Image courtesy of Henry Paul Photography
Karen Pack is an ordained Christian minister, Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrant, and co-pastor of New City Church. For over twenty years she has been engaged in training pastors, leaders and teachers in Australia, North America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. With a love for unpacking the Word of God, Karen’s great desire is to teach and equip those who otherwise could not access education and training for themselves, whether because of their experience of marginalisation and exclusion, geographic isolation, poverty, or a combination of these.
Karen is passionate about advocating for LGBTQIA+ people of faith, helping all people to know and understand that they start loved, just as they are.
Karen lives in Sydney with her wife, Bronte, and their fish, Puppy. She is a doctoral candidate at Macquarie University, researching the lives of unmarried, Christian women in Australia involved in social justice activism motivated by their faith. Karen specialises in the historical intersections of gender, faith and sexuality but has also written numerous articles on pastoral ethics and cross-cultural missions.
Karen understands that growing up gay in the church is rough; it is hard to describe the fear of what might happen if people find out. There will be condemnation – both overt and implied – and loss of community. It may be soft exclusion, like no longer being able to lead services, sing up the front, welcome people at the door or work with kids. It might mean being ostracised from the community – no longer allowed to attend or make contact with others. That’s why for so many years Karen was terrified of coming out and hid her sexuality, denying it even to herself.
But here’s what most people don’t realise: coming out can also mean finding community. It means being able to live authentically; it means being embraced wholeheartedly by people who see you for who you are, and who love you. Many of these people are within the church.
There are some loud voices telling us that you can’t be gay and Christian, that the two are incompatible. But there is a chorus of inclusion that continues to grow louder. People who understand that Jesus Christ does not condemn or exclude or marginalise people like Karen, but welcomes us with open arms. People who understand that while the Bible condemns manipulative, exploitative, and abusive sexual practices, it nowhere condemns love between people of the same gender, or gender diverse people.
To young queer people of faith, Karen wants to insist that you do not have to choose between your sexual or gender identity and your faith. You are loved exactly as you are, and there are places where you can find acceptance, peace and love.