Craig Watson grew up in a conservative Baptist church where homosexuality was viewed as evil.
For years he tried to pray away his own sexuality, even travelling overseas to a counsellor he hoped would "get the gay away".
Then he met a pastor who showed him he didn't need to choose between religion and sexuality.
He's now on a mission to show other young people and has organised a conference in Auckland bringing together Christians who are part of or work with the LGBTI community.
Craig says his faith has always been strong, and when he realised he was gay abandoning Christianity was not option.
“I couldn’t toss the Christianity out. What I was trying to do for 31 years was toss the homosexuality out.”
Change came when Craig went to work on the London Olympic games four years ago. He hoped in London that he might find a group that would ‘save him’ and says he met a pastor there who did just that.
The pastor told him the negative things he’d been led to believe about homosexuality didn’t line up with the values of Jesus and God.
He also told Craig it was essential that he came out.
“He said ‘First of all you’ve got to understand who you are and you’ve got to tell the people around you what you’re struggling with – and tell them the whole you, the 100 percent you.”
Craig says that his parents have been accepting.
“They’re real liberal and open parents, so they’ve been fantastic support. But parents have an idea for any of their children, so they often grieve about that, but, nah, absolutely supporting parents.”
Some people have said they’ll continue praying for him to find a wife, but he understands that response from people who’ve been “indoctrinated in Christian studies” as he says he was.
“The churches often pick up a stone and love to throw stones at people that don’t fit the Christian mould.
“How can Christians be gay and act inside a church and how can churches go ‘We’re prepared to have conversations with you and chat about some of these things?’
Craig estimates it could be at least 20 years before the Baptist church accepts homosexuality.
“And I’m cool to wait that long. I realise my work may start with me and I may never see it finish, but hopefully somewhere down the track there will be a resolution there, and they will come around.”
Craig also works to promote acceptance of Christianity within the gay community.
“I’ve got a ministry just hanging out with those people and showing them that there are Christians out there that don’t hate you. They do actually love you.”
The AWAKEN Conference takes place in in Auckland on 21 – 24 October.