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Partner of Gay Navy Vet Who Was Refused Funeral Responds

Jim Burroway

August 11th, 2007

A commenter identifying himself as Paul Wagner, Cecil Sinclair’s partner, left a comment with more details concerning High Point Church’s refusal to host Cecil’s funeral. Because of the details he provided, and the fact that his email address and ISP identify his location as being in Texas, I’m inclined to believe it’s the real thing.

Update: I tried to respond to him via the email he provided with my condolences, but the email was returned as being an invalid address. While I’m inclined to believe the account below, I haven’t yet been able to confirm it.

Update: The Dallas Morning News Religion Blog received the same message.

Update: I have confirmed that this is indeed Cecil Sinclair’s partner. Paul’s original comment had a typo in his email address, making contact difficult. I have since been in direct contact with him.


I am the partner of Cecil Sinclair who passed. It is unfortunate that the church has decided to tell untruths in order to make themselves feel better, or make their side of the story into a saner response. Hopefully more of the truth will come out in future articles or investigations.

First of all, let me start by stating that it was a member of the church who offered the use of their facility to us, on behalf of his brother who is/was a member of their congregation. I was introduced to this man as Cecil’s partner. To my knowledge, this person at least was fully aware that we were living openly as a couple. This same member of the church, when were later advised that we could not use the facilities, on his own, with money from his own pocket, not church coffers, went and procured another facility for the funeral. The church did not do so. At no time did a member of the church contact us to indicate that they had a problem with any part of the service we were planning. We never had contact with the minister or any of the administration.

On Tuesday morning, we gave the church a total of 83 various pictures of Cecil that were forwarded to us by various members of his family. Of those, not a single one showed a man hugging or kissing another man, nor were there any overtly homosexual references. Cecil’s sister Kathleen sat and worked with the two people preparing the video and went through all of the photos with them. There was only one photo which would be considered offensive, as it was a picture of him in his early 20s making a rude gesture at his best friend who was taking the photo. We removed it and never asked that it be included. It was just overlooked in the rush to get things done. These individuals went through all the other photos, which were pictures of family gatherings, birthday parties, vacations, etc. At no time was anything expressed to her or us that they had a disagreement with any of the other photos.

Cecil’s brother Lee, who was the member of the church, asked that we include a call to prayer near the beginning of the services, as well as a call for salvation at the end. We immediately agreed to this because it meant so much to his brother personally. We even asked if they wanted to have their own minister conduct it, or if our officiator could. Our officiator was a baptist minister. There was no objection raised, so we assumed that it was OK.

On Wednesday evening about 6pm, we received a call. The person on the line put Cecil’s brother Lee, who is mentally impaired, onto the phone. Lee informed us that something had gone wrong, and then someone else got on the phone. That person informed us that a terrible string of errors was made, and that the service could no longer be held at their facility. We never spoke to the pastor nor anyone from his administration directly. It was all done through middlemen. When we requested to know why we could no longer use their facility, there was no answer. They simply stated a mistake was made.

Later that night, while we were scrambling to find another location, Cecil’s niece called back to the church and demanded an explanation. It was at that time a very long string of excuses began to form. First she was told that it was because we were bringing in outside food, which they didn’t allow. Then we were told it was because there was construction going on nearby which they felt would be too obtrusive. We said we didn’t think it would interfere. Then we were told it was because there was a scheduling conflict. When asked was other event was being held that was conflicting, the call was disconnected.

The remembrance we held for Cecil I felt was wonderful. We started with a brief welcome by the officiator. A song (For the Fallen) was sung. Cecil’s obituary was read. We then played the video which was about 10 minutes long, showing him from childhood, graduation, his naval service, and family gatherings, especially those from his 46th birthday, which had just been on the 5th of July. The officiator then read from personal family statements and remembrances of him. His mother, father, uncle and sister had all contributed personal insights into his life that they were not able to state themselves due to grief. A time was then allowed for individuals to come to the mike and offer their own personal remembrances of him. The chorale then sang another song (Amazing Grace). Closing remarks were made by the officiator and we then moved to the light meal that had been prepared. Meat and cheese sandwiches, cakes, and cookies. Only a small amount of this was offered by the church, most was either brought by family or friends.

To me personally, I have no problem with the church turning us away. My problem is with the method in which they did it. I happen to know several other members of that church who are also gay, and they had no idea that their church held that opinion on this topic either. If they had told us right away, or even on Tuesday that they were not comfortable with the service, we would have been more than willing to try and come to some sort of compromise, or we could have changed venues. We were never given that option. Someone in a position of power made the decision to cut us off, and didn’t even have the moral courage to tell us the truth to our faces.

Hopefully your reading this helps to make sense of what occurred. I fully understand the church’s right to deny us the use of their facilities. I also served in the military, (US Army, 1987-2002), and I have fought to defend their freedom of religion and freedom of choice.

If just one couple or family can be saved from having to suffer the same as we did, I would consider all this to have been worthwhile. I truly believe all congregations need to have more open communication between all their members, so that the person who had initially welcomed us into their church would have known that is was not acceptable in the eyes of their leaders, and the entire issue would have been avoided. If we had known from the beginning we were not welcome, or the offer had never been made, we would have just continued making the same arrangements we finally had in the end. Nothing we did for Cecil’s remembrance ceremony was changed, other than the location.

I loved Cecil truly and deeply, and I am sorry that anyone considers a truly heartfelt, emotional, even spiritual connection to another human being to be sinful, simply because that love is between two people of the same sex.

Comments

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A Stitch in Haste
August 11th, 2007 | LINK

Church Denies Hero Gay Veteran a Funeral — “Same-Sex Kissing = Murder”…

More “Christian compassion” — An Arlington [Texas] church volunteered to host a funeral Thursday, then reneged on the ……

Kevin
August 11th, 2007 | LINK

I think this link might help you clear this up. . .

Scott-O-Rama
August 12th, 2007 | LINK

My heart goes out to the family and partner of this vet. I guess bigotry knows no bounds.

Mega-Christian Mega-hate update « I got a life to lead
August 12th, 2007 | LINK

[...] who says he’s Cecil Sinclair’s partner, Paul Wagner, wrote in to Jim at Box Turtle Bulletin and to the Dallas Morning News, with more details of what happened. It’s a sad [...]

revtj
August 12th, 2007 | LINK

I am inclined to believe this account also.

I cannot fully express the dis-grace christians and all people of faith should find in the insult to this family. I do not believe the church should ever turn anyone away.

I perform services for all kinds of people, including atheists and agnostics and christians who can’t get any other minister or church to perform their wedding. I have always believed that if we do not extend the unconditional love and acceptance of the Lord to people at their most exciting moments of life, such as their wedding; or the lowest points of their life, such as a funeral, then how can we ever expect them to gain any respect for our faith, and why should we think that they would ever turn to the church with moral dilemmas or a life crisis?

The loving thing to do is to show hospitality. If this church had allowed this memorial service, I assure you NO ONE would have assumed they were endorsing homosexuality. Quite the opposite, I know that most mourners would have left the church thinking how wonderful it is that this community embraced a grieving family without judging.

For the record, Jesus did that every day.

Emily K
August 12th, 2007 | LINK

what a bunch of Sodomites.

Those of you who have studied the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah know I am using this word correctly: The sin of Sodom is inhospitality. Jesus himself makes this clear.

I don’t need to point out the irony in this.

Jason
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

We featured the original story in our blog as well and sure enough received the exact same response. Though I am inclined to believe it, I will be anxious to see what the papers say. Please let me know if something comes up. Thanks. -Jas

David
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

So many clergy who have publicly reviled GLBTQ people have later been caught in some form of scandal, often sexual. Now the minister at High Point Church is crowing about the publicity his congregation is getting – that visibility may become a liability rather quickly. I have begun to wonder if perhaps clergy like Haggard fire up the spotlight with anti-gay rhetoric and acts, to get caught, to be forced to confront their personal issues.

What is Rev. Simons really trying to shine a spotlight on?

Pride goes before the fall – we’ve seen the heterosexist pride, all we have to do now is wait for Gary Simon’s fall.

And of course, encourage bloggers to keep it as public as possible.

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

David,

If you have any evidence for those accusations, please substantiate them. Otherwise, they have no place in this forum.

Timothy Kincaid
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

This is from the Dallas Morning News

“Before, when you type in ‘Gary Simons’ and ‘High Point Church’ in a Google search, you know, you could find us. But now, you really could find us.”

I guess this could be called crowing. As for whether there will be a fall of any sort, we’ll have to wait and see.

In any case, the church continues to look self-righteous, arrogant, and hateful:

His friends and family spoke of their pride in Mr. Sinclair “just as he was.”

Church officials said they could not have hosted a service that condoned those sentiments.

And that is sad.

Ken R
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

I’m not surprised by this church’s action. It’s now coming to the point where people of faith are using their “conscience” as a tool to demand others to adhere to their beliefs. The AMA and pharmacies are now grappling with situations of persons that wish to uphold their religious beliefs even if it means it could cause some problems with the persons that need that medical attention. This is already happening within the medical field. Some doctors refuse to perform certain services based solely on their religious beliefs. So far they are minor services but what next? Can I expect my next surgery to be delayed because the doctor performing it knows I’m gay and demands I repent of my sin before he is willing to perform the surgery? It may sound far fetched now but I get a strong feeling this is going to get bigger and uglier as time goes on.

My prayers go out to Paul Wagner and the Sinclair family. I’m truly sorry that you had to go through this.

God Bless

Paul Wagner
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

Jim,
I am sorry I left out a part of my email when I first posted here. You are welcome to email me. I have also given a copy of every photo we gave to the hurch to every press agency that has interviewed us since that time, so we can readily disprove his statements regarding “very strong homosexual photos of men hugging and kissing.”
Now the pastor, if,indeed, he even has any religious credentials.. has dropped that part of his defense, as the press has called him on it. Now he states the reason he cancelled is because we demanded an open mike, to allow anyone to say anythng.. I never knew that exercising freedom of speech would be seen as such a threat to them.

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

Paul,

Thanks so much for returning. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.

To be fair, a church generally isn’t a forum for freedom of speech. At least, that’s how I see it. Each church has the prerogative of determining what is said from the pulpit. At least that’s how I see it from my own religious background. Of course that doesn’t necessarily preclude some sort of mutually agreeable arrangement from being worked out. Churches do this all the time, even deeply conservative ones.

That said, it is my impression that there wasn’t much discussion of what would take place at the funeral. Is that true? He gives that as the reason today. Was it the reason he gave your family when the church backed out?

David
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

Jim,

The full quote gives even more of the flavor of Rev. Simon’s statement:

“The pastor of Arlington’s High Point Church told his congregation Sunday that he stood by the church’s decision to retract an offer to host a memorial service for a gay man, prompting applause from the hundreds in the crowd.

“With all the negative e-mail we are receiving right now, it seems that the homosexual community, God bless them all, are very organized,” said the Rev. Gary Simons, referring to the reaction to the church’s decision, which has generated news coverage around the world and lighted up gay and religious blogs.

“Before, when you type in ‘Gary Simons’ and ‘High Point Church’ in a Google search, you know, you could find us. But now, you really could find us.”

http://www.dallasnews.com/

Surely, you are not protesting the well-documented pattern of conversative clergy who rant about the evils of homosexuality, only to be caught doing something they teach others not to do. I mentioned Haggard, whose public condemnation of same-sex marriage was the reason Mike Jones came forward about their for-pay relationship. Then, there is Jim Bakker of PTL, the sexual predator scandal in the Catholic Church, Rick Ousley’s adultery, Rev. Robert Whipkey, and many more.

When we see people throwing stones at our lives, there is reason to wonder just what is going on in their glass houses.

Timothy Kincaid
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

It’s interesting to me that it is no longer acceptable, even to anti-gay churches, to be outright anti-gay.

They can no longer say, “he can’t have a memorial here, he’s a homosexual” but instead they have to come up with other “reasons”. So they say “it was the pictures” or “it was the mic” or “it was a scheduling conflict”.

Ultimately those excuses tend to be exposed for what they are. And instead of seeming simply bigoted, the churches seem both bigoted and a den of liars.

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

David,

No I’m not protesting bringing up the instances you mention. But unless there is specific evidence that it applies here, it’s idle gossip or worse to presume that Pastor Simons is guilty of that level of hypocracy.

Kensington
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

This one man’s single action doesn’t reflect on the church at all.

Just what you allow yourself to think of them is affected.

Men of God have fallen to the left and the right of me along the way. That hasn’t affected my walk or my faith in God one bit. Nor has it affected what I think of other Christians in any way.

Mistresses, lying, stealing, cheating, divorce, homosexuality… all of it.

I go on by faith in Jesus Christ. Our walk really has nothing to do with what others think of us, it has EVERYTHING to do with the Blood of the Lamb.

Paul Wagner
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

Jim,
As far as communication from the church goes, there was none. The first indication we had that there was a problem with anything we were planning was when they called to cancel on Wednesday night. Initially, they didn’t even give a reason, just stating that several errors had been made. Then when Cecil’s niece called and demanded an explanantion, then the string of excuses came. It was not until they were approached by the press that they came out with the stance that they were denying it because of homosexuality.
From the beginning, that has always been the only issue I have had with them. I fully support their right to allow or deny entry for anyone. But if they are so fervent in their beliefs, they should have said so immediately, not hide behind flimsy excuses.
As you may or may not have read already, Mr. Simons, (I still have trouble addressing him with any type of religious title), stated that they sent a “minister” to Cecil’s side on hearing of his condition. Apparently, the person who heads their AV department is also a minister, as that is who came. I was introduced to that man as Cecil’s partner. It is my belief that he fully understood what that meant.
This man led us in a prayer for Cecil’s passing, then asked if we had yet made any arrangements. Upon learning we had not yet made any, he offered their church, for Cecil’s brother Lee’s sake. He left and made some phone calls, coming back about 10 minutes later. He stated htat they did not have anything planned for the evening, and that there was a place for the turtle creek chorale to practice ahead of time, and also an area for us to dine afterwards. Now if this man was a “minister” in the church, how is it that he himself was not aware of their stance on homosexuality? Why would he have offered in the first place? He also asked us if we had anyone to officiate, and at that time we didn’t, but advised him we did have a few people who we intended to ask.
Dr Seelig accepted the position of officiator on Monday night, so we gave his phone number and email to this A/V person, who was our only contact at the church. This is also the same man, along with one other, who received the “disturbing” photos on Tuesday morning and made the slide show, and never said anything to us about them being inappropriate. I have the email from Dr Seelig which was sent at 11:12am Tuesday with the initial schedule of events for the ceremony. Again, nothing was said to us about there being any type of problem.
When we informed Dr. Seelig of the change in venue Wednesday night, he said he knew something was up. He advised us that earlier that day, all the people he had been working with at the church stopped returning his phone calls and emails.
Now Mr. Simons states that the posting of Cecil’s obituary had no influence in their decision. However, the timing seems to be highly suspect. Everything seemed to be going fine, then Wednesday morning the obit comes out listing me as his life partner, then suddenly all phone and email communication is cut off. Make of it what you will.

Ken R
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

From the High Point Church website:

http://www.highpointchurch.com/statement.html

Allowing an openly homosexual service in our facility would condone homosexuality as a lifestyle. We could not allow the homosexual lifestyle to be celebrated, flaunted or glorified in our church facility. We could not put inappropriate images on our screens or subject our members and possibly even our children to an openly homosexual service. We cannot condone what the Word of God condemns.

I wonder if they would allow a memorial service in their church for someone that was married three times? And if they allowed it would they believe that the church condoned adultery? I doubt it. Or the deceased was extremely overweight that the church somehow condoned gluttony?

Reading the whole statement on this matter made me ill. Their constant derogatory attack on gay people by using the word “homosexual” as if we were all nothing less than boogeymen, to reduce the memorial service for Cecil Sinclair as some homosexual freak-show, and by what they call “the confirming tone of the memorial service” as some of the persons from the church had confirmed with Simons. What? Did someone in the service say something out of line like Cecil loved Paul very much?

Part of the statement reads above,

.We could not allow the homosexual lifestyle to be celebrated, flaunted or glorified in our church facility”

This literally makes my stomach churn. There is no compassion I can see on their part. They attacked the deceased, Paul, his friends, and his family and have no problems with it. As Paul said above if they were informed of the problem at the beginning, then they would have no problem with moving the services elsewhere. It would be offensive sure but at least they knew at the beginning and not at the very last minute.

Sadly, people like those at High Point have reduced everything we are as gay people as a “lifestyle”. It’s very offensive and certainly makes no sense to me as a person of worth.

May God forgive them.

Kensington
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

“May God Forgive Them”…

Well, of course He will. They are His children. His by adoption through the Blood of Christ shed at Calvary.

Of course He will forgive them. If they did something that was a sin. But, being honest and saying “I can’t do this” is not a sin.

Jim Burroway
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

Kensington,

You keep repeating the phrase “I can’t do this” as though that were all that was the extent of the offense. I find your trivializing the pastor’s actions as though those four words were all he did deeply callous and outrageously offensive.

I don’t believe you read Paul Wagoner’s comment just above. If you did and you still feel that way, then there is still a Samaritan at the side of the road.

You’ve made it abundantly clear how you feel about the whole situation.

Backseat Blogger ::: Son of an ape
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

[...] is some doubt as to the veracity of the response from the partner of the recently deceased, what he writes rings true. I am the partner of Cecil Sinclair who passed. It is unfortunate that the church has decided to [...]

Timothy Kincaid
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

There are those who believe that the Good News of the Gospel is that God wiped away the distinctions between people (Jew or Greek, slave nor free, male nor female) and instead see us all as equal in his sight. All with sins and flaws and errors, with arrogance and self-righteousness, with moments of humility and contriteness, but overall broken. They believe that God has an extravagant welcome, an abundant love, and an awe inspiring compassion and that the job of the Christian is to show the love and compassion of Christ to a hurting world.

And then there are those who believe that Christianity is about holding up standards of appropriateness and not condoning sin.

I guess it all depends on how you see God.

Kensington
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

“I wonder if they would allow a memorial service in their church for someone that was married three times? And if they allowed it would they believe that the church condoned adultery? I doubt it. Or the deceased was extremely overweight that the church somehow condoned gluttony?”

No they would not, not if all three wives were sitting there as married to him, being listed as his surviors, and he had not repented of his adultery and stopped that behavior.

As to the glutton funeral, probably not, not if the insisted on having an “all you can eat buffet” laid out on the coffin.

This is where you all don’t get it. This man was not repentant of his sins, the family wanted pictures of men with men in the video. And when the service (which was not a funeral) actually happened, there were displays of affection and speaking in support of that lifestyle too.

Which is EXACTLY what the pastor said he could not have in his sanctuary. EXACTLY.

But, then if you don’t believe that particiapating in homsexual behaviors is sin in the sight of God, we aren’t going to agree.

Timothy Kincaid
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

Kensington,

I think you missed the point. You may want to catch up on your Bible reading.

Jesus himself said that remarriage is adultery. Many churches that believe that this is cultural or that times are different or that Jesus was talking about abuse of power or whatever also tend to think that condemnations on homosexuality (unlike remarriage) are literal and for ever without exception amen.

We old fashioned Christians tend to think of that as a double standard and more than a little, well, like a whitewashed sepulchure (but to get that reference you’d also need to read the Bible).

Kensington
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

But at some point the adulterer has to repent, and has to admit that he has sinned, and lay down that behavior. For if he wilfully continues in the practice, He tramples underfoot the sacrifice Jesus made and insults the Spirit of Grace. The Holy Spirit of grace.

BTW.. Jesus ACTUALLY said.. that Who ever divorces and remarries “EXCEPT” for the reason of fornication (sex outside of the marriage) is adultery.

The man or woman who divorced a cheating spouse and then remarries, has not committed adultery. I do read my bible. Every day.

Kathy
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

I am a born-again Christian and am truly ashamed of the way High Point Church in Arlington, TX treated the family and his partner of Cecil Sinclair. To deny a Veteran, a nice man who truly loved his family, friends and country, did no harm to anyone, a funeral service because he was in a same sex relationship is pathetic. Church people have become like gods…they are trying to play God and judge people whom they have no idea what people hold in their heart. That is why God specifically said “judge no man less ye be judged”…no man knows the heart of another, only God does”. I am so sorry that this family and Cecil’s friends had to go through this at such a sad time. Everyone who reads this, please stay away from church people who act like this…who lie and deceit the congregation. They only want your money, not your love or soul. They do not care who you are or where your soul goes when it leaves this earth, only that you give your money to them, as much as you can…regardless if you cannot pay bills or have enough to live off of. They would never sell their million dollar homes, expensive cars, jets, or other toys they have to help you out. If others in the church don’t give it to you, the pastor and staff won’t take it out of their pocket. Beware of church people. Be true to God and His Word…Jesus died for all and loves all. It’s sad church people and their pastors don’t read all of God’s Word and understand what God really hates…and it includes those who cause division in the church and lying tonges (a lying tongue is an abomination to the Lord – Proverbs 6:17). Yes, a lying tongue is an abomination to the Lord. High Point Church in Arlington, TX, you had better repent of your lying tongue! For you are an abomination to the Lord! Give up what you have and follow the Lord Jesus. Your ministry will fall because of the hurt you caused in others’ hearts.

Signed, Compassion, A true child of God.

Kevin
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

Frankly, I don’t really care what the church administration’s excuse is now. The point is that the minister LIED about the photos. Does that not make the minister a sinner who apparently has not issued an apology or publicly repented?

Since this church is attempting to appear to “stand on principle” – I’d like to know exactly what principle they have about deliberate and intentional lying.

Jim Burroway
August 14th, 2007 | LINK

Okay, enough is enough.

Kensington has been on here dozens of times calling Cecil a sinner. According to Christian theology, that is correct. Cecil was a sinner. So an I. So is Kensington. We all “fall short,” as they say.

But I did not establish this forum to allow Kensington and others to monopolize the discussion with the single-minded insistence that their theology is the only one that matters. And I’m grow quite tired of her splitting hairs, separating the “sin” of homosexuality as though it were worse than all the other sins presented in this forum. And I’ve grown especially tired of her pretending to know the mind of Cecil and his partner and passing judgment on them.

I think I’ve been more than indulgent, but I think we’ve reached the point where Kensington has nothing new to contribute to the discussion. Therefore, I am putting her on moderation for the time being.

It think we’ve all said what we can say, and I see that she’s now repeating herself. Since she is on moderation, I will also ask other commenters to please refrain from addressing her. Otherwise, in fairness, I must allow her the chance to respond.

cowboy
August 15th, 2007 | LINK

I marvel at the levels of animosity towards gays in different religions.

I remember working with a gaggle of gay men in a kitchen preparing food for a charity event at an Episcopal church. While placing dollops of whipped crème on the desserts a thought occurred to me: the Mormons would never entertain the thought of having a group of gay men preparing food in their social hall. It just wouldn’t be done. It’s not because of the fear of AIDS. It would be because of the implied or the tacit approval of avowed sinners if they welcomed such a benign group to their house of worship. Despite the worthy cause, a gaggle/quiver/quorum/group of homosexuals would never be allowed in the door of the LDS ward house to prepare food.

And I doubt I will ever see the day when the Gay’s Men Choir will be invited to sing a Christmas carol in the infamous tabernacle (or the new mega-nacle) in Salt Lake City. But I hear of gay men choir recitals and concerts in other churches. Has a gay men’s choir ever sang in a Cathedral or a Synagogue?

I am only speculating in asking this question: Would these same virulent anti-gay churches welcome a group of ex-cons to help prepare food for a church event? If so, why would a group of homosexuals be so reviled?

I have to say, it was an enlightening experience I had with those Episcopals.

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