Julion Evans: New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa cancels funeral after learning he was gay

A church in Tampa canceled a funeral with just a day's notice after the pastor and congregation learned the deceased man was gay.

It left his loved ones scrambling to make new arrangements in the midst of their grieving.

The night before his husband's funeral, Kendall Capers was told the service was canceled.

"Our relationship wasn't really a secret, everyone knew," Capers said.

The pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa learned the pair were 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?" says Capers.

Julion Evans, 42, died late last month, of amyloidosis.

Evans' family attends New Hope and wanted the funeral there.

Capers said, "I felt it probably would have been best for him to be at the church, his family grew up in the church, it just made sense."

New Hope immediately said yes, but the invitation was abruptly revoked during the wake after the newspaper obituary named Capers as the surviving "husband."

Julion's mother was too upset to talk on camera but said she was standing at her son's casket when the phone rang; the message - it would be blasphemous for her son's funeral to be held here, at the church.

New Hope's pastor, T.W. Jenkins, said via telephone that his church doesn't support gay marriage.

He said, "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 principals."

All of this leaves Capers sad, and conflicted about religion.

"It's not like we woke up and said let's be gay, it's something we were born with and we've dealt with it for me, 40 years, him 42 years and we make the best possible choices," Capers said.

Pastor Jenkins said he regrets that this decision was made the night before the funeral.

He said he typically reviews obituaries before they publish, but was on vacation when this obituary ran in the newspaper.

As for the family, they ended up using the funeral home that handled the wake for the ceremony.

The family said it ended up being a great service, but they still feel it was wrong that the church excluded them.


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