Funeral Rights?

A man named Cecil Howard Sinclair died recently. It is unclear what, if any, religious affiliation he had. His brother, however, is a janitor at High Point Church in Arlington, Texas. Somehow, plans were made for a funeral to be held at High Point.

The problem is that the deceased Mr. Sinclair was gay. The family says that church officials knew this at the time the funeral was scheduled. High Point's pastor denies it, saying they became aware that Mr. Sinclair was gay only when preparing a video tribute for the service which showed photos of men kissing and embracing each other. In any case, permission to hold the funeral at High Point was suddenly withdrawn because the church did not want to appear as if it endorsed the homosexual lifestyle.

I am not familiar with this church or its theology. Certainly they have the right to decide the conditions under which funerals can be held on their property. They are also correct that homosexual acts are sinful and churches should not condone them.

One thing that seems strange is why, if High Point is so firmly anti-gay, Mr. Sinclair's partner and family would want to hold his funeral there. Presumably Mr. Sinclair would have wished otherwise. We don't really know if the family accepted Mr. Sinclair's lifestyle. Maybe some did and some didn't, and the funeral arrangements involved compromises to keep everyone happy. It may also be that High Point Church does not have clear policies for such things. The whole thing sounds like a giant miscommunication to me.

To its credit, High Point offered to pay for another facility to hold the service, produced the tribute video, and provided food for the family and friends. That was very kind of them, but Mr. Sinclair's survivors still sound displeased.

The real issue in this case is not the propriety of Mr. Sinclair's lifestyle. It is whether the funeral service would have placed the church in a position where it appeared to endorse something it believes to be wrong. Without knowing all the details, it is hard to make that judgment from afar. Sadly, it is kind of unusual nowadays for church leaders to expose themselves to public criticism just to defend a moral principle, so I am a little bit skeptical. I hope they were in fact trying to defend the Faith as they understand it. Yet I wonder if other factors were involved in the decision.

Another reason to question this story is that nondenominational megachurches, which is what High Point seems to be, are not exactly well-known for consistent teaching of Biblical morality. Suppose, for example, Mr. Sinclair was not gay. Suppose further that the service was to feature photos of him kissing a female with whom he had been living outside of marriage. That lifestyle is just as sinful as living with a gay partner. It would have made High Point appear to endorse immorality. Yet somehow I doubt High Point would have canceled a funeral under those circumstances.

The fact is we all live sinful lifestyles of one kind or another. Without the grace of God, none of us have any hope of redemption. We don't know Mr. Sinclair's fate. We should hope that, in the last moments of his Earthly life, he grew convicted of his sins and asked God for forgiveness and mercy. We should also hope that the confusion surrounding Mr. Sinclair's death will lead everyone involved to re-consider how they are living their own lives.

P.S. I found this story at the Texas Fred blog. You may recall that I have had disputes with Texas Fred in the past. I was pleased to see in his post on this subject - and another one today - that Fred seems to be taking an interest in the Bible. He even quoted some Scriptures.

Fred, if you are reading this I hope you will continue to explore the Bible and reflect on what it teaches us. Here is a passage you might find thought-provoking. Here's another one. And another.


TexasFred said...

I am going to take this as an olive branch, I hope that's the intent, and I accept it if it is...


Patrick said...

Peace be with you as well, Fred. I do not wish to be enemies.

Of course, there will always be some issues on which we differ. I hope that in the future we can disagree respectfully. That is certainly my intent.