A professor at a Christian university in California has been forced out of his position after coming out as a transgender to students in a sermon.

Professor Heath Adam Ackley, 47, was the chair of theology at Azusa Pacific University (APU) for 15 years.

He came out to students as a trans man last year, in a sermon entitled “Come as You Are! God’s Good News for All People!”

However, Religion News Service reports he has since been asked to leave by APU mid-way through a five year contract, over controversy regarding his gender identity.

Speaking on the issue, Mr Ackley said: “I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity.

“I did get the message that it has to do with their concern that other people, such as donors, parents and churches connected to the university will have problems not understanding transgender identity.”

The university had previously refused to cover any medical expenses on Mr Ackley’s transition, including chest surgery and hormones.

Since leaving APU, Mr Ackley said he received offers from other universities and institutions to teach or consult.

His prompt departure shocked students, who lauded him for his bravery.

Joseph Reyes, a student at APU, said: “He instilled a new-found faith in my life and I was devastated to learn about his dismissal.”

As a devout Christian, Mr Ackley had struggled with gender identity his whole life.

He said: “I tried to conform to Christian womanhood as best I could.

“I was told by my spiritual advisors and then spouse that recovery, sanity and preservation of my family required me to deny my now recognized transgendered identity.

“I once again struggled with self-medicating, self-injuring and self-starving of the female body during a suicidal relapse.”

He added: “This is what Christian transphobia does.”

Mr Ackley’s sermon can be viewed in the video below: