Speaking to the meeting from her Melbourne home, Kolev expressed gratitude on behalf of herself and Freedom2b members. The group is a support network for LGBT people from Christian backgrounds.

In the special send-off recognising the former Assemblies of God preacher turned gay advocate’s six years of service, Venn-Brown was presented with a thank-you card with messages of support and gratitude from Freedom2b members.

Venn-Brown told the Star Observer the thank-you had been “wonderful” and he felt a great sense of accomplishment.

“It started from virtually nothing,” he said. “There were just a dozen people at the first meeting and at one point the lowest was about three people. Now we have three chapters across Australia, two youth groups and a forum of 1000 people which gets 4000 visits a month.”

Venn-Brown said some of his proudest moments included marching in the Mardi Gras parade for the first time and seeing up close the impact the organisation has had on gay and lesbian people from Christian backgrounds.

“To see the transformation of individuals has really been special,” he said. “To see people who were totally closeted, totally tormented, who have now come to a place of peace and resolution.

“The first time Freedom2b marched in the Mardi Gras, it had been difficult to get people to make a commitment to do it. I thought whatever happens, even if I’m the only person marching, we were going to draw a line in the sand and from this point on we will not accept condemnation or judgement.”

This year the Freedom2b float was the largest ever, with close to 100 people.

Named twice as one of the 25 most influential gay and lesbian Australians, Venn-Brown said he has no doubts Freedom2b will go from “strength to strength” under Kolev’s leadership.