Carla Christopher is an ordained congregational vitality and community engagement pastor holding dual standing in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC). Carla is also a cultural competency and diversity trainer specializing in Racial Justice, Disability, and LGBTQIA+ inclusion, survivor empowerment, and trauma-informed care. She currently serves as Assistant to the Bishop of Lower Susquehanna Synod in Charge of Justice Ministries where she coordinates mission and outreach in the areas of Racial Justice, LGBTQIA+ Affirmation, Immigration, Disability Inclusion, Creation Care and Housing Equity for the southcentral Pennsylvania region. She also serves on the pastoral team for Heidelberg United Church of Christ in York, Pennsylvania.
A former Poet Laureate of York (2011 – 2013), the co-founder of York Equality Fest which became York County Pride, and an award winning and multiply-published writer, Carla has twice received the key to York City for her community-based education initiatives and continues to use writing and storytelling as activism. Carla currently serves on the Pennsylvania Commission for LGBTQ Affairs, the City of York Human Relations Commission, and is a member of the Statewide Policy Council for Lutheran Advocacy Ministries in Pennsylvania (LAMPa). She also writes regularly for ELCA World Hunger, Faith@Home, Sparkhouse, Sundays and Seasons, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and Disrupt Worship Project.
Carla studied psychology, education, and creative writing at Columbia University in the City of New York and spent years as an educator and case manager in domestic violence shelters, state prison systems, and school districts before receiving her Masters in Divinity from United Lutheran Seminary in 2019. As a caseworker and community educator, then Diversity and Inclusion consultant, Carla has been the force behind regional campaigns for Food and Water Watch, Put People First – PA, Y.W.C.A. of York County, United Way of York County, York County Cultural Alliance, Appell Center for the Performing Arts, York County Libraries, and several political campaigns. She has also traveled around the globe, from Rutgers and Penn State to major organizations and institutions in Kosovo, Albania, Flint, Chicago, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Sarasota, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Philadelphia etc., as a speaker and trainer.
The former York Dispatch OUT and About columnist, host of Culture & Main; York’s Weekly Cultural Showcase on White Rose Community TV, and co-director of PoemSugar Press / Community Arts Ink which published over 50 books by authors from traditionally marginalized communities in 5 years, Carla’s full-length books include; Song (Columbia University Press, 2000), Baby, Read Me Something with Rhythm (PoemSugar Press, 2011), Made In York (2015), Addicted to Relapse (2018) and the forthcoming Slave Catechism. She also released the EP Of Water Born with the ensemble Poetic Voices in 2015 and the full-length recorded collection Poetry from the Ashes with Soul Thief Collective in 2017.
Awards and Recognitions
- York County’s Most Influential People; Activism and Advocacy, York Daily Record/Sunday News (2022)
- County Community Impact Award, Rainbow Rose LGBT Center (2021)
- Fund for Leaders Redevelopment/Mission Developer National Scholar Award, Evangelical Church in America (2018)
- York Revolution LGBT M.V.P., York Revolution, York, PA (2017)
- Dorrie Leader Advocacy Award, York Y.W.C.A., York, PA (2017)
- Awarded Key to the City for Community Activism in founding Equality Fest (2016)
- Nguzo Saba Living Lifetime Achievement Award, Life Esteem Ministries, Harrisburg, PA (2016)
- Certificate of Special Recognition, York City Human Relations Commission, York, PA (2016)
- York Unity Award, City of York (2015)
- FAB Living History Award, LGBT Center of Central PA (2015)
- Torch Award Nominee, World Affairs Council of Harrisburg (2015)
- First Place Grand Prize, Overall Competition, Poetry Society of PA (2014)
- Awarded Key to the City for Literary and Education Advocacy as Poet Laureate (2014)