A Baptist church in Tampa, Florida canceled a man's funeral with only a day's notice after the pastor learned the deceased was gay.
Julie Atwood was standing at her son's casket [at his wake] when the phone rang. The church where her son's funeral was scheduled to be held the next day decided to abruptly cancel the service, after the pastor learned the deceased was gay and his obituary listed a surviving "husband."
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."
The mourning family was forced to scramble to find a new funeral arrangement in less than 24 hours because of the late cancellation. The family was unable to inform everybody in time, however, and some mourners showed up at the church and missed the funeral.
Though the family was able to make new arrangements, they were upset that the funeral was not held at the original church, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Atwood, Evans' mother, was baptized at New Hope as a child and several family members still attend the church.
According to New Hope's pastor, T.W. Jenkins, he was unaware Evans was gay until church members saw Evans' husband mentioned in the newspaper's obituary and then called Jenkins to complain. Jenkins stated, "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."
Evans' husband, Kendall Capers, who had been in a relationship with Evans for 17 years and married Evans in Maryland last year, said he thought canceling the funeral during his husband's wake was "disrespectful" and "wrong." Capers 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."
Evans had died of Amyloidosis, a rare illness that destroys organs in the body. He died at home after a 4-year battle with the illness.