The New Hope Missionary Baptist congregation in Tampa, Florida was set to hold services for 42-year-old Julion Evans, until they discovered, via a newspaper obituary, that Evans was gay.
The Huffington Post reported Friday that the funeral “was abruptly cancelled the night before it was scheduled to happen. The family was informed with a phone call from New Hope that said that it would be ‘blasphemous’ to hold the service here. The cancellation came after members of New Hope noticed Evans’ obituary, which named [Julion’s husband Kendall] Capers as the ‘surviving husband.’”
The pastor of New Hope, T.W. Jenkins, spoke out about their decision, defending the church’s principles.
“I try not to condemn anyone's lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God and have to stand upon my principles,” Pastor Jenkins said.
Capers, along with Evans' family, were outraged at being told that Julion’s services would not be held at the church that was his longtime home.
“Regardless of our background, our sexual orientation, how can you wait that long and put someone in a bind when they're going through a loss?” asked Capers, who married Evans 17 years ago in Maryland. “It's not like we woke up and said, 'let's be gay.' It’s something we were born with and we've dealt with it for me, 40 years, him 42 years, and we make the best possible choices.”
According to the Daily Mail, “Mourners were already at Evans-Capers' wake when leaders at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa started receiving calls from parishioners, who were angered when a local newspaper ran an obituary listing Capers and Evans as married.”
Evans’ mother, Julie Atwood, said she feels her son is “being denied the dignity of death… It was devastating.”
Pastor Jenkins said the decision was not his own, but “based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church.”
Capers said that had the church informed them ahead of time, he would not have had a problem with their decision. However, the church said they never knew that the two men were married.
“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,” Capers said. “Stand your ground. 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 wrongdoing, and nobody should be in those shoes.”
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