By Jeffrey Elizabeth Copeland, CNN
(CNN)–After barring a black couple from marrying in its Mississippi facility in late July, the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs released a statement Sunday apologizing for its actions.
“We, the church, realize that the Hendersons and Wilsons should never have been asked to relocate their wedding. This wrong decision resulted in hurt and sadness for everyone. Both the pastor and those involved in the wedding location being changed have expressed their regrets and sorrow for their actions,” the church said.
Te’Andrea and Charles Wilson planned for months to marry at the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs but were asked at the last minute to move.
Their pastor, Stan Weatherford, made the request on behalf of some congregants who didn't want to see the couple married there, according to CNN affiliate WLBT. He performed the ceremony at a nearby church.
Sunday’s statement follows a string of apologies from First Baptist and its congregation for turning away the young couple.
“As a church, we express our apology to Te’Andrea and Charles Wilson for the hurt that was brought to them in the hours preceding their wedding and beyond. We are seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with our Lord Jesus Christ, Te’Andrea and Charles, family and friends of the Hendersons and Wilsons, our church family, and our community for the actions and attitudes that have recently occurred,” the statement continued.
Despite the church’s recent statements, the Wilsons aren’t convinced of the congregations' sincerity, they said, calling the recent release “an insult” and “misleading to the public.”
“The pastor has not spoken to us since a couple days after the incident. We have not heard from the pastor or any church official since the incident,” Charles Wilson said Sunday.
Dr. Richard Land, head of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm for the Southern Baptist Convention, called the church’s apology responsible and necessary.
“It certainly sounds to me as if God has been working on the hearts of the church members of Crystal Springs,” Land said. “And, they have seen and felt the error of their ways and they are expressing that in this letter. They’re apologizing and seeking to correct the damage that’s been done to the reputation of Christ and his church.”
Jonathan Thompson, the African-American community relations director for the city of Crystal Springs, was one of many community members to organize a unity rally after the incident, aiming to help reunite church members.
"I think this is an opportunity to really get intentional about reconciling," he said, adding that he prayed God would forgive all of them for their sins and that they would be able to find reconciliation.
However, Charles Wilson said, “at the rally, the pastor avoided us. He walked the other way when he saw us walking toward him. It would have been nice to talk to us before issuing a statement."
A spokesman who agreed to be identified only as a "church member" said that the church had attempted to reach out to the couple and that calls were not returned.
The Wilsons had attended the church but were not official members. They would have been the first African-American couple to marry in First Baptist Church’s 150-year history, church officials said.
"This had never been done before here, so it was setting a new precedent, and there are those who reacted to that because of that," Weatherford told CNN affiliate WLBT in July.
Many church members were unaware of the decision to refuse to marry the couple and reacted with surprise to the news.
The incident "didn't represent all the people of the church," said Thompson, who visited the church after the incident.
Sunday's statement reaffirmed the church's desire for the inclusion of all people. "We the membership of First Baptist Church Crystal Springs hold the position that we should be open to all people. Our desire is to restore the church to be a spiritual lighthouse in doing the Lord’s will in Crystal Springs and in Mississippi."
"I blame the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs. I blame those members who knew and call themselves Christians and didn't stand up," Charles Wilson told WLBT.
“It’s up to them to decide whether to forgive or not. I hope they will,” Land said. “We recognized that our church, just like any other church, is made up of sinful- redeemed but flawed- saints who intentionally, at times, choose not to follow the Lord’s will. Alas, this is a truth of human nature.”
Whether they mean their apology or not will soon be easy to see: in the future, when another black couple comes and wants to be married, if they marry them, then that's how we'll know there was true repentance. If they don't marry them (barring legitimate reasons like one being a believer and one not, or something like that), then we'll know the apology was meaningless. If they just mean "We're sorry...but even though we apologize, we're going to keep doing what we were doing," then apologizing, I dare say, is worse than just sticking to your guns
She was a beautiful bride.
I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your blog?
Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But
maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people
could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or
2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?
Actions such as this hurt so many....people that are thinking of becoming Christian see this sort of thing and think they don't want any part of a faith that behaves like that. Shame on you.
HEY CRYSTAL SPRINGS FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH: the bible says God has hair like lambs wool and feet like bronze (dark brown)when you finally see God, good luck with the racist thing! LOL
you would think that based on the prejudice and idea that blacks no longer marry each other or bother to get married at all but just have babies that an all white church would have jumped at the opportunity to not only marry the couple but comment on what a great example they were setting for all the other blacks who just have babies with no stable households–or something like that. LOL
"we members of the KKK would like to apologize to all the people we hung from trees. we realize at this late date and due to death the apology will not bear any more strange fruit, but we would like to make such apologies so that people will think we are sincere and mean what we say even though our apologies change nothing...and we'd like to apologize in advance for any future bigoted acts we may make, recognizing that once we apologize we are seen as honorable and in the clear"
Yeah. we got it loud and clear–fakers
2 Tim 3:5 "Having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.