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Transgender pastor fired after coming out to her Mississauga church

Junia Joplin knew she was taking a risk when she came out as a transgender woman to her congregation — now after that leap of faith, she's learned she'll no longer be the lead pastor at her Mississauga church.

After a vote by the Lorne Park Baptist Church congregation, Joplin's contract has been terminated

Junia 'June' Joplin, the lead pastor at Lorne Park Baptist Church in Mississauga, Ont., came out to her congregation as a transgender woman in an online sermon on June 14 — now, the church has announced the termination of its contract with Joplin. (Angelina King/CBC)

Junia "June" Joplin knew she was taking a risk when she came out as a transgender woman to her congregation — now after that leap of faith, she's learned she'll no longer be the lead pastor at her Mississauga church.

Last month, Joplin shared what she called her "big, risky truth" with her parishioners in a sermon delivered via Zoom.

"If I never work another day in the church again for the rest of my life, I'll know that I've done what I was called to do," she told CBC News at the time.

Now, Joplin's contract with the Lorne Park Baptist Church has been terminated after a vote by 111 members of the congregation — 52 per cent in favour of termination.

"The Church has journeyed for the past month through a process of attempting to discern God's will resulting from June's announcement of June 14, 2020 that she is a transgender woman," the church said Wednesday in a statement to CBC News.

"After a month of prayerful discernment and discussions between June and the congregation, it was determined, for theological reasons, that it is not in God's will that June remain as our pastor." 

A long journey

Joplin, who grew up in rural North Carolina with her parents, two sisters, a brother — first began preaching at a local Baptist Church when she was just 11. She knew she wanted to become a minister, she told CBC News last month, but she was also grappling with questions about her gender identity. 

In 2014, Joplin moved to Mississauga to become the Lorne Park Baptist Church's lead pastor. She began coming out to people in her life in 2018, first to her spouse, then to a few close friends — a year later deciding to tell her siblings and then her sons.

Last month, she made the decision to tell her congregation.

WATCH: June Joplin discusses getting fired as lead pastor from the church:

One month after coming out as transgender to her congregation, Junia Joplin has been fired from her role as pastor at Lorne Park Baptist Church. 2:43

"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 her online sermon last month.

After Joplin's coming out sermon, the church told CBC News the congregation and leadership were surprised by the announcement, and "expressed love" for her identity as a woman.

Although she's disappointed to learn her contract was terminated, Joplin said Wednesday she remains grateful for the response she received from them immediately after coming out as transgender.

A bad day as my real self is better than a good day when I was repressed.- Junia Joplin

"I am grateful to them and I want to acknowledge just how kind and respectful at least their language has been," Joplin said.

"Nobody intentionally misgendered me or did anything that was intentionally disrespectful so there has been a grace and kindness through the entire process."

Coming out something Joplin could not 'forego'

Despite the church's decision, Joplin says that coming out was something she could not "forego."

"That was a necessity at this stage in my transitional journey, so the decision to come out was something that absolutely had to happen," Joplin said.

"I feel free in a way that I never did before I came out in transition," she said.

"I was saying to a friend the other day, 'A bad day as my real self is better than a good day when I was repressed and out of touch with myself and living under this cloud that I didn't understand.'"

Joplin's contract with the Lorne Park Baptist Church has been terminated after after a vote by 111 members of the congregation — 52 per cent in favour of termination. (Supplied/Junia Joplin)

Despite the outpouring of support she's received since coming out, Joplin says the past five weeks have not been easy.

Still, she has no regrets.

"I wanted to connect with people who, either in my congregation or elsewhere, needed to hear important truths spoken about who they are or who the people near them are," Joplin said.

For now, Joplin says she would love to continue working in congregational ministry "in some form or fashion."

"I don't know what that will look like, I don't know where that will be — but I don't have to know that yet."

With files from Sara Jabakhanji, Angelina King and Jasmin Seputis

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