Freedom 2 b[e]’s fifth anniversary dinner last night was a success with more than 100 people at the sold-out function at the Marriott Hotel.

Freedom 2 b[e] used the opportunity to honour 29 volunteers who had contributed to the organisation becoming the leading group in Australia for LGBTs from a Christian background.

John Madden, the brother of the Christian Democrats candidate for Sydney in the 2011 NSW election Peter Madden, and his wife Lisa received a Special Recognition award for apologising for his brother’s actions and marching in the Mardi Gras Parade.

Peter Madden had called the parade “live pornography and a flagrant and militant promotion of sexual immorality”, and claimed that gay men died decades younger than their heterosexual counterparts due to their lifestyle.

“Over Mardi Gras weekend John and Lisa became very much a part of the Freedom 2 b[e] family attending our two events and joining us in the parade,” Freedom 2 b[e] convenor Anthony Venn-Brown said.

“So tonight we would like to present you with this award to say thanks from Freedom 2 b[e] and from the LGBT community.”

The group also recognised the Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher, a former pastor of Australia’s largest Baptist congregation, Blackburn Baptist Church, for his contribution to creating greater understanding and acceptance of LGBTs in Australia’s churches.

Today Croucher heads John Mark Ministries, the most accessed non-denominational Christian website in Australia. He is Freedom 2 b[e]’s chaplain and has used his website and Facebook page to start discussions on LGBTs and the church that have reached thousands of Christians.

“When heterosexual Christians stand with the LGBT community they often experience hostility, vilification, judgment and personal attack,” Venn-Brown said.

“By standing with us, they experience something that is an everyday experience for many gay and lesbian people both here in Australia and many parts of the world.

“This is often more so for those in leadership positions. So in gratefulness we give this award to Rowland in recognition of his contribution in creating greater understanding and acceptance of LGBT people in Australia’s Christian churches.”

At the dinner, Freedom 2 b[e] announced plans for the organisation’s development, including having all leaders trained in suicide awareness and prevention, and the establishment of chapters around the country.

Freedom 2 b[e] patron, former High Court judge Michael Kirby spoke on the effect of religious hostility on the fight against AIDS and equality for sexual minorities. A special anniversary cake was donated by Dawn Hough of Emsen Lane Cake Artistry.

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