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Posts for August, 2007

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.