Tampa – The pastor of a Tampa church that canceled a funeral 24 hours before it was to take place because parishioners learned the deceased was gay has shown no regrets for his decision.
A day before she was to host guests at her son’s funeral, Julion Evans’ mother, Julie Atwood, was told she could not have the funeral services at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church because it would be “blasphemous.”
Pastor T.W. Jenkins for New Hope said he did not know Evans, 42, was gay until he saw his obituary which listed his surviving husband. After members of the congregation saw and called to complain, Jenkins said he did not think it was acceptable to hold the funeral services at New Hope.
“Based on our preaching of the Scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church,” Jenkins said in an interview, according to WFLA-TV. “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.”
Kendall Capers, Evans’ husband and partner of 17 years, said their relationship was not a secret. The two were legally married a year ago in Maryland.
“This is 2014, this is not the 60s or the 70s,” Capers told the NBC affiliate. “So at the end of the day I just want his wrong-doing to be exposed.”
Evans, 42, died July 26 after a four-year battle with amyloidosis, an illness that claimed the lives of his father and brother. The disease is incurable and attacks the body’s organs.
The funeral services were scheduled Aug. 2. Due to the last-minute cancellation, Atwood and Capers tried to change the funeral location and to notify everyone who would attend of the new venue. Still, some mourners showed up at New Hope still and missed the funeral.
Capers said he wanted the funeral services at a church and would have understood the church’s position if they had just refused to hold the funeral when first approached and not cancel it the day before. Capers called it a “disrespectful” and “wrong” decision.
Jenkins, according to an article by the New Civil Rights Movement website, has no regrets.
“Our trials come to make us strong,” Jenkins told his flock during Aug. 10 services, according to WTSP-TV. “My family is doing fine,” Jenkins can be heard telling his parishioners. And he asked his “church family” to “please remain focused and prayerful … and we will continue to stand on the word of God.”
The church members applauded.
Jenkins has been the subject of countless news reports. The church’s Facebook page received well over 1,000 negative reviews and comments until it was taken down and contact information was removed from its website.