James William Gilley

Arkansas-Louisiana Conference President, 1994-2001

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

Pencil sketch of the Leominster church in Massachusetts (Facebook, 2017).

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

Elder Jim Gilley. Photo courtesy of Better Life Broadcasting Network.

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

Camille and Jim Gilley. Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.

Jim received a call to direct Evangelism and Church Growth for the Southwestern Union and while holding a crusade in the Texico 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.

Jim Gilley, president of 3ABN (second from left), shares the need for church unity and Christian love amidst global conversations in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The panel included (from left) Brad Thorpe, president of Adventist-owned Hope Chanel; Adventist world church President Ted Wilson; Mark Finley, evangelist and assistant to Wilson; and Danny Shelton of 3ABN. Photo courtesy of Mark Bond, 2012.

Retirement Years

Jim and Camille enjoying retirement

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 continued preaching and writing, authoring 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 looked 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).

“In his retirement, Jim pastored the Clermont [Florida] Seventh-day Adventist Church and continued with speaking engagements and hosting over 40 trips to the Holy Land–the highlight of his year. He believed that God had called him to the ministry of encouragement and is known world over for his motto, ‘Keep on keeping on (Ever Loved, 2023)!’ ” Elder James Gilley passed away on December 28, 2022, in Clermont, Florida, after a month-long battle with Covid pneumonia and Legionnaires’ disease. 


(2017, May 5). Leominster Seventh-day Adventist Church. Retrieved from facebook.com.

Ever Loved. (2023). James “Jim” William Gilley. Retrieved from Ever Loved.

Gilley, James W. (2019, Oct. 31). Email to Rebecca Burton.

3 thoughts on “James William Gilley”

  1. Keep On Keeping On is my favorite book by Pr. Gilley! It brings lessons out of real-life experiences he has had in his life. 10/10 would recommend!


  2. Jim Gilley was such an awesome man. I got to know him the summer of 1978 when I was on an evangelistic team made up of 8 college students from Southwestern Adventist College. We had the privilege of working with Jim Gilley when he was holding evangelistic meetings in Ft. Worth, TX at the time. Camille and his kids were working there with him. I fell in love with the whole family and have always been blessed to see them when our paths have crossed. My prayers are with Camille, his kids, and the rest of the family. I will miss Jim. He always had such a genuine and happy spirit. He has truly blessed many people in his life. His love for God and service to our God was outstanding. He was a pillar of faith. What a wonderful legacy he has left.


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