Exclusive Interview: Jim McGreevey on God, Politicians and Jail

Former governor discusses his fall "into Grace"

By Brian Thompson
|  Thursday, Apr 28, 2011  |  Updated 11:51 PM EDT
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 Exclusive Interview: Jim McGreevey on God, Politicians and Jail

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Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey in a 2007 file photo.

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Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's future is in the ministry of prison inmates and ex-cons, whether he gets ordained or not, the Garden State's former chief executive told NBC New York in an exclusive sit-down.

It was his his first extended interview since he began seminary school more than three years ago and comes on the heels of a report that the Episcopal Church has deferred a decision on his ordination.

"For me, it was a fall into Grace," McGreevey, 53, said of his resignation on August 12, 2004 following threats by his lover and Homeland Security Director Golan Cipel to sue him for sexual harassment.

That lead to his famous statement "And so my truth is that I am a gay American" and the end of his political career -- a career that some had speculated could take him to the White House.

McGreevey declined to talk about the Church's decision to defer but made it clear he will continue working at Integrity House in downtown Newark, a halfway house that serves as many as 1,500 former prison inmates every year.

He works full time there and at the Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny a few miles away.

"Jail is making me mad," McGreevey said in describing a place where criminals are simply "warehoused, playing cards, lifting weights."

Noting that two thirds of ex-cons turn to crime within three years of getting out, McGreevey complained "As a Christian, as a believer, as a human being, it's just such a waste."

Listening to him, there seems little if no wistfulness for his previous life as a politician, from mayor of Woodbridge to state senator to the Governor's Mansion.

While he enjoyed his time as Mayor, "By the time you get to the Statehouse, it becomes a matter of horse trading and power brokers so you lose a little bit of your humanity."

And then he added "When we think we're on top of the world, filled with ego and power and control, we don't need God."

A Democrat as a politician, McGreevey declined to talk about the policies and style of Republican Governor Chris Christie, other than to say he agreed with some of his policies and disagreed with others.

McGreevey admits he needs God now, and welcomes him while calling him his "life force."

He has become, as he says, "spiritual."

"I think what I yearn for in my life at this point is trying to do God's will as I feebly understand it," he said.

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