A Denver, Colorado, area woman was denied a funeral at a church in suburban Lakewood because the woman was gay, the Denver Post is reporting.
Vanessa Collier died at the age of 33 on December 29 after the gun she was cleaning went off. She left behind a wife and two children.
Her funeral was scheduled to take place at New Hope Ministries in Lakewood, a church that, according to Chaplain Gary Rolando, says welcomes gays but asks that gay congregants “censor” alternative lifestyles, according to KUSA (Denver).
About fifteen minutes after the funeral was scheduled to begin — with the open casket and flowers already in place, and with about 170 people in the pews — New Hope’s pastor objected to some content in a video of the woman’s life. Specifically, Pastor Ray Chavez objected to a photo of Collier proposing to her then-girlfriend. Friends and family refused to remove the photo, and the funeral was forced to move across the street to the Newcomer Funeral Home.
A Facebook post claims that the church hasn’t returned the money that was paid in advance for the funeral, either.
“Her casket was open, flowers laid out and hundreds of people sitting in the pews. [The pastor] collected money for the funeral and has yet to return it.”
On Tuesday, friends and family held a protest outside the Lakewood church that denied the funeral. Supporters held signs, while security guards kept watch in front of the church.
“You will not find Jesus at New Hope but you will find hypocrisy.”
“Indignity in death!”
“Give us an apology!”
Chaplain Gary Rolando, who officiated the funeral, feels for Vanessa’s family and friends, but is saddened to see her death become the focus of a political agenda.
“My prayer is the same as that of New Hope Ministry and Newcomer Mortuary: That the Collier family will be able to move forward from here in healing and peace.”
As gays, lesbians, and others in the LGBTQ community gain acceptance in mainstream society, they often find that churches can be less than welcoming. Other churches, however, are greeting the community with open arms. In southwest Florida, for example, at least two churches in Fort Myers are offering free, first-come, first-serve weddings for gay couples, many of whom have found that Florida’s county clerks are refusing to perform gay marriages, according to this Inquisitr report.
A Denver Post reporter tried to contact New Hope Ministries about the funeral story, but whoever answered the phone at the church hung up on the reporter.
[Image courtesy of: KUSA]