Relatives of a gay Navy veteran who died say they are upset that a megachurch led by Joel Osteen's brother-in-law canceled his memorial service 24 hours before it was to start.
Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service but no one hinted of problems while planning it, said his sister, Kathleen Wright.
"But when the obituary came out in the paper and listed his life partner as one of the survivors, I truly believe the big-pocket parishioners called the church and said, 'Why are you having a funeral for a gay person?'" Wright said Friday. "It's a slap in the face. It's like, `Oh, we're sorry he died, but he's gay so we can't help you.'"
But the pastor, the Rev. Gary Simons, said no one knew Sinclair was gay until the day before the Thursday service, when staff members putting together his video tribute saw pictures of men "engaging in clear affection, kissing and embracing."
Simons said the church believes homosexuality is a sin, but it would have appeared to endorse that lifestyle if the service had been held there. The family had asked for an outside officiant — a gay men's chorus conductor — and an open microphone for anyone to speak, he said.
"We did decline to host the service — not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle," Simons told The Associated Press. "Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it — yes, we would have declined then. It's not that we didn't love the family."
To me it shouldn't make any damn difference whether the vet was gay or not. It's not any kind of endorsement of his lifestyle to memorialize the man, who served his country. It's not as if the church has to make a big deal out of his sexuality, or even take note of it to approve it or condemn it. But for these Christians, gay, is gay, is gay, and it doesn't matter how you've served or for how long. To them this man was gay first, and a human being and a veteran second, and that's all that matters. And that's a damn shame.