A Florida church abruptly canceled funeral services for a man after learning he was gay and married, leaving his family scrambling to make new arrangements, local NBC affiliate WFLA-TV reported this week.
Julie Atwood told the station she was notified of the cancellation the night before her 42-year-old son Julion Evan’s service, which was scheduled for July 26.
Atwood said she was told by the pastor of Tampa’s New Hope Missionary Baptist Church that it would be “blasphemous” to hold the funeral at his church, reported WFLA-TV.
"It was devastating," Atwood said. "I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death."
Pastor T.W. Jenkins made the decision after a newspaper obituary listed Kendall Capers as Evan’s husband, the station reported.
Atwood, who was baptized at the church as a child, said Jenkins reneged on his agreement after members of his congregation called in to complain about the obituary.
“Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church,” Jenkins, who preaches against same-sex marriage, told WFLA. “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.”
The last-minute arrangements caused some mourners to show up at the wrong church and to miss the funeral.
Capers said that while he understood the pastor’s position, it was “disrespectful” to cancel the service after arrangements had been made.
“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?” Capers told WFLA.
Evan, who died from a rare illness called amyloidosis, had been legally married to Capers for 17 years.
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.