Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Baptist church cancels gay man's funeral

Kendall Capers, right, was the partner of Julion Evans, whose memorial service had a sudden change of venue.

Photo courtesy of Kendall Capers

Kendall Capers, right, was the partner of Julion Evans, whose memorial service had a sudden change of venue.

TAMPA — Julion Evans' family was gathered beside his casket when they got the call. His memorial service, scheduled to take place the next day at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, was not going to happen.

The reason, they say: Evans was gay.

Pastor T.W. Jenkins, who heads the Tampa church, canceled the Aug. 2 service after several members complained, according to Evans' partner, Kendall Capers. They had seen his obituary in newspapers, which listed Capers as his husband.

Capers said the pastor told the family that to conduct a funeral for a gay man would be "blasphemous."

"We can't even have a dignified service like the next person could?" Capers said. "This is 2014, and we're still going through this."

Jenkins did not respond to several calls and visits from the Tampa Bay Times. No one answered the door at his Brandon home. A woman at the church business office said he was busy in meetings. Other church leaders listed in public records also declined to talk about the incident.

"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."

Jenkins has been the head pastor of the Tampa church since 1995, according to the church website. In March, he delivered the opening invocation at Mayor Bob Buckhorn's annual state of the city address.

The church is described on its website as a "Christ centered" and "biblically based" place of worship. It offers ministries "open to visitors searching for a spirit-filled place to call home."

Evans, 42, died July 26 after a four-year battle with amyloidosis, an illness that claimed the lives of his father and brother.

He and Capers had been together for 17 years. They married last year in Maryland. Capers said his partner was kind, generous and supportive.

According to his obituary, Julion Evans was a Tampa native. He graduated from Hillsborough High School, where he was editor of the school paper, a member of the drama club and the school mascot.

His family arranged to have the funeral at New Hope Missionary Baptist to accommodate the sizable crowd expected.

The church agreed, Capers said. Then the obituary hit the papers. Then calls to the pastor.

Jenkins notified the family of the cancellation as they were attending Evans' wake at Blount & Curry Funeral Home in Oldsmar, Capers said.

"Immediately I jumped out of grieving husband mode and launched into disaster recovery mode," he said.

Capers got in touch with Blount & Curry managers and requested space for a funeral the next day.

"We were more than glad to accommodate them," said Debra Blanchette, a funeral director for Blount & Curry. "The service went real well."

Last Saturday, more than 200 people filed into Blount & Curry for the service. Capers said he is thankful to have celebrated Evans' life in a place with people who accepted them.

He said he plans to start a foundation in Evans' name to fund research for amyloidosis, an incurable disease that attacks bodily organs.

"He would give his last for somebody," Capers said. "I know he is looking down on me right now saying, 'Keep pushing, keep going, because something has to change here.' "

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan. Contact Katie Mettler at or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kemettler.

Tampa Baptist church cancels gay man's funeral 08/08/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 8, 2014 10:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  2. East Tampa store owner who survived one shooting is targeted again with fatal results


    TAMPA — In the 2011 video, Mahamoud Ibrahim stands behind the counter of his tiny East Tampa convenience store, his back to the surveillance camera meant to discourage thieves.

    A memorial has sprouted in front of the 29th Street Store in East Tampa, where a robber fatally shot owner Mohamoud Ibrahim on July 16. Security experts say small mom-and-pop stores in high crime areas are easy targets for robberies and typically don't have the budgets for extra security measures. [TONY MARRERO/Times Staff]
  3. Pinellas superintendent, School Board pen letter to legislative delegation for help against 'unjust' funds for charter schools


    Because of a recent change in state law, the Pinellas County school district will have to shell out $25 million over five years  -- more funding per student than any other large district in the state -- for charter school construction and maintenance projects, and district officials …

    Pinellas County School Board Superintendent Michael Grego during a School Board meeting on August 25, 2015 at the School Administration Building, 301 Fourth Street SW in Largo.
  4. AARP still waiting for the two Ricks to send voter education videos


    AARP Florida wants to educate St. Petersburg residents on Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker’s views on how to make the Sunshine City more livable.

    It's been a frenetic St. Pete mayor's race so far. Maybe that's the reason AARP hasn't received voter education videos from the campaigns
  5. Photos: Kehlani packs fans into a sold-out Orpheum in Tampa


    R&B singer Kehlani had to postpone a spring show in Tampa due to illness, but it seemed she was no worse for the wear on Thursday, when her make-up show sold out the Orpheum well in advance. Ella Mai and Jahkoy opened the show. Aubrey Wipfli was there snapping photos; click the headline …

    Kehlani performed at the Orpheum in Tampa on July 20, 2017.