Sit-in held at St. Michael church

MARQUETTE – In a quiet show of support for gay Catholics, roughly a dozen people stood outside St. Michael Catholic Church in Marquette Sunday morning.

Dubbed a “Silent, Signless Sit In,” the low-key event was meant to show support for Bobby Glenn Brown, a former parishioner of St. Michael who was asked more than a week ago to step down from his roles as a lector and cantor in the church because of a commitment ceremony he and his same-sex partner of 30 years shared June 14.

Brown was told June 15 by the Rev. Larry Van Damme, the pastor of St. Michael’s, that he could no longer hold positions of public ministry in the church because of the ceremony.

The move upset Brown, who alerted local media to the events of that day. Since then, his story has been picked up by national and international publications.

Sue Kensington, a friend of Brown’s who took part in Sunday’s sit-in, said the group wasn’t there to protest. Rather, they wanted to encourage the Catholic Church to welcome all people.

“The new Pope has been preaching inclusion and there’s been a groundswell of support for that particular message,” Kensington said. “So, this seemed like even more of a shock.”

Pope Francis has made international headlines with his comments about homosexuality, famously saying during an interview last year: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Bishop John Doerfler has said he fully supports Van Damme’s decision, saying because Brown participated in a public ceremony heralding the acceptance of a gay lifestyle he could not hold positions of public ministry as he was in direct contradiction with church teachings. Doerfler and Van Damme have both said Brown is still a member of the Catholic Church and more than welcome to attend Mass.

Kensington said she hopes the event can act as a starting point for change.

“This could be the beginning of understanding and acceptance of everyone,” Kensington said. “Sometimes it takes things like this to get everybody’s attention and then we all look in the same direction.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.