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Church cancels funeral at last minute citing blasphemy: Found out man was gay

A church in Tampa, Fla., the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, agreed to hold funeral for Julion Evans, then canceled the funeral when they discovered he was gay.(Photo: Cross in Brazil)
A church in Tampa, Fla., the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, agreed to hold funeral for Julion Evans, then canceled the funeral when they discovered he was gay.(Photo: Cross in Brazil)Junior Miranda, Creative Commons

A Tampa, Fla., church decided to cancel the funeral of a man within 24 hours of his burial service after they discovered he was gay, the family of the deceased says. Pastor T. W. Jenkins, who presides over the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, even went so far as to tell the family of the man that to have done so inside his church would have been "blasphemous," Kendall Capers, Julion Evans' partner of 17 years and husband for one, told the Tampa Bay Times Aug. 8.

The mother of Julion Evans, Julie Atwood, wanted to have funeral rites for her son conducted at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church for several reasons, according to WFLA-TV in Tampa. She had been baptized there. Several members of her family were or had been members of the church. And the church was a bit larger than the church she now attended on a regular basis. And everything seemed to be going fine. The arrangements had been made. Then, with less than 24 hours to go before the Julion Evans was to be buried, Pastor Jenkins called and told the family that they would not be holding the funeral at his church.

In fact, Jenkins' cancellation came during Evans' wake. He told the grieving mother it would be "blasphemous" to hold the funeral at his church.

"It was devastating," she said. "I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death."

Capers says it was the obituary that labeled him as Julion Evans' "husband" that prompted Jenkins' decision. But, he said, the couple had never kept their relationship a secret.

Pastor T. W. Jenkins, known for his anti-same-sex marriage stance, said in an interview: "Based on our preaching of the Scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church. 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."

It would appear that the pastor's principles call for a double standard. Jenkins says he wasn't "trying to condemn anyone's lifestyle," but was doing exactly that by withholding funeral services to a man simply because of his gay lifestyle, his [the pastor's] principles supported by the condemnatory concept that a funeral being held in Evans' honor inside the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church was "blasphemous."

"We can't even have a dignified service like the next person could?" Capers told the Tampa Bay Times. "This is 2014, and we're still going through this."

Julion Evans, a Tampa native, according to his obituary, died on July 26 after losing a 4-year battle with a rare disease called amyloidosis. Amyloidosis, according to the Mayo Clinic website, is the build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in the body's organs that leads to organ shutdown. It is incurable. The same disease took the lives of his brother and father as well.

Capers said as soon as he heard that the funeral was canceled, he "jumped out of grieving husband mode and launched into disaster recovery mode," he told the Times.

He made arrangements with the managers of Blount & Curry Funeral Home, the same place that was holding the wake. The family was provided space to conduct the next day's funeral.

More than 200 people showed up to pay their last respects. According to WFLA-TV, some mourners who couldn't be notified of the change showed up at the church and missed the funeral.

Kendall Capers said that the worst part of it all was that he would have understood the church's position had they voiced it when the family was making arrangements. But they had agreed to do the services. Not doing so, he said, and canceling his partner's funeral was "disrespectful" and "wrong."

"This is 2014, this is not the 60s or the 70s,” Capers told the news station. “So at the end of the day I just want his wrong-doing to be exposed.”

Capers plans to start a foundation in Julion Evans' name dedicated to funding research for amyloidosis.