The family of a deceased man in Tampa, Florida is devastated after a church canceled the man’s funeral just a day before it was set to take place. According to a report by local NBC affiliate WFLA Thursday, the church canceled the service after discovering that the man was gay and married.
42-year-old Julion Evans died last week after he was given six months to live after battling a rare disease for four years. After his death his husband, Kendall Capers, made funeral arrangements at New Hope Missionary Baptist in Tampa. It was the church where Evans grew up and also a place where family members felt comfortable.
Capers said the pastor made all the arrangements, but once it was learned that Evans was married to a man, the church canceled the services. Capers was able to find another church for the service, but some family members showed up at the wrong church and wasn’t able to properly say goodbye to Evans.
Capers was upset that his husband was receiving this sort of discrimination even after his death, but was more angry at the church for not standing by its commitment. Capers told FOX 13, “If you agree to something, three and four days later, agree to it and stick to your pan, don’t change at the last minute because your church constituents are calling you, or church members are calling you to complain. Stand your ground.”
Evans’ mother, Julie Atwood, was also devastated when she learned that the church was canceling her son’s funeral. She was told it would be “blasphemous” to hold the services of a gay man at the church. Atwood, who was baptized at the church, told WFLA, “I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death.”
T.W. Jenkins, a pastor at New Hope, says he didn’t know Evans had a husband when he first made arrangements. Based on the teachings of the church and its stance against gay marriage, Jenkins feels it would’ve been in “error to allow the service in our church.” He feels it was his obligation to stand up for his principles.
But for Capers, Atwood and the rest of Julion Evans’ family, Jenkins made a commitment he should’ve stood by. Because of the church’s sudden cancellation, the family was left scrambling to make other arrangements. During a time when they should’ve been peacefully mourning, the family of Julion Evans had to assert their energy just to make sure he had a proper goodbye. Capers feels what the church did is something that just can’t be ignored. He said, “This is 2014, this is not the 60s or the 70s. So at the end of the day I just want his wrong-doing to be exposed.”