The bisexual daughter of a conservative Christian pastor has teamed up with a gay minister to launch a new church where LGBTI people don't have to hide.

Both Suzanne Bamford-King, 25, and Ryan Curran-Pacquing, 28, come from staunch Christian families where being bi-sexual and gay had been seen as being a sin and against God.

Both say they have contemplated or attempted taking their own lives - but are now channelling their energies towards setting up a church, called Open Table Ministries, where people from the rainbow community can be themselves.

Born in the Philippines, Bamford-King says she comes from a "deeply religious" Christian family and her father is currently a pastor leading a fundamental Baptist church in Hawke's Bay.

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Curran-Pacquing and Bamford-King are leaders in Open Table Ministries, which caters for LGBTQI Christians. Photo / Dean Purcell
Curran-Pacquing and Bamford-King are leaders in Open Table Ministries, which caters for LGBTQI Christians. Photo / Dean Purcell

"Being raised in such an environment, I have been forced into being a Christian without actually knowing what it really means," she said.

"I was expected to fit into a certain box because I was the pastor's daughter, and in fact I am still struggling with it now."

Bamford-King said she believed in Christ, but felt "isolated and alienated" at her dad's church because she was different.

She said that both her mum and dad had refused "to fully engage" in conversations when she tried to tell them she was bisexual.

Open Table Ministries aim to create a safe space where LGBTQI people can be themselves. Photo / Supplied
Open Table Ministries aim to create a safe space where LGBTQI people can be themselves. Photo / Supplied

"I believe Jesus Christ is love, but I struggled to find a church that really accepts me for who I am," she said.

When her marriage broke up in 2018, Bamford-King received little support from the church community - which considered divorce to be inherently wrong and re-marriage an act of adultery.

Curran-Pacquing also comes from a staunch Baptist family, and left school at 15 to become a pastor.

Massey University religious expert Peter Lineham says some Christian churches are hostile to LGBTQ people. Photo / Supplied
Massey University religious expert Peter Lineham says some Christian churches are hostile to LGBTQ people. Photo / Supplied

He got involved with a Pentecostal church as a youth pastor but hid the fact he was gay. He eventually confided in another leader - and at 19 was sent to a counsellor and to gay conversion therapy.

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"I was told that being gay was a disease and that I needed God's healing by reading the Bible more, a better diet and more exercise," he said.

"I stopped going to the sessions when I felt it wasn't working, but it also made me feel like a failure."

Curran-Pacquing decided to leave his church but the impact the ordeal had on him led him to attempt suicide.

He had an epiphany while recovering in a mental health unit and realised that he could be himself and still be loved and accepted by God.

"I just felt an amazing sense of relief then because until then, I have been told my entire life had been a sin and I was an abomination," Curran-Pacquing said.

"Now I want this new ministry to offer love and acceptance to anyone who may be different, and for them to realise that God loves them no matter who or what they are."

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According to Curran-Pacquing, the new church aims to create a safe space where anyone can be themselves and feel a sense of value and belonging.

"Our aim is to restore humanity back to a loving God, a God who is not mad or obsessed with perfection and loves you no matter who you are," he said.

Curran-Pacquing, who is the founder and lead pastor, said the church was set up by a group of people who themselves were struggling to find a community where they could feel safe and find belonging.

"It is our hope and prayer that through this new ministry, others too can feel encouraged and find hope to be all that God calls them to be," he said.

The church is currently based mainly online, and organises regular meet-ups across the country - but Curran-Pacquing said discussions were underway to get a physical location.

Massey University religious expert Peter Lineham said not all churches were hostile to LGBTQ people, but some were.

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"Although there are changes taking place, undoubtedly those that have confronted the blast of hostility can feel very wounded and seek desperately for a place of acceptance."

He said the sense of belonging to a church was crucial for a sense of community and a framework for identity and values.

"That of course is why the clash comes, because those who regard the Bible as absolutely against LGBTQI people and actions, although the evidence is more mixed than they would acknowledge, will not give any sympathy to gay people," Lineham said.

"Others they can regard as doing individual acts of sin, but this is not just specific acts but this in some ways threatens to overthrow their whole way of reading the Bible."

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:

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• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• https://www.lifeline.org.nz/services/suicide-crisis-helpline
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202