Entertainment Celebrity ‘Offensive and distasteful’: Aretha Franklin’s family slams funeral pastor

‘Offensive and distasteful’: Aretha Franklin’s family slams funeral pastor

Reverend Jasper Williams
Reverend Jasper Williams Jr eulogises Aretha Franklin at her August 31 funeral at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. Photo: Getty
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After controversy over a handsy bishop accused of groping singer Ariana Grande and making a racist joke at Aretha Franklin’s funeral, the star-studded event last week has sparked fresh uproar.

The Queen of Soul’s grieving family has slammed the pastor who delivered a bizarre eulogy at the memorial.

Reverend Jasper Williams Jr’s message was “offensive and distasteful”, the Franklin family said in a statement, which claimed the clergyman pushed a “negative agenda” during his long and political address.

“Reverend Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogise her,” the star’s nephew Vaughn Franklin said in the statement.

The clergyman’s brief at Franklin’s nine-hour ‘Celebration of Life’ service in Detroit on August 31 was to pay tribute to her legacy and life.

Instead, he used his live-streamed platform to criticise black Americans. Mourners were told single mothers cannot “raise a black boy to become a man”.

Reverend Williams even called a household without a father an “abortion after birth”. Franklin was a single mother of four boys, the first born when she was 12.

The clergyman was also critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves, black lives can never matter,” he said.

The comments sparked instant reaction on social media and from inside the Greater Grace Temple.

Singer Stevie Wonder reportedly yelled out “black lives matter” in response to the pastor’s claim.

The fallout “has been very, very distasteful”, Vaughn Franklin said.

The pastor was asked to perform the eulogy because he did the same duty for Franklin’s father, brother and sister. The request did not come from Franklin, who died of pancreatic cancer aged 76 on August 16.

“Dying is a topic that she never discussed with anyone,” her family said.

“We feel that Reverend Jasper Williams Jr used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with.”

The Associated Press reported the family had not spoken to Reverend Williams before the funeral about what he would discuss.

His words “caught the entire family off guard”, Vaughn Franklin told AP.

Reverend Williams told AP he respected the family’s opinion but made no apology.

“I understand it. I regret it. But I’m sorry they feel that way.”

CNN reported that at a media conference given before the Franklin family released its statement, Reverend Williams defended his eulogy.

“70 per cent of our households are headed by our precious women and as precious, beautiful and proud as they are, they cannot teach a boy how to be a man,” he said.

Asked whether Franklin would have approved he said, “I would think that if I’m doing something to turn black America around, that she would be pleased”.

The eulogy controversy comes after the bishop officiating at the funeral apologised to Grande for touching her inappropriately onstage and joking that her name sounding like a fast-food menu item.

Bishop Charles Ellis awkwardly greeted Grande after she performed (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Mainstream and social media images showed the bishop holding Grande well above her waist with his fingers pressing against one side of her chest, as she leaned away from him.

“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast … I don’t know, I guess I put my arm around her,” Bishop Ellis told the AP.

“Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologise.”