Freedom 2 b[e], a support group for GLBT people from Christian backgrounds, has announced Melbourne chapter leader Michelle Kolev (pictured) will take over the organisation’s national leadership.

Kolev was appointed at a board meeting in June after Freedom 2 b[e] founder Anthony Venn-Brown stepped down after six years at the helm.

Kolev told the Star Observer she was looking forward to the new role.

“I feel really privileged to be accepted into this role,” she said.

“We’re not planning on making any huge changes … we’ve got a fantastic board with great experience.”

Kolev and her partner Linda Cropley have four teenage children and have run the Melbourne chapter of Freedom 2 b[e] for the last four and a half years.

Kolev said she struggled for years to reconcile her relationship and her faith.

“I had been told for most of my life that gay was wrong,” Kolev said. “I had to redefine my faith and what I actually believed in myself to come to my own conclusions.”

Cropley also faced some tough years coming to terms with her sexuality.

She came out at 17, became a Christian in her early 20s, stayed in the closet for the next 20 years, married and had children. She came out again in her late 30s where her local Assemblies of God church tried to send her to an ex-gay program.

She said Venn-Brown’s book, A Life of Unlearning, about his struggles coming out after leaving his position as minister, led her and Cropley to Freedom 2 b[e].

“Reading Anthony’s book was a lifeline. There was so much [we] could relate to and just know there were other people out there.”

Kolev said the pair have now come full circle, helping others struggling in the same position. “One of the unique things about Freedom 2 b[e] is we are a middle ground between the church and the gay community,” Kolev said. “We are that safe space people can come to at different stages of their journey.”

Venn-Brown told the Star Observer he was leaving the organisation in safe hands.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the organisation and confidence in leadership, they’re good people,” Venn-Brown told the Star Observer.

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