TRAVERSE CITY — Jan Renollet Chapman grew up in the Catholic faith and is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in downtown Traverse City.
Chapman, 73, no longer goes to Mass every Sunday and calls herself a lapsed Catholic. She was not at the Thursday morning Mass celebrated Jan. 26 by the Rev. Mitchel Roman, but watched it online. She listened as Roman in his sermon criticized Pres. Joe Biden, who is Catholic, abortion and today’s cancel culture.
But Chapman said she was enraged when Roman took aim at the LGBTQ community, suggesting that a person cannot be gay and also be Catholic.
“I saw hatred,” Chapman said. “Discrimination in any form is wrong. The Catholic thinking is love and promotes dignity for every human being.”
Roman’s sermon departed from the Catholic faith, she said.
“You don’t go to church to be judged,” Chapman said. “How can you do a sermon like that?”
St. Francis posts its church services on its Facebook page; the Jan. 26 Mass was posted, but has since been taken down.
Another church member, Sherri Glezman, said she was appalled at the sermon.
“It is upsetting and offensive that Fr. Roman used his platform to voice his political opinion about the Biden administration and it is deeply disturbing that he went even further to purposefully single out the LGBTQ+ community,” Glezman said in a written statement to the Record-Eagle.
“I am the proud mother of a gay son and I am appalled that Fr. Roman is now insinuating that my own son, his husband, and therefore my family are now unwelcome in the church. His message is insulting to the LGBTQ+ community and to those who love and support them, as God would ask us to. Aren’t we all suppose to ‘love thy neighbor?’ Imagine a lonely resident sitting in church that day needing to find God, to find a place they belong and feel safe and this being the sermon they heard.
“Church should be a place where we all feel welcome, regardless of who we love or our political party.”
Roman declined to be interviewed, but sent a written statement to the Record-Eagle.
In the days following his Jan. 26 sermon, Roman wrote, “... we received concerns regarding the message which discussed Catholic moral teachings and the correlation between those teachings and recent political policies. We have since removed the video [from the internet] because of the negative response in the community, which was unintended.”
“I regret that this message caused contention within our community, as the goal was to address the complex situations of our times and not to cause division. My mentioning of specific political representatives or administrations was inappropriate, and in future messages, this will much more carefully be taken into consideration.
“The Catholic Church is never disconnected from the social and moral issues of its day, and it’s important to discern all sides. It is always the intention of the Church and her priests to be the voice of the many significant moral issues at hand, sharing the teachings of the Church, and inspiring us to live according to the Gospel. It is important that this is done in a manner that sows love within the context of truth and Catholic teaching. We support the community and invite all to accept a deeper love of Jesus, and to be positive members of the community.”
LGBTQ members are to be welcomed with respect, compassion and sensitivity, according to the catechism of the Catholic Church, which also adds an expectation of celibacy.
The Rev. Kurt Henle with All Saints Anglican Church said the tendency for many churches today is to accommodate the culture, rather than work with scriptural mandate.
Rev. Bill Myers is the senior pastor at Presbyterian Church of Traverse City, which allows men and women of all sexual orientations to be ordained.
The church performs same-sex marriages and welcomes all people, Myers said.
“Depending on who you speak to in most any Christian denomination, you’re going to find differences of opinion on many of the cultural issues we deal with,” Myers said.
Many religions take passages of the Bible literally without context, he said, and Christians are going to disagree.
“But we are not living in the same time that Jesus lived in or any of the other Biblical folks,” Myers said.
Bonnie Willings does not belong to St. Francis, but saw the sermon online, finding it very offensive, she said.
“I thought, for heavens sake, there are people sitting in that congregation ... who are gay,” Willings said. “To be told that you’re not a member of that church would be insulting and very hurtful.”
Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers posted the Mass on his personal Facebook page after someone sent it to him. Many people in the community were upset and disappointed with Roman’s words and contacted Carruthers.
“It was very political,” Carruthers said of the sermon. “It was a typical right-wing Trump kind of thing. It was just bizarre.”
Roman slammed the LGBTQ community, said Carruthers, who is not a member of St. Francis.
The city has for years been trying to attract people with high-tech skills to the community and said this does not help the message being sent out, Carruthers said.
He wrote a letter to Roman to let him know about his concerns and to ask him to apologize.
“As the mayor and as a citizen, I’ve worked long and hard to grow a community that supports all its citizens,” Carruthers wrote. “Working alongside many of our faith-based leaders, we have supported tolerance, diversity and acceptance for all our human differences ... Your statements fly in the face of this work and our city human rights ordinance and all our efforts toward building a community that welcomes everyone.”
Carruthers’ letter, which was also sent to Bishop Walter A. Hurley at the Gaylord Diocese, asked for an apology to the community.
“Our general Traverse City community does not embrace the division you sow and you should do the right thing by supporting an inclusive message, not one that divides us,” Carruthers wrote.