttal, because I'm just not going to be pulled into a Bible fight with anyone)...Thank God for the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world!

OK...enough of that…

One more thing, though, before I move on...I’ll be the first to admit that some of the praise I’m currently receiving here and on Twitter and Facebook is a little over the top, but it does bring some balance to the abundance of negative things written about me elsewhere on some other blogs, and on a few Christian and Evangelical websites online (or videos posted on YouTube). You don’t have to look very far to find that stuff, so there’s really no need to just pile on more of it here. But I would also like to say how much I appreciate the fairness and goodwill of the mainstream media in dealing with my story. All of the major players have been just awesome…every single one of them.


Q. How are you really doing?

A. Seriously, I've never been happier or more at peace with God and with myself. 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. I am surrounded by love, even in the midst of some expected persecution. Is there transition happening? Yes, but it's all good. The continued outpouring of affirming letters and messages from around the world keep me built up and encouraged. And for those of you who still love me and believe in me, I want you to know that I feel your prayers.

27 comments:

Bls82 said...

Very well said Sir!

goodsamaritan742 said...

i just wanted to say peace of the lord be with you and you ministry. you are an inspiration because you had the courage as a pastor, an well known pastor to come out. you had a lot to risk but you did what was right. the more people of the christian faith who do this the more we can drown out the hate filled rhetoric that seems to permeate from all directions of the church(world wide church body) so many people get the impression that all christians hate the glbtq community and dont think there are gays among the churches but truth be told there are many who are just to scared and ashamed to come out and again this is why your courage is so inspirational. as a 28 year old christian gay male my self who came out in the last year i can testify to how conflicted my life was growing up feeling like i didnt fit anywhere despite being saved at an early age while in foster care and at a christian summer camp.....but i feel like being a christian made it that much harder to accept i was gay. we have all seen the stories of gay youth killing themselfs, my bet is that it gets a little easier to accept ones self when people like us are willing to come out and say its ok to be me.....its okay to be a gay man or female and christian....its okay to be transgendered and christian......maybe some comments have been over the top just accept as much as you can how big this is what you did and how many people have been and will be inspired....

kevin cline from auburn washington state

goodsamaritan742 said...

thank you @bls82
we are all gods children and as the blog posting said there are plenty of abominations out there....the biggest one being turning people to suicide or turning people away from gods saving grace and love. every hateful comment from some one in the church essentially does that and its so wrong.......thats why i feel its so important for christians who do think progressively to stand up and speak out and for gay christians to do the same....we all fall short of the glory of god.....especially the self righteous,,,,but he still loves ALL of us...

Anonymous said...

I will admit, I left the "church" many years ago, and have been upset with religion and the "God" man has created with religion. If everyone presented Christ with the love, thoughtfulness, compassion, and hope I've read in your blog the last few days, I might still have a reason to be a Christian. I tip my hat to you, sir, for coming out and showing that you are not some perfect creature because of Jesus, that there is no "curse" or "sinful lifestyle" to be lifted as some evangelicals have proclaimed when their secret sins have found them out. All sin is personal to God, all sin is part of the chasm Jesus can bridge. If anyone teaches differently, and if Christians keep proclaiming one sinner to be different from any other, people will keep exiting churches and praising God in their own ways, or not at all.

BrendaY said...

Bishop I thank you for not posting the negative stuff on here because I went to some of the other sites just to see what was being said and it hurt my heart to read that stuff about you and the out and out lies being told about what you teach. They know nothing about you nor have they even been to a service, yet they grab onto a word twist it to say what they want and that is why they are called wicked. As you put it this blog was meant for inspiration and it has been that for me.

I too have been confronted with a lot of things but as I look at those people I know they just don't understand. I had to realize that I have taught many of these people and they have heard me preach many condeming messages so now they don't understand and they think I have been brainwashed but just like Saul who was changed to Paul, I too have been transformed by the renewing of my mind and I know longer play that religious game. Although I would like to blast them out because I know their hidden "sins" but I want,I will pray that their eyes are open and they too will know the joy of being totally free and just loving people for who they are.

I am so happy to be in a church that is made up of Real People Experiencing The Real God In The Real World. Its what I have prayed for and God has blessed me beyond measure to have a Bishop like you and I'm loving me some Pastor Debye she is indeed my friend.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bishop for the words of truth and love you are speaking. I know and believe that Jesus is smiling and saying "this is my son in whom I am well pleased". Keep on bring truth and love, and I believe eventually the message will get through.

Debye said...

I love you my amazing Bishop!..."you have heard it said...but I say"....

No one speaks quite like you!...No wonder so many love you so much!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev Swilley,

I am nonreligious, yet I want to tell you how amazed I am at what you have had the courage to do, and the integrity with which you have done it. I have been cynical about many people who call themselves Christian as I have seen so much cruelty from them; but you are walking the walk. This is no small thing--I hope it spreads among your congregation and your community, as well as our country and the whole world!

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I just finished watching the FULL video of your coming out to your congregation on LiveStream. I am a recent college graduate teaching English in Turkey right now, and I heard your message of love and acceptance loud and clear from around the world! I am straight myself, but my sister came out as a lesbian several years ago. As a young lesbian in her early twenties living in Tennessee, my sister has not always had an easy time. I think people are shocked by the "real lives" of same sex-oriented individuals. Lies, fear, and hate speech sensationalize homosexuality to the point where people are unable to tell fact from fiction. My sister lives a monogamous, quiet existence with her three year-old daughter and partner in a small town in Tennessee in an ordinary, unremarkable way. I grew up Baptist myself-as one who had a turbulent childhood, I viewed God as the one constant in my life that I could always count on. My church was most definitely anti-homosexuality, as well as anti-divorce. I remember going to my pastor's wife at the age of twelve and getting into a heated debate with her over divorce. My father used to beat my mother, and so she divorced him when I was a baby. I was told that it was my mother's duty to help my father "through his issues" but that it was wrong for her to have divorced him. I though to myself, "Clearly this woman and I do not know and love the same God." At age fourteen, I went to boarding school, and when I went to tour one potential school in Connecticut, I was given an openly gay student tour guide who would eventually become one of my best friends. How could he be unloved by God, this amazing, gentle, loving young man? After going away to school, I severed ties with this church, as I grew to feel myself completely incapable of condoning its messages, many of which were completely contradictory. I am sorry to say that I have not found a church so many years later. At the age of 24, I am feeling a pull back toward God. I have always believed but began to feel unable to worship among the hypocrisy I felt was present in many of the churches I attended. I just want to offer my support to you and your family and tell you this: IF MORE PASTORS WERE LIKE YOU, I WOULD HAVE RETURNED TO THE CHURCH AND ORGANIZED RELIGION A LONG TIME AGO. If I ever end up in Georgia -- for graduate school, work, or what have you -- I would be honored to be a member of your congregation. And whatever happens, know that you are an inspiration to us all. Keep your head up.
As they say, it does get better.

P.S. Your (ex)wife is amazing!

Anonymous said...

I <3 Pastor Swilley. You are truly an inspiration-don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I. M. Lost said...

I'm a retired minister in a liberal denomination which long ago affirmed the humanity and rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks.

After watching the interview of you, Brother Swilley, I just want to say how proud I am of you. Bless you, many blessings on you and your family. What you have done in coming out of the dark closet is a wonderful affirmation of all those other people, especially the bullied and otherwise discriminated against, because of their birth-right sexual orientation.

I hope by your action that much good come of it. And good for you, my friend. Thank you!

Olav

Anonymous said...

'Be who you are and say what you feel, because those that matter - don't mind... and those that mind - don't matter.'

Erik said...

Bishop, CITN has always been and is the church it will be and has been. The message will be and was the same.

The quote from Matthew as in The Message has been CITN and will be. As you have believed, that is the nexus we have been and will be.

Anon 111610 209 PM - I hear you. Not exact, but very similar experience with loved ones and churches in my life. There are other communities of whatever faith that have the same message in the world, but CITN is the one I came into contact with, and moved to GA from CA because of it 10 years ago.

It has been and is a clear messenger of Peace, Joy, and Rightness with God. Pouring out the message of God's Love, and All of Humanity's Love for Each Other.

Wherever you are geographically, it is worth the move, unless you find one of the relatively few others where you are or end up that do the same. It is growing, and still only a small %.

If you do come across one, stay and build there. If not, come and build here.

Anonymous said...

It's all about freedom from whatever is/has bound you...

What if the "thing" that bound Moses and the source of his stuttering was born out of an emotional/traumatic/shameful event (or even mis-perception about himself) in his life and that God actually did "free" him from this through the anointing He placed on his life and the confidence He gave him to go forth and face his fears, face his "pharaoh" and be as GOD to pharaoh when He sent him forth (apprehended him) as he did...

God ultimately does "fix" all of us as He leads and guides us into and through our unique journey/path...the only thing is...from God's perspective we don't need "fixing"...we only need guidance and wisdom to walk in that which we already are...

Today's ACIM...

Father, my freedom is in You alone
I did not understand what made me free, nor what my freedom is, nor where to look to find it Father, I have searched in vain until I heard Your Voice directing me. Now I would guide myself no more. For I have neither made nor understood the way to find my freedom. But I trust in You. You Who endowed me with my freedom as Your holy Son will not be lost to me. Your Voice directs me, and the way to You is opening and clear to me at last. Father, my freedom is in You alone. Father, it is my will that I return.
Today we answer for the world, which will be freed along with us How glad are we to find our freedom through the certain way our Father has established. And how sure is all the world's salvation, when we learn our freedom can be found in God alone.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev Swilley,

I am a non-believer, yet I dropped what I was doing to listen to your article on NPR Sunday evening. Your courageous act is a bright light in a time when I see too much hatred for the "other". May you be an example of courage and integrity for everyone.

Thank you for giving me a little bit of hope for Humanity!

Chris said...

I'm allergic to megachurches now but would definitely risk it to hear from you.
There is something clearly, thoroughly incorrect in the rabid denouncement of gay people from pulpits. Being guided by emotion or more primal urges over truth is trouble... but the sheer number of people who have internally battled so hard, for so long, to be Christian "instead of" gay is massive evidence of anything BUT a moral lapse. Most proprietors of faith are really missing the mark here...
The internet hipster demo is never going to reconsider monotheism, much less Christianity, until the pious denial of the obvious world around us (and within us) is loudly rejected by the "shepherds". Go get 'em.

Anonymous said...

I really hope you continue to post on your blog. A good friend sent me a link of you & your ex-wife on Joy Behar's show & since watching it , I have read everything I can find on the internet about you......I admire you & she more than words can express & it has done my heart good to have found this blog & to read it. I am almost 51 yrs old & have been married to my high school sweetheart for 31 yrs., we have one daughter & 3 wonderful grandsons. Eleven yrs ago , I finally realized that my husband was gay. It's a LONG , LONG story. But God helped me figure it out & somehow came to me one night & told me to get up & go & ask my husband.....& it was such a huge relief to him , when I asked.......he had kept so much inside for so very , very long. He cried in my arms for hours.
Watching you & your ex , you in many ways reminded me of my husband & myself. My husband is a fine man , he's a good man, he's an honorable man & he's my best friend. We aren't divorced because of financial reasons & it has been a blessing that we have been able to survive the past 11 yrs , because we had that friendship & respect for each other. Anyway I'm rambling ......very sorry. I am sure you are going to help so many people........I wish you the very best !
Just keeping being yourself.

Erik said...

Anons after 111710 130 Am and Chris.

Yes, we are all free from our doubts, we are actually born free of them. Each of us takes various times from a nano second to 100 years or more in natural time to see it. However, that is present from before the foundation of this reality for each one of Us.

God has 'fixed' us before we existed here. We all were born 'fixed' or perfected even as we were perfected as we live. God has shown Her infinite guidance in that to each of us.

Our Mother has established Our Freedom, exalting Us as She exalts Him. We are Her/Him, We are God, I am God, God Us, God is Me. We ARE glad to find our Freedom as through the certain way Our Mother has established. Our Freedom is found in God.

Hope for Humanity has been sustained from the beginning of memorable time. The bright light is exponentially larger than hatred. Integrity fulfills everything.

Chris, I understand your allergy to hyperbole. Very few Abrahamic churches, mosques,temples, have had inoculation to rabies, and many are indeed infected. They will be healed, fear not.

Shepherds call, and those that discern the call respond. After that, transformation occurs, and then more discern the call one by one as it grows. Ultimately, in many different ways and many different calls, each one overcomes their own fear and doubt and does hear and experience full love. That is within Us All, and All do see it now.

Anonymous said...

I know you have heard from so many people already, but I just had to write and thank you so much for what you did!! I'm a 46 year old Christian gay male. After being raised a Christian and deeply involved in many evangelical churches since my childhood, I left the church 5 years ago because of the hatred and ignorance and my inability to reconcile my sexuality with my faith. There was just too much pain. I have now found an affirming church and other gay Christians. I am so tired of self righteous hypocritical Christians judging what they don't understand...all they do is drive people away from Christ and contribute to a society that causes gay kids to kill themselves because they feel so alone and unloved. What you did is huge and I pray that it will empower others to be authentic about who they are so that slowly attitudes will change. Thank you again and God bless you for being real!

charity-crafter said...

Good for you. I support you and your choice to come out. Maybe it will help others in your situation.

Donald said...

Just when I think I've finally got my life together and begin doing everything right I find out that it's an abomination to eat the flesh of a peace offering on the third day. I guess I'm just done.

Ray Bagnuolo said...

Dear Jim,
I am a minister in the PC(USA) and ordained as an openly gay man. I didn't get there overnight, either. Imagine if every clergy that was gay came out! What an amazing flow of grace and spirit would be reveled, especially in ending the violence churches continue by their silence. Well, if it can't happen all at once, then let it happen one at a time. Namasthe to you and your family. And thanks...this makes a difference.

Ray

rebecca said...

truly, if other christians could have the perspective and display the christ-like attitudes that you do, there would be far more of us who would have remained in or returned to the church. they have no idea how many people they have driven from g-d with their words and actions.

Angela said...

Dear Bishop, I have to admit that I was rocked by your announcement. It has really made my husband and me pull back and examine our beliefs. Honestly, we are still working through it. Our first reaction out of fear and shock was to immediately pull away. We thought continuing with CITN would be "agreeing with" or "promoting" homosexuality. We feared what message it would send to our children. Through the past several weeks, we have gone around and around. But shunning someone who is obviously annointed can't be right.

I have worried about the "message" it would send to our children (thinking it would be negative), now I'm thinking it would be a great way to show our belief in Ultimate Reconciliation. AND -- I certainly don't want to expose my kids to the spirit of condemnation in most churches! The funny thing is .... I don't believe there is sin. Christ took the law and therefore sin away on the Cross. So really the struggle is with what we have been taught to condemn and fear.

I know this is a ramble. And it is for me rather than you. :o) I do want to say thank you for your grace to those of us that are having to rethink our beliefs. Continue to give us time and space and love to work through this revelation and give the Holy Spirit time to help us. Just like you know that smoking and drinking doesn't matter to God - you still have a deeply ingrained reaction to it.

I know in my spirit that God only sees the righteousness of Christ when He looks at ALL of us. God help me look at ALL people the same way.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say something: THANK YOU for the video! One aspect (not necessarily the most important) prompts me to add something from my own experience: your sensitivity to how difficult it can be for straight people to understand what it's like being gay.

I used to have that non-understanding. I'd actually never been attracted to anyone of either gender, but just took heterosexual attraction for normal and assumed it might happen to me some time. I thought I was fairly gay friendly but didn't know many openly gay people, and on some level assumed that homosexual orientation was a bit unnatural. Then at age 25 I fell madly in love with my best friend (now my life partner), like me a woman! I don't know whether or how I'd have come to understand if this hadn't happened to me. What a difficult gap to bridge but your comments surely help to break down some of the barriers to understanding; thank you from a gay woman in England.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, sir. Your moral courage both in learning to internally accept who you are and in being willing to go public about it is deeply inspiring. I am not straight, and even though I was raised in a fairly liberal part of the country, with fairly liberal parents, it was still a tremendous struggle for me to accept who I truly am. I think perhaps there is a lesson to all of us in your story, that the parts of us that we ourselves find most troubling and hardest to accept can eventually become a source of great strength and transformation for the world. Your strength of compassion and forgiveness is truly an inspiration. Thank you for being a Christian in the truest sense of the word.

Karen

Keli said...

I just heard your interview on NPR. As a liberal Lutheran, I'm sure there's many theological disagreements we could have, but we do agree that we are all to work out our salvation individually with God, who has promised to make us perfect. I'm so glad you mentioned that God sees our soul, and that God loves us all unconditionally. Blessings on you as you work out your salvation. Blessings on a fellow-Christian who sits on the far right, but doesn't espouse the hate-filled rhetoric of so many on that side when it comes to the "gay issue".