A conversation with Pastor Peter Johnston of Trinity Anglican Church & Patrice Lewis, Executive Director of A Pregnancy Center and Clinic
Patrice: I’m always impressed with hearing about your credentials, but please give the readers insight into your prestigious academic achievements and your career path?
Johnston: I grew up outside of Chicago. Then when I went to college, I went to the east coast. I went to Yale in Connecticut. I went there for college and stayed for seminary, and I had wonderful time. It was really a wonderful place. More friendly for Christians than you might expect. Yale was actually founded as a school for ministers. It has actually gone a little bit further afield from that purpose now, but that legacy is still there. It was a great opportunity to learn and study, and I seek to use everything I picked up there in my ministry and my preaching.
Patrice: And now you are Pastor of Trinity Anglican Church, located here in Lafayette, LA. How long have you pastored here?
Johnston: We started Trinity in 2016. I am the founder. We’ll be five years old this year. I really felt called to starting a church. I felt that call for a long time, and I thought that I would start a church when I was forty, but I just felt God calling me into it when I was thirty. So, I was like “God, here we go.” And so we started the church and we have been greatly blessed. We have a beautiful building and beautiful campus. God opened amazing doors for us to have this property.
Patrice: How did you learn about the circumstances surrounding the fact that you were almost aborted?
Johnston: My mom conceived me when she was me when was in school. She wasn’t married and my dad was basically out of the picture. So my mom went to the doctor at the school, at the university hospital, and the doctor said to my mom, “Okay, let’s schedule the abortion.” And my mom said, “No, I’m not going to do that.” And the nurse told my mom that in the 10 years of her working at that hospital, my mom was only second person who had said “no” to getting the abortion. So this was in California in the mid 80’s.
Patrice: How did you feel about learning that you were one in a million who would have been aborted?
Johnston: I’ve always known that I am survivor of a generation that was lost and killed. And how many children that went through that hospital and were seen by that doctor and ended up being aborted and never were born.
Patrice: How has this knowledge shaped your view of yourself and others?
Johnston: I just felt a strong conviction for my whole life about the importance of the pro-life cause, and of supporting moms and helping them to know that it is a tough situation, but there is hope, and life is a blessing and even in the midst of challenging circumstances, God brings you out into a good place. It’s personal for me.
Patrice: I’m happy to learn that your mom had such strong convictions as well.
Johnston: Part of that came from my Grandfather. In 1973 when Roe V. Wade came down, my mom was in middle school and one day at school they were talking about the decision, in positive terms. So, my mom came home and shared some of the things she heard at school and my grandfather immediately said to my mom, “That’s not what we believe. We believe in the importance of life and that when you are pregnant, you have a baby.” I knew from a young age that even though this was hard situation and socially shame–able, that her parents would be really supportive of her and of her having the baby. And sure enough, she did have me and she finished school.
Patrice: Did you have the opportunity to meet your father?
Johnston: I got know my father later in life and now I have a good relationship with him. That was a nice story of redemption.
Patrice: You are a father of five with one on the way. There are so many statistics about the effects fatherlessness can have in the lives of young men and young women. Research shows young men are less likely to participate in violence and young girls are less likely to become pregnant as teens. In what ways are you intentionally being a father who is a present and active in the lives of your children?
Johnston: In part because I grew without a father at home, I decided to do things differently. I intentionally, my whole life wanted to have family. I have opportunity to love my kids. I realize that each of my children really are unique and their own person. Growing up I played baseball and always loved sports, and I assumed that my oldest son would take interest in baseball, but he loves to build and tinker, and he also loves design and drawing. So I’ve tried to see whether he might interested in art or architecture or engineering. It’s fun think about and imagine what their paths might be.
Patrice: Twenty, thirty years from now, when your children are starting their careers and families of their own and are individuals who are contributing to the community around them, what characteristics would your children display letting you know you did what you believe God called you to do for, with and to your children.
Johnston: My prayer is that my children would continue to worship the Lord and it would be a joy to continue to do that together with them. And to see that they are loving God and loving their neighbors in their own lives. I’m also hopeful that I can work with my children in the process of serving the common good and shaping the culture.
Patrice: Thankfully statistically, abortion is steadily on the decline both in our state and nationally. In your opinion, would abortion be an option for mothers if the fathers of the children were supportive of the pregnancy?
Johnston: Abortion would be far less likely. I think probably a majority of the cases where there are abortions; you don’t have a supportive father of the child. It’s definitely a call for men to step up and take responsibility for their children. Our whole culture and our whole society need to take seriously the importance of fathers and the significance of fathers.
Patrice: Joseph, the husband of Mary, is one of my heroes in the Bible. I admire him because of his devotion and commitment to God’s will in raising Jesus, even when it didn’t make sense. What can fathers learn from Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus?
Johnson: What we can learn from Joseph is that you can do a lot without having to say a lot. Joseph is never quoted in the bible. He’s a major character. Everyone knows who he is, but you don’t have any words actually spoken by Joseph. The key with Joseph is that he doesn’t speak but he listens, and then he obeys what he’s told. We look at the “strong, silent type” as a negative stereotype. But how negative is it if a man is cognizant of his responsibilities and carrying them out.
Patrice: What is the most important piece of advice you can give fathers to end?
Johnston: Love God, let your children see it, and your children will pick up on your love for God and start to imitate it. Love your wife, and let your children see that and they will pick up on that and imitate it. Love your neighbor, let your children see that and they will pick up on that and imitate it. Demonstrate your love in all those aspects and your children will follow.