Monday, November 15, 2010

15 NOV 10: Bishop to B-4?

For 22 years, he was the pastor of one of Columbus's best-known churches. Now his son is sparking controversy and making national headlines - yet as far as I know, he's keeping silent. And as we all know, it's an unusual moment when a preacher has nothing to say....

The local minister I'm describing is Pastor Jim Swilley, who retired three years ago from North Highland Church. His only son is Bishop Jim Swilley, who stunned his metro Atlanta church congregation last month by confessing he's homosexual. The son apparently hid it well - for instance, never quoting the Bible verse about a man with "gay clothing."

National Public Radio presented an extensive interview with Bishop Jim Swilley Sunday. He admitted coming from a lineage of preachers, which some considered "Protestant royalty." So when are they naming the North Highland prayer tower "Swilley Hill," after the father who had it built?

An online friend actually tipped me off to Bishop Swilley's announcement several weeks ago. A Wednesday night chat with his congregation was posted on the Internet, with his retired father mentioned a few times. Pastor Swilley missed that meeting because of fill-in duties at North Highland Church -- which seems about as convenient as Hillary Rodham Clinton being in Indonesia on Election Day.

Bishop Swilley says he knew from age four that he was homosexual -- a conclusion that made him angry at his parents as he grew up. But he told his congregation he's "become very good friends" with Jim and Darlene Swilley in recent months. "My parents live in my backyard," he added - and perhaps they no longer have to pay rent.

(It should be noted Bishop Swilley was an adult and a church pastor before his parents moved to Columbus in 1986 to pastor North Highland Church. So if someone e-mails me to boast about some weird activity behind a Muscogee County high school, I want to see pictures.)

Bishop Swilley says his father encouraged him to come out of the prayer closet. Pastor Jim Swilley advised: "When there's a parade going on about you, you need to get out in front of the parade and manage it." There's still one parade Atlanta has, while Bible-Belt Columbus does not....

Bishop Swilley declared he now considers his father "my hero." But he admitted to NPR many people walked out of his confessional chat at Rockdale County's Church in the Now before he was finished -- probably preferring to find a Church of the Back Then.

Since Jim Swilley was a high-profile pastor in Columbus, I wanted to hear his perspective about this unusual relationship. So I called North Highland Church last week, asking if an interview could be arranged. There's been no response - and perhaps that's understandable. For one thing, it would diminish the value of upcoming memoirs.

I didn't realize until I reviewed the video clip Sunday night that Jim and Darlene Swilley apparently don't live in Columbus anymore. They used to be listed in the white pages. The current North Highland Church pastor is not -- probably because Dennis Lacy has become such a big star for wrestling baby alligators in commercials.

Retired Pastor Jim Swilley at least can take comfort in the fact that one of his grandsons is currently a youth minister. But he might be further bothered by another grandson, who plays in an Atlanta punk rock band called The Black Lips. For one thing, how do you get black lips without using an unholy form of makeup?

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for another item where we asked for a comment, but received none. In September we told you about complaints involving employees and managers at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers. Apparently the complaining hasn't stopped....

I see you love goodwill so if you are interested you can speak with me. I was the store manager at the Valdosta store and was recently terminated for no reason. I was never written up or counseled, my boss just walked in one day and fired me. to make it better they lied to the dept of labor and my unemployment was denied. I have three kids and just bought a house and unless my appeal is approved me and my family are screwed. This company is evil and I can give you some good information. I will tell you the big wigs were quite concerned about your blogs and it was a major discussion in our last manager's meeting, in fact after information about the meeting was leaked the ceo called a mandatory meeting the next day as she was p***ed....

Derek Faircloth

As of Friday, Derek Faircloth's voice mailbox was still active at the Valdosta Goodwill store. But I didn't leave a message, in case that box had been donated to a telemarketer.

Goodwill Industries has not responded to our message, requesting its side of the Derek Faircloth story. But I think Goodwill has added something to its website which wasn't there before - a "Whistleblower Hotline." I presume it's for reporting abusive managers or conditions. But then, it could be for reporting bloggers who ask too many questions.

Since this isn't really The Blog of Valdosta, we'll leave things there and wrap up other weekend news items:

+ Columbus mayoral candidate Zeph Baker told WRBL voters should choose him in the runoff because he's the only candidate who's a parent. Hopefully Baker isn't teaching his children it's sometimes OK to turn in homework assignments late.

(By comparison, Teresa Tomlinson bragged the last issue she brought before Columbus Council was approved by a 9-0 vote. That sounds impressive, until you remember the mayor often brings issues before Council as controversial as declaring Fire Prevention Week.)

+ Alabama Governor-Elect Robert Bentley announced he's expanded his transition team to 25 members. Hmmmm - are we sure this incoming Governor is a Republican?

+ The Aflac Racing car driven by Carl Edwards won the NASCAR race in Phoenix. Instead of confetti being fired in Victory Lane, feathers filled the air. You'd think the torch would be passed to a new Aflac duck with more dignity than this....

(It was Carl Edwards's first win on the NASCAR top tour in 70 races. But you can understand why Aflac was patient with him - since the company would rather wait for decades to make an insurance payout.)

+ WXTX reported someone set fire to a tree at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, after Saturday's football win over Georgia. Police aren't sure who did this. But visiting Georgia fans need to understand Auburn tradition -- the toilet paper is supposed to stay there.

+ Coach Gene Chizik said absolutely nothing about the Cam Newton controversy on "Auburn Football Review." But Newton was shown presenting Chizik with a game ball in the locker room - and the football didn't look gold-plated at all.

+ Columbus State was eliminated from the women's soccer playoffs, with a 1-0 loss to Lenoir-Rhyne. Shame on the NCAA, for scheduling this game on a Sunday afternoon - with the Cougars looking ahead to the women's basketball home opener minutes later.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra: Did I hear it right? Was Sunday's concert based on the story "Green Eggs and Ham" aimed at young people? Or was it a farewell tribute to Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin?

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