The Perfecting Church, home to famed gospel singer and pastor Marvin Winans, is having a special dedication ceremony for the congregation's youngest members on Sunday.
Charity Grace, a Detroiter who recently started attending services at the church on East Nevada Street, wanted her only son, two-year-old Joshua Grace, to share in the blessings.
"I want to instill values and morals in my son based upon the word of God," she told Fox 2 Detroit.
But when she called Perfecting Church on Tuesday to sign up Joshua for the ceremony, Charity said she was told by a woman elected in the church that Pastor Winans has a strict policy -- he won't bless the babies of unwed mothers in front of the congregation, Fox 2 Detroit reported.
According to a New York Times report, 36 percent of mothers who reported giving birth in 2011 weren't married.
Grace said she felt degraded by the pastor's decision. She's hoping he reconsiders, even if it means having her son dedicated during the week by a church elder.
Until then, she told Fox 2 Detroit she has no plans to return to Perfecting Church.
"I absolutely would not set foot back in the church right now because I feel like they look down upon me and my kind, meaning single moms and unwed mothers," Grace said.
Pope Francis recently said in May that the Catholic Church should bless children born out of wedlock, because their mothers chose life over abortion.
“'Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term. ... "What does she find? A closed door," he said, according to Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. "This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors."
Dr. Jacqui Lewis is the Senior Minister of Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan's East Village. She told The Huffington Post she was surprised that a child "of any kind" would be denied a blessing from a church, and referenced the Gospel of Mark, 10:10-16:
"People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them."
"You want to know what the Kingdom of God is like?" she asked. "Check out the children. Check out their innocence, check out their wide eyed wonder, check out their acknowledgement that they are dependent on others."
Dr. Lewis also noticed something else -- the little boy from Perfecting Church who was denied a blessing is named Joshua. "You know, Jesus's name is really Joshua," she said. "Joshua is Jesus's namesake, and Jesus was born to a mother just like this mother."
The pastor is a member of the Winans family, one of America's most famous gospel clans. He's a gospel singer who has released several albums with the Perfecting Church choir and a recurring member on "Tyler Perry's House of Payne." Winans also memorably delivered the eulogy at Whitney Houston's funeral in 2012. He was carjacked and assaulted outside a Detroit gas station in 2012.
While Dr. Lewis has never met Winans, she said she believes he's a man with a "real heart for Jesus's people." She told The Huffington Post she hopes to someday have coffee with Winans to talk about the issue of withholding blessings.
"The way we think about God and the way we think of what God wants us to do ... I think that happens in relationships," she said.
She told The Huffington Post she would ask Rev. Winans this question:
"What would be the harm of blessing those babies, versus the gain? And wouldn't the gain be that they are baptized and greeted into the community? Then, that Mama would have a whole community of Mamas and Daddies, and Aunties and Uncles to help raise the baby. That's actually a strong black church tradition," she added. "It takes a whole village to raise these children."
"You make sure you put my phone number in there, okay?" Dr. Lewis asked.
Rev. Winans, you can contact Dr. Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church here.
The Huffington Post contacted Perfecting Church for comment and will update this story with any reply.