An Ontario pastor has been relieved from her position for coming out as a transgender woman during a sermon after her church members voted to remove her.

In an online congregation held June 14 via Zoom, the former lead pastor at Lorne Park Baptist Church in Mississauga, Junia 'June' Joplin, made the declaration saying, "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."

At first, it appeared to Joplin that sharing what she called a "big, risky truth" about her was well-received by her parishioners. "They issued me a new email address, that reflected my new name, [and] they updated my bio and my staff photo on the church’s website," she told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The church has chosen to terminate her after about 52 percent of the total 111 members by its congregation members voted in favor of it. "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 told CBC News Wednesday, July 22. "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 remains as our pastor."

"I believed that the vote would be close, I wasn't sure how it was going to come out and I was nervous that that might be the result," Joplin told CTV News.

Notwithstanding the church’s decision, Joplin said the response to her coming out has been "overwhelmingly positive." She said she didn’t preach in the church since the sermon which made her feel detached from her faith, adding that given a chance, she would explain to the members who voted in favor of removing her why it was her time to come out.

"I wish that some of those people were more eager to at least say 'Hey, let's talk about this, even if I didn't vote the way you wanted to'," said Joplin.

Joplin grew up in North Carolina and began preaching at a local Baptist church when as young as 11. In 2014, she moved to Mississauga to become the Lorne Park Baptist Church's lead pastor. Joplin started to open up about her gender identity to people close to her in 2018, informing her spouse and a few close friends about it first. She then came out to her sons and siblings a year later. She finally made the decision to come out to her congregation last month.

Joplin told CTV News that she is excited to preach again in her authentic self through any church position she is offered going forward. "That's the immediate next chapter and I have a little bit of time to think about and pray about what's going to come next," she added.

Transgender rights in Canada, including changing the registered gender or seeking protection from discrimination vary in different territories. Federal protection is offered from discrimination against the expression of gender identity since 2017. 

There are no reliable global statistics on the number of people who identify as transgender There are no reliable global statistics on the number of people who identify as transgender Photo: AFP / JUNG Yeon-Je