Supporters of the St. Michael’s parishioner who was asked to step down from his ministry duties demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the church on Sunday.
A sign–less sit–in protest was held outside the Parish Sunday morning to show solidarity in support of Bobby Glenn Brown. Brown was a cantor, lector, and choir member at the parish for the past three years. After a commitment ceremony with his partner of 31 years was held last Saturday, Brown says he was told by the church’s pastor, Reverend Larry Van Damme, that he could no longer perform his ministry duties.
The movement has not only taken on a physical presence in Marquette, it’s also spread to the internet, where an online petition has been created, requesting that Pope Francis review the parish’s decision to remove Brown from his duties.
“So I started a petition to ask the Pope to please look at the situation, to look at it in view of some of the statements he’s made recently that seem to be more inclusive and showing perhaps more of the love and mercy of Christ than the judgment,” said Greg Corsten, creator of the petition. “I started the petition just to see if we could get some signatures and draw attention to it beyond just the local bishop and the local clergy at St. Michael’s, asking for some outside, more dispassionate review of the situation.”
Corsten, an acquaintance of Brown’s, says he found out about the situation through social media. Part of his impetus for starting the petition was to help encourage change and social justice.
“It’s important for us to, when we see instances of social injustice, to speak out and not just remain in the background and let it happen,” Corsten added. “There are a lot of children out there that we kind of owe it to them to make steps to change things so that their children live in a more just world. I do think that’s the background of a lot of what the New Testament teaches: social justice, acceptance, and love.”
The petition, hosted on change.org, already has around 150 supporters with a goal of 1,000.
The man behind the decision to limit Brown’s role in the church also took the internet this weekend to voice his side of the story. On Saturday, Father Van Damme attempted to clarify some of the reasoning behind his decision on Father Ben Hasse’s blog, Snowshoe Tracks.
In his post, he says, ” I wish to clarify inaccuracies that have appeared in the media over the past several days. Among our members at St. Michael Catholic Church in Marquette we have valued parishioners with same sex attraction who serve in many capacities, including liturgical ministries. As their pastor, I love all of my parishioners whatever their circumstance. At no point have I instructed anyone to stand at the back of the church, the cry–room, or in the vestibule. Reports of this having occurred are a misunderstanding.”
He goes on to say, ” Distinct from this is the case in which someone makes a deliberately thought–out life–decision to live in a manner which runs contrary to the teachings of their faith and of Scripture. When it becomes a matter not of failing to live up to the teachings of Christ, but of actively opposing them and celebrating their contrary, the situation calls for a particular pastoral response. More specifically, if a parishioner has chosen to celebrate and promote views contradicting the words they would sing in the choir, or proclaim from Scripture as a lector, then they are asked not to lead in the singing or proclamation of those words. However, they are still welcome to worship in the church with fellow members of the Body of Christ.”
Despite all of the fallout, Brown does not want to cut ties with Diocese. He hopes to continue to have a dialogue with church officials like the Bishop and eventually rectify the situation.