jim_swilleyThis took a lot of guts:

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 said that he was inspired to risk his career and come out by the spate of gay teen suicides in the news recently. It’s a principled move, on his part, and though his church may be losing its mind right now, there are doubtless kids in that congregation who feel a little less alone today.