Ontario pastor comes out to congregation as transgender during sermon
TORONTO -- An Ontario pastor who came out to her congregation as a transgender woman last month says she hopes her sermon will inspire others to feel accepted and embrace their own "truth."
Junia 'June' Joplin, the lead pastor at Lorne Park Baptist Church in Mississauga, Ont., came out to her congregation in an online sermon on June 14.
"I want you to hear me when I tell you that I'm not just supposed to be a pastor. I'm supposed to be a woman. My friends, my family, my name is Junia. You can call me June. I'm a transgender woman and my pronouns are she and her," Joplin said during the sermon delivered via Zoom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joplin said in an interview with CTV’s Your Morning that she was told in her first year of seminary school in Richmond, Virginia to "tell the truth" and that doing so was the most important rule to be guided by as a pastor.
While Joplin acknowledges that the church has not always been welcoming to members of the LGBTQ+ community, she said it was her time to come out.
"Based on the journey I've been on, the journey of self-acceptance and getting some help and I'd seen progress being made at where my congregation was in terms of its congregational life, it made sense [to come out]," Joplin said Tuesday.
The virtual sermon was about embracing truth, and it ended with Joplin sharing hers.
"I was anxious, nervous, like afraid in a way that I don't think I've ever been just before delivering a sermon," Joplin said, adding that she was not sure how her congregation would react.
However, Joplin had already determined that she had to share her truth regardless of the outcome.
"I wondered if maybe this was the last opportunity I would get to ever say something like this at least to this congregation of folks, and I hoped that the message I had to deliver would make a difference in the lives of not just the people close to me but that the reach would be broader too," she said.
Since coming out, Joplin said the response from her congregation has been "all over the place" but the majority has been supportive.
"In most congregations, you'll have folks who are theologically or socially kind of all across the spectrum, and I would say that most of the people that have been reaching out to me have been overwhelmingly positive and accepting and loving," Joplin said.
"I had lunch with a couple of church members just on Sunday afternoon, and they said 'You know, we think that this new version of our pastor is better than ever'," she added.
Joplin said she chose the name 'Junia' for herself after a female apostle in the New Testament Letter of Romans that male translators of the testament "masculinized for centuries."
"They saw that name and [thought] there couldn't possibly have been a female apostle and so they made up a name that really didn't exist -- they put an 's' on the end of it 'Junius'," Joplin said, adding that this was how translators created a masculine version of the name.
"She is a Christian leader who's had to assert her womanhood, her femininity across the ages."
As a nod to the support she has received amid her coming out journey, Joplin wore her "very favourite dress" during the interview with CTV's Your Morning -- a garment she picked out last year.
"I was presenting male at the time but my friends helped me pick out this dress and the store staff was really great, they saw me kind of looking at the dresses and said 'We can start a dressing room for you if you like' and didn't have any problem with that," Joplin said.
Joplin said her journey has been difficult but said she hopes her sermon inspires others to feel accepted and hopeful in their own identities.
"I want you to hear me say that God delights in you and feels pure joy for you having discovered your treasured identity. I am sorry for the times you've been lied to about who you are in the eyes of God. I'm sorry for the times that you have been told that who you are is sinful or broken," Joplin said during the sermon.
"Those words are not true. They are deceitful and evil, and we have already lost too many siblings to that deadly theology."