In an emotional sermon before hundreds of young people, a Lutheran bishop announced that he's gay.

Bishop Kevin Kanouse, head of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana chapter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said that he was moved to come out after hearing the stories of young people attending a conference last weekend, gay glossy The Advocate reported.

In an open letter to local leaders, Kanouse said that he was “Holy Spirit-moved to tell my own story publicly, for the first time.”

He said that he kept in the closet – he raised two sons with his wife of 40 years – because he learned at an early age that “pastors could not be gay and serve Jesus.”

“On the one hand, I felt safety and joy in the church, along with a strong sense of call to ministry. On the other hand, church was also where I felt I most had to hide. I lived with terribly low self-esteem, self-loathing and feelings of guilt and rejection,” he wrote.

The ELCA in 2009 lifted its ban on openly gay pastors and the church recently decided to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Kanouse said that he now regrets voting against both changes.

“God created me as I am and God loves me completely and fully,” he said.

He added that he remains committed to his marriage but “was moved to share my journey with the youth because I know many are struggling with these and other issues of self-esteem, rejection and self-loathing.”