His Early Years
James William Gilley, Sr. was born October 17, 1940, in Dallas, Texas, to John Wesley and Paulene Epperson Gilley. He was the fourth child with two brothers, Ed and John, and a sister Mary. Later, his brother Paul was born. Shortly after Jim was born the family moved to Tyler, Texas, where he grew up. Mrs. Jenkins, his first-grade teacher, Sarah Martinez, his second and third grades teacher, and Harry Holder, his fourth-grade teacher, all had a great impact on him. Harry Holder held a spring week of prayer where Jim committed his life to Christ. Jim was baptized on May 27, 1950, by Pastor A. E. Neil.
His School Years
After the Tyler church school closed, Jim began going to public school and became very active in sports, excelling in baseball. His life took a positive change when Elder Fordyce Detamore along with Ray Turner and Roger Holley held an evangelistic crusade in Tyler. They encouraged Jim’s mother to move to Dallas so that he and his younger brother, Paul, could go to Dallas Jr. Academy. When Jim finished the 10th grade, he left DJA and went to Southwestern Junior College Academy for the 11th and 12th grades. He continued his freshman and sophomore years in college at Southwestern Junior College and graduated in 1960. That same summer he married Camille Thurmon and the couple accepted jobs teaching at two small one-room schoolhouses in Garfield County, Montana, to earn enough money to continue their education at Andrews University. There they both received bachelor’s degrees and Jim later graduated from the seminary.
New England Pastor
While at Andrews, Jim, whose father and grandmother had been entrepreneurs, started a company called Continental Specialty Company. It was in the promotional advertising business. He later sold that company and it is still in existence to this day. After graduation Jim received a call to the Southern New England conference where he founded the Leominster Massachusetts church while serving as an intern with Russell Adams in the South Lancaster Village Church. Later Jim pastored the Plainville, Connecticut, district before becoming the conference evangelist. After three years as conference evangelist, with God’s blessing, he had outstanding results. Jim had a desire to begin a TV ministry that would be an extension of the Crusades he was conducting. The Conference was not ready for the supporting ministry model, so Jim took a leave of absence and returned to his hometown of Dallas, Texas.
Business and Ministry
He soon negotiated the purchase of a well-known promotional advertising firm, Davis and Stanton Advertising, and went back into business with the hope of doing ministry on the side. He was invited to go to Canton, Ohio, to conduct an evangelistic crusade with Pastor Jerry Johnson and his old friend Henry Barron. The meetings were very successful but there was something else that took place in those meetings and that was that his business flourished at home and with God’s blessing with the largest order that his company had ever had. Jim took this as a sign that God wanted him to continue with business and with ministry.
Years of Evangelism
Over the next ten years he conducted forty-three full evangelistic crusades at no cost to the conferences. His wife Camille, and children, Jim Jr., Maryann, John, and Amy worked in each of the meetings. When the Academy and College activities limited the family’s involvement, Jim became pastor of the Arlington Adventist church at $1.00 per year. The next seven years the church grew from under 300 to over 1000 members. During that time the Lord blessed Jim with over 15,000 baptisms in crusades in the Ukraine. Selling his business, he became a consultant with Coleman Stewardship Services, helping Adventist churches and conferences raise money for building projects all over the North American Division.
Arkansas-Louisiana Conference President
Jim received a call to direct Evangelism and Church Growth for the Southwestern Union and while holding a crusade in the Texaco Conference, he received a surprise call from Southwestern Union President, Cyril Miller, that the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference had elected him to be their president. After a difficult beginning with the Conference Committee he was reinstated by the constituency on December 4, 1994, and served seven years as president. During that time the Conference grew to over 10,000 members, a new dormitory was built at the Academy, a large conference debt was retired, and thirty-five bi-vocational pastors were trained and joined the thirty-five full-time pastors as a very successful ministry team.
Vice President of Evangelism for NAD
On May 14, 2001, the pastors of the Arkansas-Louisiana conference honored Camille and Jim in a memorable farewell service, and on May 17, 2001, the Executive Committee voted to ask Stephen Orian to be the new Conference President. On April 11, 2001, Don Schneider, the North American Division (NAD) president had given Jim the call to be Vice President of Evangelism for the NAD, a position he held for five years. During that time, he chaired some sixty-five boards and committees including The Voice of Prophecy and other ministries at the Media center.
At the close of the General Conference in St. Louis in 2005 at the age of sixty-five, Jim retired to pastor his home church in Dallas. Two years later he was elected President of 3ABN where he served for seven years, finally retiring at age seventy-five. He continues preaching and writing. He has authored six books: The Battle is the Lord’s; Keep on Keeping On; God with Us; God for Us; Fake News: How Satan’s Lies are Deceiving Millions; and Pillars of the Christian Faith co-authored with Danny Shelton. Jim looks back at his ministry in the Arkansas-Louisiana conference as a very rewarding time of ministry and a great love for the members and workers in the conference (Gilley, 2019).
(2017, May 5). Leominster Seventh-day Adventist Church. Retrieved from facebook.com.
Gilley, James W. (2019, Oct. 31). Email to Rebecca Burton.