Alicia Johnston was the longtime pastor of Foothills Community Church in Chandler, Arizona. It’s a Seventh-Day Adventist church, which made her something of an anomaly, considering the denomination as a whole doesn’t allow women to be ordained. (Individual congregations have done their own thing, though, even if the SDA overlords don’t approve.)
That all changed last week when Johnston finally decided to come out as bisexual. In a video posted on Facebook, she also announced that she was resigning from the pulpit and leaving the SDA church for good.
“Through study and prayer, I’ve come to a point of complete disagreement with the Adventist Church on their teachings about LGBT people,” Alicia Johnston said in a video posted on Facebook on April 22. “I also myself am bisexual so I’ve come to an awareness of that and have realized I just can’t live my life with integrity anymore without being honest about that.”
“Too often the church thinks about this as a matter of importance to LGBT people and not to the church at large,” she said. “But those outside the church are aware that culture cares much more about queer people than the church does.”
In short, she left the Adventists because she finally realized their anti-LGBT stance was hurting too many people, including herself. And maybe she should’ve realized that a long time ago, but let’s acknowledge that’s not easy after a lifetime in the SDA church. It’s even harder to admit it in such a public way. She deserves a lot of credit for making that video.
On her new website, she writes about how she’s at peace with her decision:
The job, the community, and the security are gone. My new life may not have security like the old one does, but I have joy. The dissonance is gone, the fear is gone, and in their place is peaceful knowledge that God is better than I ever dared imagine.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
But that raises an interesting point: Johnston is still religious. If anything, she’s even more devout today; she just altered her understanding of the God she believes in.
Many atheists will tell you that’s how their journey began, too. They eventually defined God so broadly that the whole concept became meaningless.
Even if that’s not the path she takes, it’s a big deal when someone raised in an anti-gay religion finally abandons it. Let’s hope others follow her lead out of the church, regardless of where they end up.