TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) –– In the midst of their grief and with just a day’s notice, loved ones were forced to scramble to make new arrangements after a Florida church canceled a funeral after the pastor and congregation learned the deceased man was gay.
Kendall Capers said he and his husband Julion Evan’s relationship was not a secret.
But the night before Evan was supposed to be laid to rest, the pator of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa learned the pair was gay and the congregation was livid.
“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 said.
Evans was just 42 years old when he died last month of amyloidosis, a rare and incurable disease that causes an abnormal protein to build up around a patient’s organ.
Evans’ family attends New Hope and wanted his funeral to be held there, and the church immediately said yes.
But the man’s family said the invitation was abruptly revoked during the wake after the newspaper obituary named Capers as the deceased’s surviving husband.
Evans’ mother said she was standing at her son’s casket when her phone rang. The pastor allegedly left a message saying it would be “blasphemous” for her son’s funeral to be held at his church.
New Hope’s Pastor T.W. Jenkins told WFLA-TV that his church doesn’t support same-sex marriage.
“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,” Jenkins said.
The heartbreaking ordeal has left Capers upset and conflicted about religion.
“It’s not like we woke up and said, ‘Let’s be gay,’” he said.
Jenkins said he regrets that his decision was made the night before the funeral and that he typically reviews obituaries before they’re published, but he was on vacation when Evans’ obituary ran in the newspaper.
As for the grieving family, they ended up using the funeral home that handled the wake for the funeral service, which they said was successful but the ordeal was something they shouldn’t have had to endure.