The bishop who officiated the funeral service for the late Aretha Franklin is now apologizing after receiving a ton of backlash for touching featured performer, Ariana Grande.
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, led the nine-hour service where the 25-year-old singer performed Franklin’s 1967 hit “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” After she performed, Bishop Ellis called her back to podium, holding her above her waist. It also appears in images that the bishop is pressing his fingers into her breast.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast,” Bishop Ellis told the Associated Press at Woodlawn Cemetery, where Franklin was buried.
“I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” he added. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
Bishop Ellis noted that he hugged all of the performers during the lengthy funeral service.
“Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love,” he continued. “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
Backlash swelled on social media, with many sounding off using the hashtag, #RespectAriana.
ESSENCE reached out to a rep for Grande, but didn’t immediately hear back.