TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – The family of a gay man says a Tampa church abruptly canceled his funeral service after learning about his sexual orientation.
Julie Atwood told WFLA-TV the pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church called her the day before her son’s funeral, during the actual wake, to say it could not be held at the church because it would be “blasphemous.”
“It was devastating,” she said. “I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death.”
Atwood said she has family ties to New Hope and also needed the large space to accommodate the hundreds of expected mourners for Julion Evans.
He died at age 42 after battling Amyloidosis for 4 years. His husband, Kendall Capers, says they were partners for 17 years and got married last year in Maryland.
“Everyone who knew us knew about our relationship,” he said. “We didn’t keep secrets.”
The service had been scheduled for July 26th.
T.W. Jenkins, pastor at New Hope told WFLA-TV that he did not know Evans was gay until members of his congregation saw the obituary and called to complain.
“Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church,” Jenkins said. “I’m not trying to condemn anyone’s lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles.”
Capers told WTVT-TV the pastor was wrong to cancel with barely any notice.
“If you agree to something, three and four days later, agree to it and stick to your plan, don’t change at the last minute because your church constituents are calling you, or the church members are calling you to complain. Stand your ground, he said”
The family was able to make alternate arrangements at the last minute, but not all the guests were informed of the changes and some only found out about the cancellation when they showed up at New Hope for the funeral.
“I know there are other people that are probably going to be in the same shoes Julion and I were in. I feel like it’s a wrong doing, and nobody should be in those shoes,” said Capers.
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