By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com August 11 2014 1:58 PM ET
The pastor of a Tampa, Fla., church that canceled a man's funeral because the deceased was gay is standing by his decision, despite negative reaction from around the nation.
"I don't hate gay people," Pastor T.W. Jenkins of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church told Tampa TV station WFLA, which first reported the news. Jenkins said he does, however, preach against marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Julion Evans was married to his partner of 17 years, Kendall Capers. In his obituary, Capers was listed as the surviving spouse, which Jenkins said caused church members to complain. "It would have been more of a negative response to hold the funeral than to cancel it," the pastor said.
Evans, 42, died in July of a rare illness called amyloidosis, which destroys bodily organs. As reported last week, his mother, Julie Atwood, was baptized at New Hope Missionary Baptist, and some members of her family still attend services there. While her son and his husband did not go to the church, the family requested that the funeral be held there, as the church offered a space large enough to accommodate the crowd of hundreds expected to attend. The service was scheduled for July 26, but canceled the day before by the church. The funeral had to be moved within 24 hours. As there was not enough time to notify all of the mourners, some people missed the funeral.
Otis Cooper, 29, who performed the ceremony, is a pastor at New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa. Atwood attends his church, and he had initially agreed to perform the ceremony at New Hope, then helped the family find another location, Blount & Curry Funeral Home. He told WFLA that he "can't make a judgment call for" Jenkins, just as Jenkins "can't make a judgment call for me."
Capers, Evans's husband, said he would have understood the church's decision not to allow the service, had it given the family proper notice. Meanwhile, Atwood said getting the call about the cancellation was "devastating. I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death."