Jim McGreevey’s new mission with Exodus Transitional Community

Jun 29, 2009 by     12 Comments    Posted under: Life, Photography

Jim McGreevey and friend at the Church of Living Hope in East Harlem by David Shankbone

Jean Coaxum, one of the staff members of Exodus Transitional Community, stands outside the Church of Living Hope in East Harlem with Jim McGreevey.

Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, who riveted the nation when he came out as a gay American in 2004, is now the symbol of fallen Governors.  When Eliot Spitzer stepped down from the New York governorship in the midst of his own sex scandal, Spitzer and his wife were even charged with copying the McGreeveys’ fashion (it is uncanny).

The comparisons between Spitzer and McGreevey were apt, since they were both active Democratic politicians in neighboring states around the same time, both were frequently mentioned as strong Presidential contenders, and both of their sex scandals were seen as hubris personified.

With South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, whose Argentinian affair is not only hubris but also hypocrisy personified, McGreevey emerged again to offer advice that he should proceed with humility.

“I’m filled with a sense of pain and anguish for him and for his family,” McGreevey said in an interview. “I think it was a very human moment.”

Sanford is only one in a recent list of “Love Govs” who have admitted to affairs.  They include the aforementioned McGreevey and Spitzer; Jim Gibbons of Nevada; and David Paterson of New York.

I have known Jim McGreevey since 2007, when I photographed him as part of my public art project that Wikipedia hosts.  At the time I was attending Saint Bartholomew’s in Manhattan on one of my many failed quests to find spirituality.  St. Bart’s also happened to be where McGreevey, his partner Mark O’Donnell and his daughter Jacqueline attended service.  One day I approached him to ask if I could do his portrait.  He still possessed the boyish good looks and charm that were evident even at the height of his scandal.

However, he possessed more than that: he also displayed humility and an inner peace.  He is in a healthy, happy relationship with Mark as he studies to become an Episcopal priest.  He is giving back to others who have made mistakes, often because they were caught up in the circumstances of their lives.

Jim McGreevey and black Jesus at the Church of Living Hope in East Harlem by David Shankbone

Jim McGreevey and black Jesus at the Church of Living Hope in East Harlem. Click on the image to see more.

Gay people mostly forgave McGreevey for his affair when it came to light five years ago.  We are well aware of the many ludicrous situations that occur because men, particularly in McGreevey’s generation, have been forced to live their lives in the closet.  That he is living such an honorable and giving life freed from the shame of the closet is testament to the real Jim McGreevey.

McGreevey volunteers at Exodus MinistriesTransitional Community at the Church of Living Hope in East Harlem, New  York, which tries to help newly-released prisoners learn life skills and handle the significant challenges that ex-convicts face.   It’s not just job-hunting.  One of the photographs below shows Jim helping one young man figure out how to set up a free e-mail account on Yahoo.  With limited access to computers, the guy had no idea how to do this.  This is not atypical.  We take this kind of knowledge for granted, assuming everyone knows how to set up free e-mail.  They don’t.

The gifts that McGreevey brings to these formerly-incarcerated men and women are vast.  He still retains many of the contacts and friendships in government that he had when he was Governor, which has been a Godsend to a program that needs state assistance to function.   McGreevey knows  how the system works; he knows resources that are available to these people; and he is gifted with an ability to teach and reach them.

Many of these men and women don’t know who McGreevey is; they were not exactly following politics before their imprisonment.  Nevertheless, it was obvious that they sensed in Jim that he knows tremendous mistakes, and he knows how to overcome them.

Of course, the tabloids, the Mark Sanfords and the Larry Craigs of the world will probably never forgive him.  But who cares.  Certainly not the men in these photos below, who see the same McGreevey that I see, and not the caricature who exists in the pages of the press.

UPDATE:  The correct name is Exodus Transitional Community.  There is a Dallas-based group named Exodus Ministries that does prisoner rehabilitation as well (You may remember Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers served on the Dallas group’s board, which was mistakenly thought to be the ex-gay group Exodus International).  I was told they are affiliated with Dallas, but then later told that they are not.

Jim McGreevey listening to instructor Alvin at Church of Living Hope by David Shankbone

Alvin Williams, one of Exodus’ intake counselors, talks to newly-released men about readjusting to life outside of prison, and the services that Exodus has to offer them.


McGreevey talks to the young men about life skills and how to re-engage society.

Jim McGreevey helping a young man set up an e-mail account by David Shankbone

McGreevey and an Exodus counselor help a young man set up a free e-mail account.  Many of these people have challenges, such as lack of access to computers, that many of us can not fathom.

Jim McGreevey in front of James de la Vega's Pedro Pietri mural in East Harlem by David Shankbone

McGreevey stands in front of James de la Vega‘s East Harlem mural of legendary Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri.

These images are licensed Creative Commons and are part of a public art project.  Click here to learn more.

12 Comments + Add Comment

  • I find it interesting that according to the Bible, Jim McGreevey is doing EXACTLY what Jesus said to do. Go out and give hope to the poor, the misfits, and the downtrodden because God loves EVERYBODY no matter who or what they are.

    I wonder how many of these Evangilical Megachurch pastors would give up their six figure salary to toil away in prisons, cavorting with law breakers and society’s “castaways”. And I’m not talking about the occasional visit either. Good for you Mr. Mcgreevey, for moving on and bettering not only your life but others as well.

  • I haven’t been a churchgoer, but if Jim McGreevy becomes a priest and acquires a congregation, I might start. He’d have sermons very much worth hearing.

  • Nice. It’s possible you may have changed my opinion of him, although the image of his wife having to stand next to him during his ‘confession’ is hard to erase from my brain.

    • “We are so quick to condemn past flaws, and so slow to acknowledge new beginnings.” – Andrew Sullivan

  • So many reach a point of utter despair, and find solution Jim McGreevy has found. A couple of applicable quotes come to mind. “I came not for the saved, but for the sinner.” “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

    Henri Nouwen did similar work and helped us all to learn about more about man’s relationship with God. I pray Jim McGreevy will as well.

  • So in other words, the pain he put his family through really doesn’t matter – not so nice.

  • I do wish McGreevey would have remained a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church has lost so many good people and I think that the Church would have used someone like McGreevey

  • From the NYTimes, this is Maureen Dowd’s column today. I think it’s appropriate to post a link to it here.

  • He is not studying to be an episcopal priest. He is studying to get an mdiv, which happens to be a requirement for priesthood. Read this: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local&id=5266263

    A Bishop has to admit him to “the process” of being a priest. Then he will become a postulant and then a candidate, a deacon and then a priest, God willing and the people consenting and if a Bishop is willing to ordain him.

    Where I come from, if I go to seminary without permission of a bishop, it disqualifies me from the process, more than likely. This is annoying, because they make it sound like it is a done deal when it is not. You can’t just say “I wanna be a priest” and be one in the Episcopal Church. There is a process and it is rigorous (tests, more tests, 4 days of exams, psychiatric exams , background checks and lots of letters of recommendation). Not that he would not be a good one– that is not my call. I just wish the press would be more accurate in their information (like the above pasted link is).

  • Women Who NEVER Give Up, (WWNG) “Dedicated to helping families get Justice In Our Criminal Justice & Prison System” We are a prisoners family advocacy organization. Helping to reshape our prison system by working with policy makes across the country. New Jersey base, WWNG thanks our former Gov. Jim McGreevey for his vision and work.. WWNG believes that
    The Best Exercise for the heart is to reach down and help someone up!!! Way to go Gov!!! Wish you were still with us!!!

    Gale Muhammad President&Founder

  • Hi, praise God. thank you for the great work your doing.
    so am calling please be part of what god is doing in uganda.


  • Thanks James Mcgreevey for your wisdom and understanding of God.I am the overseer of God’s throne..I rule on the Throne of Wisdom,the God of Israel..El-Sun-Virgo-venus.I am resurrected as King Solomon,as the builder of the Ark of the new covenant.Wisdom invites us all into Her house and eternal banquet but the gay first.God’s law stands higher than man’s law.God’s love can never be wrong.This is the House of Israel,the Merkabah,God’s throne,the doorway to Heaven.This is the true kingdom of Israel,the throne of King David with the 12 apostles back together again.We belong to Christ so we are Abraham’s seed,the Heirs to the promise,the gay first.We are”Ennuchs’to achieve the knowledge of salvation.We are the guardians of the Holy Grail,the Royal bloodline of Christ.We are free from sins,free from any disease.We are forensics,Scientists,Alchemists,and Therapists to the stars.We are the sons of fire and creation.Whosoever speaks against thy kingdom shall never be forgiven.Its a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,God’s truth.God is truth and all truth is God’s truth.We are the keepers of the promise of our”Father’s House” and we believe that salvation can never be lost..I am Virgo,the Mother of Christ and God’s Bride.I crushed the head of the old serpent evil and I dominate the beast under my feet,satan the devil,the accuser of mankind,the father of all lies,all false,all deceptions.God takes everything back again.All is mine and all belong to me.I am the Holy Spirit,the power that links our hearts and our souls and I rule every heart of man with every thought and deeds.By me kings rule and rulers make decree what is just.I am the immaculate Conception and I am the cure.For I am essence,life,whole,and individed.Wisdom is coming back Home with the Risen-Christ,the Eagle,the Eye of providence and the new world order”Finding Wisdom through Living”.Message from the Liberty Shofar of Miss America,Goddess of Liberty,the Goddess that foster”The Art of Love’,Christ’s Spouse.Love is the law.Love is the answer.Love is eternal.The Messiah calls out His sheep back to repentance and to God-given-Home.This is the power of Love.Can any change God’s plan/Can any hide himself in the secrets places that I shall not see him?Can the vanities of this world blocked out the sight of the Infinite Light?In God’s Infinite Wisdom came the Fiat’Let there be Light”.Always remember that Karma is Karma and Energy is Energy”All seeing Eye”.The true source of God is not an emotion,its an insight and it is in every man.The power of Wisdom,the only way we can be free is together.The Ark of the new covenant shall remain unknown until God gathers all of His children back together again.The fear of the Lord is His Wisdom and turn evil is understanding,the fear of the Lord is His knowledge.Thanks”YAWEH”the God of Israel as the gate keeper of Heaven for my Imperial and my Royal Highness.God is One and His glory is One.God is Love and His power is Love.God is a power and life is a response.Peace in Israel and peace on earth.Peace and Love.

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