In Denver Colorado, Vanessa Collier’s funeral gained national attention that sparked controversy and protest. New Hope Ministry church, Pastor Rey Chavez and Collier’s friends and family are at the center of this ordeal. There is a wide debate over what actually took place. We know that the funeral was moved from the church to a funeral home. People differ widely on the church’s treatment of the Collier family and friends.
Some reports say the church made a request. The family wouldn’t comply with request, and the family chose to move the funeral. Other reports say the church was much harsher in the ejection of this funeral.
For the purpose of this piece, let’s use the details that paint the church and pastor Rey Chavez in the most favorable light, which are as followed.
The dispute arose over a video tribute the family wanted played during Collier’s service. Collier was gay and some images in a video tribute were of Collier and her parter in acts of intimacy such as kissing. The church asked that the same sex acts of intimacy be edited out of the video, or for the video not to be played at all. Then, the family not wanting to edit the tribute moved the funeral to another location.
I know that there is evidence that the church was harsher, but let’s use these facts, which have not been disputed in any of the articles I’ve read.
Even if the church made the request to edit the video with compassion, carefully explaining their views on sexuality, and the family chose to move the ceremony, the church and pastor Rey Chavez were thoughtless, unprepared, and unprofessional. I cannot imagine the pain this added to Collier’s loved ones. Who wants to enter a religious/political debate the day they’re burying a loved one?
The one undisputed fact is the Collier funeral was moved, not only the day of, but fifteen minutes after the funeral was to begin.
Some have championed Rey Chavez and his church for standing up for family values. Many are proud that this church stood against homosexuality. My problem with this church and pastor have nothing to do with their stance on homosexuality. It has to do with their thoughtlessness.
If there are funerals, your church will not perform that is ok with me, but if there are, it is the responsibility of the church to make that known before the funeral is scheduled. Failure to do so brought tremendous and unecessary pain to Collier’s friends and family.
This church and pastor when asked to host a funeral should have presented a list of funerals they will not perform or what they will not allow in a funeral in their church. Then the family would agree to follow the church’s wishes or choose a different host. It’s that simple.
Agreeing to host a funeral without discovering whether or not the funeral complies to your church’s faith, is disgusting, and their lack of foresight hurt a family and a community that needs the love of Jesus.
As a pastor, I will not perform every wedding. I wil not marry a Christian to a non-Christian. I will not marry a couple that will not go through premarital counseling. There are others too, but you get the idea. I go over this list before I agree to marry anyone, and I clearly state, if you do not finish your premarital counseling, I will not let you cram three sessions in the day before your wedding. I will not marry you, but it won’t be my fault. It will be yours because I have told you, I will not marry a couple that does not properly complete premarital counseling.
I make all of this clear not minutes before the wedding, but I make it clear before the couple schedules me as their officiant. Myself and the couple either agree and go forward, or the couple, without any condemnation from me, seek another officiant.
When I am asked to lead a funeral of a person I do not know, my first statement is the family will get a Christain funeral message from a Baptist perspective. Then, I learn about the deceased, and after that, the family and I decide together if I am the right minister for them.
The fact that this church did not ask or discover how the funeral would be performed is the fault of the church not the deceased or her family. I hope this church and pastor’s lack of thoughtfulness is not lost in the sexuality debate raging in our country.
What makes this worse is how obvious this issue is, and how the church should have seen this coming. Homosexuality is no longer an in hiding counter-cultural movement. It is a part of every community across the United States, and if churches do not think they will have to decide how to minister to homosexuals, they have their heads buried in the sand, and more hurt will follow.
Again, how a church wants to minister to homosexuals is up to each church, but let’s be respectful enough to be upfront about it.
Churches need to plan, prepare, and be proactive. New Hope Ministry church’s lack of foresight brought shame to Christianity. I hope that other churches will be more thoughtful before they agree to a ministry.