Vanessa Collier was loved by many, including her wife, Christina and their two daughters. Vanessa died on December 30, 2014, when her gun went off while she was cleaning it. Local police have not ruled out that the 33-year-old might have committed suicide. Collier’s funeral was scheduled for January 10 at the New Hope Ministries in Denver, Colorado. Her family paid the church $400 to hold the funeral service in their facilities, and worked hard to make it a celebration of Vanessa’s life.
According to the chaplain for Newcomer, apparently the funeral director for the church on the day the Collier family planned the service was not the normal funeral director, and this person was not aware that New Hope Ministries has a policy against open homosexuality in their sanctuary.
Collier’s family claims they had put together a video to be played during the service, and delivered that to the church per their two-day advance request so they could review what would be shown. That copy, unfortunately, was lost by the church. The family provided another copy on Friday, which the church was not able to review until 20 minutes before the services were scheduled to begin.
Her family and friends began filing into the church and taking their seats at 10:00 Saturday morning. At about 10:15 Saturday morning, Pastor Ray Chavez halted the funeral service, stating that as long as the pictures of Vanessa and Christina were displayed, the service could not continue. Pastor Chavez reportedly told the family that the services could only continue if they were to edit out images of Vanessa showing any form of affection toward her wife. The family declined, stating that they “didn’t want to edit her life.”
Fortunately, Newcomer Funeral Home was across the street from the church, and they were willing to welcome Collier’s family and friends. Collier’s casket was closed, loaded into a hearse, and driven across the street. Family members gathered the photos and floral displays and carried them over themselves. According to accounts, 180 mourners filled Newcomer Funeral Home in a space that was only capable of holding about 60 people.
Reports are that New Hope Ministries has not refunded the family’s money, but instead are said to have walked it over to Newcomer Funeral Home on Monday. This is a point where reports conflict, as protests which have cropped up around the church since this became public are demanding a public apology from the church for basically cancelling a funeral as it was starting, as well as a full refund of the $400 to the family. The family has told reporters that they would have had no problems with moving the service is they had been informed about issues with the video in advance instead of as the service was beginning.
What say you? Should the church have gone ahead with the funeral, or were they right in shutting it down? Tell us what you think in the comments below!
9 News Colorado brings us this update on protests that have taken place since the funeral:
Protest after church rejects funeral photos of lesbian (NBC 9 News)
Friends protest church’s abrupt venue change for lesbian funeral (KDVR)
Relatives Livid After Colorado Church Objects to Lesbian’s Funeral (ABC News)
Family, friends protest New Hope Ministries’ last-minute refusal to host lesbian’s funeral (ABC 7 Denver)
Family: Lakewood church stops woman’s funeral because she was gay (Denver Post)
Colorado church refuses to hold funeral for lesbian woman after dispute over ‘affectionate’ photos (Washington Post)