Could you imagine losing your son, with all the trauma that entails, and then being told at his wake — as you’re standing next to his body, no less — that his funeral is being cancelled because he was gay?
That’s exactly what happened to one grieving mother in Tampa, Florida, WFLA reports:
Julie Atwood was standing at her son’s casket when the phone rang. The church where her son’s funeral was scheduled to be held the next day decided to abruptly cancel the service, after the pastor learned the deceased was gay and his obituary listed a surviving “husband.”
Atwood said she was told it would be “blasphemous” to hold the services at the church because her son, Julion Evans, 42, was gay. “It was devastating,” she said. “I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death.”
Evans’ husband, Kendall Capers, says the pair were partners for 17 years and married last year in Maryland. Evans died at home after a 4-year battle with a rare illness called Amyloidosis, which destroys organs in the body.
After Evans’ tragic death, his mother asked her pastor to preach the funeral service. He said he would, but that his church space was not spacious enough to accommodate the hundreds of loved ones from across the country who were expected to attend. So they asked New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, which has larger facilities, for permission to hold Evans’ funeral there.
The church agreed and the date was set… but the publication of Evans’ obituary in the local paper changed everything. More, after the break.
Evans’ obituary listed Capers as his husband — because, of course, he was. But when New Hope parishioners saw that their church would be hosting the funeral of a married gay man, they called Pastor T.W. Jenkins to complain.
Jenkins decided that his church’s commitment to marriage discrimination trumped its commitment to the grieving family of Julion Evans. Less than 24 hours before the funeral service was scheduled to begin — as Julion’s husband and family were standing at his casket, receiving mourners — Pastor Jenkins called Atwood and told her that her son was no longer welcome at that church.
Jenkins says he performed this astonishingly cruel act because he’s a “man of God”:
"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 [sic], but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles.”
The news sent the family scrambling. They did their best to make new arrangements and notify everyone, but some mourners didn’t get the message in time, so they showed up at the wrong place and missed Evans’ funeral.
Kendall Capers, Julion’s widow, says he would have understood New Hope’s position if they’d refused right away, but agreeing to host the funeral and then cancelling during the wake was “disrespectful.”
"This is 2014, this is not the 60s or the 70s," Capers told WFLA. "So at the end of the day I just want his wrong-doing to be exposed."
Kendall Capers is a better soul than I. To use a funeral as a weapon of punishment against a gay man’s family — for his “sin” of living and loving openly — is nothing short of reprehensible. I don’t remember Jesus turning ever turning anyone away, but I guess “Pastor” Jenkins thinks he knows better than the teacher he claims to serve.
Words cannot convey the depth of my disgust.