An openly gay minister in Scotland whose appointment to Queen's Cross Church in January caused major controversy has been honored by a gay rights group in the UK, the BBC reported.

Stonewall, the nation's largest gay rights advocate, named Reverend Scott Rennie its “Hero of the Year” on Thursday at its fourth annual Stonewall Awards. The London event was hosted by British television presenter Gok Wan.

Rennie, 37, withstood a challenge by religious conservatives in the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian denomination, to his appointment in June and took up his role on July 3.

“Because I do not see myself as a hero, I would rather accept this on behalf of all those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who contribute to the life of churches and faith communities, simply by living out love in their lives, for God, for their neighbor, and who share their gifts with those communities in the hope of making a difference to the world they live in,” Rennie said in accepting his award.

Church leaders voted to keep Rennie as minister, despite a vocal campaign to have him ousted by conservatives, who went so far as to liken supporters of gay clergy to Nazis, and a petition drive that attracted almost 12,000 signatures from clergy representing various denominations worldwide.

“Champions of gay equality are crucial if we are to create a modern, accepting Britain,” Ben Summerskill, executive director of Stonewall, said in a statement. “In the light of recent homophobic hate crimes in Liverpool and London, the Stonewall Awards provide a much-needed platform to showcase the strength, confidence, visibility and talent of lesbian and gay people in this country. We paused during the celebrations to remember recent targets of homophobic hate – both on the streets and in the media.”