Two of Australia’s most prominent human rights leaders are the new patrons of Freedom 2 b[e], the support network for GLBTQI people from Pentecostal and Charismatic church backgrounds.

The Honourable Michael Kirby and Reverend Dorothy McRae-McMahon were approached to add credibility to the organisation, former Assemblies of God minister and founder of Freedom 2 b[e], Anthony Venn-Brown, said.

These are people who are leaders in the community, he said. Both the Reverend Dorothy McRae-McMahon -¦ and of course the Honourable Michael Kirby -¦ have been very public, and sometimes they’ve paid a price for that, but know the importance of living authentically and also that that is the way we’re going to bring change.

Venn-Brown chronicled his own experience of struggling with his sexuality for 22 years as a minister in the Pentecostal church in his book A Life Of Unlearning. The Honourable Michael Kirby wrote the foreword to the book and Venn-Brown said that he saw the High Court judge as his mentor.

I admire Anthony for his courage and outreach to Christians of his tradition, the Hon. Michael Kirby told SSO.

The wonderful thing is that he has already attracted the support of Pentecostal pastors and believers. Many religious people are very thoughtful and basically kind. Anthony Venn-Brown reaches out to them and I am proud of him and them.

The Freedom 2[b]e online forum has attracted gay Christians of all denominations to discuss their stories and draw strength from each other. Venn-Brown said that the online forum had a mix of very active members who post regularly, and anonymous users who lurk, yet still get something out of it.

They’re reading the posts and it’s a bit of a lifeline for them, because for the first time people from that background are talking about the issues of sexuality, whereas previously this never happened in the Pentecostal world, Venn-Brown said.

For Venn-Brown, the forums also give him hope that things are changing for the better. He tells the story of a 17-year-old gay man who came on the forum to tell his story.

Up until this point most of the stories had been incredibly dramatic -“ depression, attempted suicide, married, gay exorcism, we’ve all been through that -“ and here is this lovely young kid saying, -˜My life has been boring because I know God loves me as I am, and I’m gay,’ Venn-Brown said. I just went, -˜Yes! These are the stories I’ve been waiting for.’

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