Pastor of an Arizona Seventh-day Adventist church resigns after announcing she is bisexual. Alicia Johnston was the sole pastor of Foothills Community Church in Chandler, Arizona and a trendsetter as a licensed woman pastor in the religious organization. The former pastor loves God and her church but can no longer support the Adventist Church’s teachings about LGBT people.
Raised in an Adventist household, Johnston describes herself as “very Adventist,” but also bisexual. Standing behind the pulpit and preaching a doctrine that does not support who she is and her current truth is no longer an option for the preacher. She said:
Through study and prayer, I have come to an awareness of that and have realized that I just can’t live my life with integrity anymore without being honest about that and I can’t live my life the way I know it needs to be lived. It is wonderful to finally be able to say this is who I am. This is something I love about myself and I don’t have to hide it anymore.
The Arizona Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists have retained their stance of adhering to “all Bible teachings,” but considers Johnston a “gifted pastor and theologian.” The former pastor hopes her decision will play a role in changing the church’s attitudes in relation to the gay community. Trying to hide her attraction to the same sex was not the hard part; instead, it was the awareness of the pain inflicted on LGBT people by the church. For personal reasons, this ideology mandated the pastor resign after announcing her bisexual status.
The homosexual debate is not new to the Christian faith. There exists primarily two different understandings of biblical teachings: restrictive and inclusive or traditional and reformed. The first restricts participation in the church and the latter supports inclusion without partiality. Enforcers of the restrictive teaching invite the LGBT community to join in worship but do not affirm their behavior. Inclusive supporters rely on the core message of the Bible, which is love and the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Traditional followers believe that due to an implicit rejection of the very order of creation the gay and lesbian community reflect a rejection of God. Simply stated, according to their doctrine, same-sex sexual relationships undermine the sanctity of opposite-sex marriage. Contrariwise, those with inclusion views may not support the behavior of the LGBT community, however, they believe there are times when transcending rules and simplistic readings of scripture in order consistently to live in light of the love is paramount.
It is because of the love of God that Johnston is now in the business of sharing her new-found vision of God, and helping others to reconcile their faith and teachings about queer sexuality. After years of torment and depression, the former pastor resigns from the church and outs herself as bisexual. For Johnston, being a woman who is attracted to women is simply the experience of being able to see love in a different way and a different place. The Adventist pastor resigns from the pulpit and accepts love in a more inclusive and uninhibited way.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Alicia Johnston: A Queer Pastor’s Journey to the Heart of God
Religion News Service: Adventist pastor comes out as bisexual, resigns her church
Matthew Vines: The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality
Gay Christian Network: Homosexuality & Christianity
Top Image Courtesy of Alicia Johnston
Inline Image Courtesy of sdobie’s Flicker Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Maruku San’s Flicker Page – Creative Commons License