By Isa Cox August 14, 2021 at 3:01pm
A Canadian male pastor who identifies as a woman has filed a lawsuit against his former church for voting to fire him after he came out as transgender, claiming discrimination.
When the Rev. Junia Joplin was hired by the Lorne Park Baptist Church in Mississauga, Ontario, in 2014, he was living his life as the male that God formed him to be in his mother’s womb. However, he revealed during a livestream sermon last year that he planned to live his life as a woman, Junia.
According to CBC News, the lawsuit alleges that while Joplin received some support from members of the congregation, the church unilaterally ended his leadership.
Joplin’s suit contends he was subject to an “unfair process” in which he was questioned during several virtual town halls and that the congregation voted to end his employment in July of 2020.
On Wednesday, Lorne Park Baptist Church stated that it had gone through a “process of attempting to discern God’s will” when faced with Joplin’s revelation about his gender identity, a procedure it conducted in a “careful and thoughtful manner.”
“In the end, the congregation voted to terminate her employment as lead pastor of the church, with the majority of the votes to terminate made for theological reasons,” the church’s executive council chair, David Huctwith, said in a statement, according to CBC. “We offered her what we think was a fair severance.”
The suit seeks nearly $200,000 in damages and contends that Joplin’s firing was a breach of Canada’s Human Rights Code, which bans employment discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender identity.
Last week, Joplin explained in an interview that the whole experience left him with a sense of “anxiety” about church life that he’d never felt before.
“Those were very much my first steps into social transition,” he told CBC. “That’s a hard place to be. I think just about any trans person will tell you that can feel frightening, feel vulnerable. It’s a time when support is so essential and, unfortunately, for a lot of us we don’t get it in places like our workplace.”
Was the church right to fire Joplin?
“But for that to happen within that context of a caring community — I think one of the toughest things for me was knowing that I’m going through one of the most consequential and difficult seasons that I’ll ever go through in my life, and I’m pretty much isolated from my faith community, from the place that I would most naturally go to for support.”
He said he hopes his lawsuit will make Canada more inclusive and safe for trans people.
“I don’t want other queer people to connect to faith communities that don’t really welcome them unequivocally, without caveat or qualification,” he explained.
No nation that professes to protect religious freedom — although Canada’s claim to these protections certainly has been called into question in recent years — could possibly defend prohibiting a church from firing a pastor they do not believe is prepared to carry out its mission to preach the Gospel and minister to the church.
Joplin has clearly stated that he hopes his lawsuit will ensure that other churches are not allowed to make the same decision that his church did when he expected them to support his transition to a lifestyle that plainly contradicts the biblical teachings on how a pastor should live and what example he should be to his flock.
We cannot say how the church would have treated him if he had confessed that he was struggling with gender identity issues and wanted to approach this biblically; one certainly hopes he would have found the love and support he needed.
But what is a church to do when its pastor insists his counter-biblical desires ought to be accepted and treated as though they are healthy and consistent with the Christian call to take up our cross and follow Christ?
It is nothing short of chilling how common it has become in the West to assert that religious organizations or individuals ought to accept homosexuality or transgenderism, even more so when some try to dress it up as actually Christian to do so.
The suit alleges that Joplin “pursued a progressive and LGBTQ+ inclusive ministry” during his time in church leadership, which is a trend consistent with many contemporary churches that are “deconstructing” biblical authority to embrace such worldly views of sexuality and gender identity.
It is all the more chilling that governing bodies have more frequently enacted policy or judicial rulings indicating that the faithful no longer have the right to determine how they practice their faith.
No Christian church should be prevented from booting a leader it simply feels is unfit for the role.
Mr. Joplin needs Christ’s love as much as every one of us — but in embracing his so-called gender identity, he was simply not in a position to lead a Christian church.
No church can be safe from false doctrine if its members do not hold their leaders accountable to the holy word of God, the objective standard with which we can determine what solid biblical pastors look like and how they ought to lead.
This is how churches can ward off wolves in sheep’s clothing who seek to prey on church members and false teachers who will lead the flock astray into bad theology.
In nations such as Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, it is no simply longer time to worry about whether the world understands our nuanced views on homosexuality and transgenderism.
They will never understand that we can love all people without agreeing that their lifestyle is moral — and certainly without agreeing to let someone who lives an immoral lifestyle lead a Christian church.
You will answer to God and God alone for how you treat His image-bearers, and if you genuinely love and are concerned about those who live a life contrary to his word, He sees that. Know this and take comfort in it. His opinion is the only one that matters.
We might not be able to convince the world that the Bible’s views on homosexuality and gender are infallible truth — but if you genuinely believe they are, you should shamelessly and boldly profess to the world that you take your moral cues from the Bible’s objective moral code.
If you are a Christian, this is your religion, the one the government ought to protect your right to practice and the one that your God requires you to live every day.
You have the sacred right to believe this and to live out your faith accordingly, but you must fight to protect this right.
Every Christian needs to commit to standing up for our rights to live according to our conscience — or we might quickly no longer have the right to do so.