Since 2007, the Melbourne branch of LGBTI Christian group freedom2b has grown from fewer than five members to about 50 people attending their regular meetings.

The Melbourne group will celebrate its fifth anniversary at a dinner on July 20 at the Rydges Hotel, Preston. Carl Katter, the half-brother of federal MP Bob Katter, will be the keynote speaker.

All profits raised on the night will help establish a freedom2b chapter in Perth.

While many people struggle to hold on to their faith in the LGBTI community, freedom2b president Michelle Kolev said there were several factors contributing to the growth in membership, including more people reconciling their diverse gender and/or sexuality with their Christian faith.

“What makes freedom2b unique is that we are a safe space between the church world and the gay community,” she said.

“Now it’s coming to a point where people can actually marry the two and realise they can have their faith and can have their sexuality and be involved in a safe community to do so.”

More media attention on religion and sexuality and a greater interest from the wider community were other reasons for the group’s growth.

The Age recently published a story about Australian churches conducting gay conversion therapies followed by a similar story in The Daily Telegraph. The Cure, a documentary on the topic, screened at this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival.

Kolev said the group was attracting more heterosexual supporters, which was helping LGBTI people feel more secure.

“We have three straight ministers in our Melbourne meeting alone,” she said.

“They’re there at every meeting standing alongside the LGBTI community. It makes a huge difference for people feeling safe.”

Freedom2b was founded in Sydney in 2006.

INFO: www.freedom2b.org

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