Vanessa Collier's friends say the funeral was canceled by the church 15 minutes after the service was supposed to start because the church would not allow a picture to be shown of Collier proposing to her wife. The open casket and flowers were in place and about 170 people were in attendance.The pastor is upset and offended that the surviving family and friends are upset and offended.
According to Chaplain Greg Rolando, who would later preside over the funeral across the street at Newcomer Funeral Home, the New Hope Ministry is very community oriented. He says pastors there welcome those who are gay but ask that alternative lifestyles be censored in the church. New Hope Ministries is not commenting on the decision.
He says moments prior to the funeral service, a video that was supposed to be played during the funeral was reviewed by church officials. The church asked the video to be edited in order to proceed. Rolando says the family refused to take the picture of Collier's proposal out of the video, and the funeral had to be moved to the mortuary across the street.
I got into a brief discussion with a local pastor via Twitter this weekend about this post. He wanted to know if it was more offended that the church in this other story very publicly stated that they would not marry homosexuals as opposed to being vague about how they should address LGBT people?
I told him that I have more respect for a church that puts their opposition to LGBT people and our families out there for everyone to see, as opposed to churches who pussyfoot around and tell folks that they are open to all -- until gay people become emotionally invested in the church and church community. Then they pull back the welcome and clarify the strings and it really sucks for everyone involved. In other words, speak your truth.
That applies here with New Hope Ministries. They were planning a funeral with a woman for her recently-deceased wife. Why did they agree to this funeral, if indeed they "ask that alternate lifestyles be censored in the church?" Seriously, how would this church have been harmed by showing a picture of the deceased proposing to her wife? Would they have stopped the service if someone had said the word "lesbian?" Maybe they should have muzzled the kids in case they accidentally acknowledged that they had two moms!
How many prospective members or church allies did this church personally alienate and turn away by canceling this woman's funeral at the very last second? How did that decision honor Christ? This is why churches need to work out these details now before they make national public scandals of themselves.
Lastly, gay people and our families have spiritual worth. We need to remember this and embrace this truth. And we need to solicit and support churches that don't seek to shame us or our families.
Updated on 01/15/15: I was on Facebook tonight and noticed that my own denomination, the United Church of Christ commented about how this family was mistreated by this church during one of their most vulnerable moments:
This is why I stay in this denomination. They get it.
I looked at New Hope Ministries' Facebook page and it is filled with comments supporting the church for sticking up for its beliefs. Sadly, few see how it failed to offer even an ounce of grace to this family by canceling the services 15 minutes into the service!