When his husband Julion Evans died at age 42 of a disease called amyloidosis, Kendall Capers (below) did what any respectful partner would do. Honoring his husband’s family traditions, he planned for a funeral service at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida, the congregation Julion’s family belongs to.
But the night before the funeral, Julion’s mother received a phone call from the church. The funeral was abruptly canceled after church officials saw Julion’s obituary listing Kendall as his “surviving husband.” The church refused to hold a service for a married gay man, calling it “blasphemous.”
And they told Kendall and Julion’s family the night before.
T.W. Jenkins, the pastor of New Hope, told WFLA over the phone that his church does not believe in gay 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,” he said.
Evans’ family members were devastated by the news, with his mother too upset to speak to reporters on the phone. “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?” said Capers.
The couple had been together for 17 years and were recently married in Maryland.
The Huffington Post did some digging and found that New Hope sings an ironic welcome song during services:
Welcome. Welcome. Please won’t you stand.
As we great you by clapping our hands (clap, clap).
Welcome. Welcome. We’re so glad you came.
Welcome. Welcome. In Jesus’ name.
While the church’s actions clearly aren’t “welcome, welcoming” of LGBT people, Kendall’s going to pay it forward and honor his late husband’s memory, while sharing his story to ensure others don’t endure such an awful experience. Here’s what he told Fox Tampa Bay:
Now, Capers says he says he is starting a foundation to research the particular kind of deficiency his late husband had. In the meantime, he wants to spread the word about what happened.
“I know there are other people that are probably going to be in the same shoes Julion and I were in. I feel like it’s a wrong doing, and nobody should be in those shoes,” he said.
This is not the first time this has happened, and it will certainly happen again. The worst thing we could do is to ignore every daily instance of discrimination as if it were white noise. Props to Kendall for speaking out about his experience during such a tragic time, and I wish him and his partner’s families all the best.