Former pastor Alicia Johnston. Photo courtesy of Stephen Eyer

Adventist pastor comes out as bisexual, resigns her church

(RNS) A Seventh-day Adventist pastor has resigned from her Arizona pulpit and announced via video that she is bisexual.

“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.”

The Arizona Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists issued a statement calling Johnston a “gifted theologian and pastor” and noting its determination to abide by the stances of the church.

“While the Seventh-day Adventist Church deeply believes it’s our responsibility to minister to all people, we also have a mandate to adhere to all Bible teachings,” the conference said. “Fundamental Belief #23 states: 'Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship.'”

Johnston, 36, is unusual not only in her decision to reveal her bisexuality but also in her recent roles as a licensed woman minister and the sole pastor of her church.

Seventh-day Adventists voted in 2015 to not allow their regional bodies to ordain women pastors, continuing a long-term practice. Women pastors have often held their positions without being formally ordained in the church, which observes its Sabbath on Saturday.

According to a bio on the website of Foothills Community Church in Chandler, Ariz., Johnston became its pastor on Jan. 1, 2016.

“She has a passion for gospel-centered preaching and making the depths of scripture accessible and practical to all,” her bio reads.

In a statement, Johnston said she hopes her revelation will prompt changes in church attitudes about LGBT people.

“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.”