A Baptist church in Tampa, Florida cancelled funeral arrangements for 42 year old Julion Evans after the obituary listed a surviving husband. His mother, Julie Atwood, was floored by the news; the funeral was to be the next day.
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.
He says the obituary named him as “husband,” and that their marriage was no secret.
It was going to be a very large funeral at New Hope but Paster T.W. Jenkins had no idea the deceased was gay when he agreed to it. Other churchgoers spilled the beans when they complained about the obituary. Only then did he cancel. The family was able to arrange a last minute service elsewhere but were unable to inform everyone of the change so many turned up at New Hope anyway.
Jenkins said his church preaches against gay marriage.
“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.”
And yet by refusing to provide the family with the agreed-upon funeral, it’s still proof of condemnation to me, and everyone else who’s picked up the story and run with it.
Slate picked up the story and notes
As a pastor, of course, Jenkins has a constitutional right to deny religious services to anybody he wants. But legal impunity does not exempt Jenkins from moral judgment—and his action is surely one of breathtaking immorality. Here was a man in a deeply committed relationship, who suffered bravely through a horrible disease—and yet his church denied him peace, even in death. Jenkins can “stand up for [his] principles” all he wants. But the rest of us have every right to be absolutely disgusted.
The church’s website claims they’re “Christ-centered and biblically-based” and offer this gospel verse:
The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
—- Numbers 6:24-26
But rather than be gracious and peace-giving themselves, they turned the family away.