"I AM going to keep telling people that God loves them even if they struggle with my sexuality because that is the truth."

Those are the words of a minister from Andover who is telling his coming out story four years after he lost his job at a church.

Reverend Andy Fitchet came out as gay in 2017 on National Coming Out Day, and lost his job as a Baptist minister.

Speaking about the annual celebration, which four years ago turned sour for Andy, he told The Advertiser: "It almost feels like we shouldn’t have to have that in 2021. Particularly in church and in wider religion, there are massive issues and a dividing line.

"It is a great day and something which can help a lot of people. I saw one of the Tory MPs come out as Bi today in the Telegraph but I wish that didn’t have to happen.

"That is the dream so we just keep fighting. We try to make ourselves as visible yet accessible as possible.

"For me being in the church, I have always had a mantra in the back of my mind ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. My black friends have been pushing to make sure there have been black people on TV so young people don’t feel like they are the only ones.

"I am going to keep telling people that God loves them even if they struggle with my sexuality because that is the truth."

It was just after the 31-year-old revealed his true sexual orientation that he was fired. What followed was two years of being unable to work in the Baptist church, as well as 54 job applications and part time work for the Enham Trust and the 40 Neighbourcare/Good Neighbours groups in North Hampshire.

Eventually, Revd Fitchet was accepted into the Methodist church, at the Bridge Street church and St Andrew's Centre on Weyhill Road.

Additionally, he's Pioneer Minister at Picket Twenty Church, which welcomes people from all walks of life, including people of all sexual orientations.

Revd Fitchet, who is also chair of North West Hampshire Labour and was on Andover town council between 2010 and 2019, says he's in a "really lucky position to be in the best church in the country".

When asked if things have improved in the four years since he was fired, the Andover resident replied: "I would like to say yes, but in reality, I have to say no.

"I am a Baptist minister. There were no Baptist churches for me to go to. I now work in a Methodist church and I have been loved and accepted.

"The methodist church have just voted in favour of same sex marriage.

"There are huge battles but it does feel like there are more people that are willing to put their heads above the parapets.

"We will get there. I just hope that it will not be another ten years and that my story is never repeated."