A Florida pastor left a grieving family less than 24 hours to make other funeral arrangements once he found out the deceased was gay. Julie Atwood was standing at her son’s casket when she received a call from T.W. Jenkins informing her that the funeral service would not be held at his church as originally planned. He recently learned that Julion Evans was gay and said it is blasphemous to hold a funeral for gays so he could no longer offer his services or church.
Atwood said she was devastated; the news hit her like a ton of bricks. She felt like her son was being denied the dignity of death. Her 42-year-old son was openly gay and had married his long-time partner over a year ago. This grieving mother said she never tried to hide anything when the arrangements were made; his lifestyle was never a secret.
Kendall Capers, Evans’ husband, agreed and said everyone who knew them was aware of their relationship. He and Evans had been together for 17 years. Although he understood the pastor’s position he felt the pastor was wrong for waiting so late and not asking about those things when he agreed to do the funeral.
To wait less than 24 hours before the scheduled funeral was just wrong and disrespectful. This is not the 60s or 70s, it is 2014.
Evans died from a rare disease called amyloidosis, after a lengthy four-year battle. Amyloidosis occurs when a substance called amyloid builds up in your organs. This rare disease can affect different organs and frequently affects the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system and digestive tract. There is no known cure for the disease and severe amyloidosis can lead to life-threatening organ failure.
The family requested for the funeral service to be held at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa. Atwood was baptized at the church as a child and although she no longer attends, many family members still do. Her current pastor, Otis Cooper, agreed to do the eulogy but they needed to hold the service in a larger church to accommodate the many people from around the country who were planning to attend.
Jenkins agreed until he found out the man was gay. After the obituary was published in the local newspaper everything changed and the pastor said he had no choice but to cancel the funeral, even at the expense of interrupting a grieving mother at her son’s wake. The pastor stated,
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. Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church.
Jenkins maintains that he was not aware Evans had a husband or was gay until members of his congregation saw the obituary in the newspaper and called him to complain. The members did not think it was right to have the funeral at their church when their pastor preaches against gay marriage.
The last-minute cancellation left the family scrambling to find make other arrangements. With such short notice they were not able to notify everyone which caused some mourners to go to the wrong location and miss the funeral.
The family ended up having the funeral for Evans at Blount & Curry Funeral Home, the same place the wake was held. Cooper, pastor at New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, performed the funeral service for the family. When speaking of Pastor Jenkins’ decision to cancel the original funeral Cooper said he has great respect for Jenkins and does not judge him for his decision.
He has his house to run, which is his church. I have one that I must attend, which is my church, and I can’t make a judgment call for him and he can’t make a judgment call for me.
Cooper said Pastor Jenkins did what he felt was right for his church and I did what was right for mine. He has no regrets about his decision to preach the funeral.
The young man that we funeralized is deceased and no longer has a lifestyle, but those that were out in the audience, in the congregation at that time gave us an opportunity to share the gift of Salvation.
The family was extremely grateful for Cooper who they felt exemplified the unconditional love of God. He stepped in when Jenkins left the grieving family with less than 24 hours to make other funeral arrangements. T.W. Jenkins said he had no other option because it is “blasphemous to hold a funeral for gays.”
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)