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Group backing LGBT Catholics protests Plymouth event

Christine Ferretti, and Mark Hicks

Plymouth — Jan Reynolds is a devout Catholic and fighting for her lesbian daughter’s right to the same level of acceptance within the church.

Reynolds, 61, of White Lake Township on Tuesday was among about two dozen supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics who gathered for a prayer walk at a conference in Plymouth for clergy, educators and others called “Welcoming and Accompanying Our Brothers and Sisters with Same-Sex Attraction.”

“I don’t want to have to leave the Catholic church, and I shouldn’t have to choose between my daughter and my god,” said Reynolds, 61, a member of Fortunate Families Detroit, who stood near Five Mile with a sign that read “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.”

“I hope the leadership of the church open their minds and hearts and see these people are good people,” added Reynolds, who says her 24-year-old daughter is a “wonderful Christian” and a “loving person.”

The conference, which runs through Wednesday in the Inn at St. John’s, is touted as “designed for bishops, priests, religious, school superintendents, and diocesan personnel who minister to those with same-sex attraction and for all those who want to be welcoming and to accompany those who have SSA.”

It’s led by Courage, a Roman Catholic apostolate that works to “assist men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love,” according to the ministry’s website.

Participants include experts on Christian anthropology, natural law and the psychology of homosexuality, organizers said.

Joe Kohn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, which is hosting the event, noted the international conference includes representatives from Asia, the Philippines and more than 30 states.

“We all want what’s best for people with same-sex attractions, and we all want to treat people with Christian love and respect,” Kohn said. “More than anything, we want them and anybody who has a loved one with same-sex attraction to know that the church is here to minister to them and to reach out with Christ’s love and compassion. That’s what we want to convey. That’s what we’re here trying to accomplish.”

Officials with Fortunate Families Detroit say the event “will make clear the church’s position that sexual relationships between LGBTQ persons cannot be considered to be morally acceptable.”

They also object to Courage promoting chastity “as the only permissible way to live in harmony with church teaching” and are asking speakers to meet with the group “to hear our stories and hopes and prayers for the church.”

George Belvitch, president of Plymouth-Canton PFLAG, said that the church has been softening its approach and they are pleased. But they want to ensure it will continue.

“The message we want to convey is that our children and other children who are LGBT want to be part of the Catholic Church,” said Belvitch, whose 32-year-old son is gay and engaged. “We care about our church and we want our children to be a part of it. That want to participate.”

Kohn noted Tuesday the LGBT supporters have been respectful of the conference and informed church representatives that they’d be attending.

Janet E. Smith, the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit who is a featured speaker and co-organizer of the event, said she hopes to hold another conference in the next few years with more information on how churches and parishes can be more welcoming to individuals who have endured struggles.

“It’s not as though we think we know everything,” Smith said. “There are many ways in which parishes can be more welcoming places, and we’re very much trying to figure how to do that.”