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Church that refused to marry black couple releases apology
After their church wouldn't hold their wedding, the Wilsons had to find another church for their ceremony.
August 6th, 2012
01:23 PM ET

Church that refused to marry black couple releases apology

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.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Baptist • Christianity • Church • Race

soundoff (1,212 Responses)
  1. rick1948

    "seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with our Lord Jesus Christ" and by the way God, please don't let them sue the cr@p out of us.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      rick1948, I'm no Lawyer but I don't see how they could sue over this. I think it's within the Churches right to marry or not marry as they choose.

      If there is someone more knowledgeable on this subject then I, please speak up.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Dude

      Pastors and churches have no obligation to marry anyone.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • sgurdog

      I would think that they could indeed be sued for the costs of relocating the wedding and refunding any deposit they provided. Other than that there really isn't much beyond public ridicule and scorn that can force them into such a decision. Personally, I think it's great that these so called people of God are shown as the insulting racists they are.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Terencio

      I blame the black couple for wanting to get married in a Southern Baptist church. Methodists, regular Baptist, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witness, and even the inherently racist LDS wouldn't have had a problem.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  2. Larry

    Thank God Mississippi is finally exposed! The saying "they know their place and we know ours" does exist in that state and now the entire world is aware. Perhaps those reverent Christians now will actually read the Word and in another 100 years our decendents will see a change - NOT

    August 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • rick1948

      Mississippi has always been exposed for what it is. Where have you been?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • heyheyhey

      I drive really fast through Miss. and I am white! it is bad on both sides of the tracks, both sides still have it out for one another.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • 21k

      if lincoln had only hung davis and lee in public after the war, we would not be going thru this now.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      There are many wonderful people in Mississippi who are totally ashamed of this church. You are as guilty of stereotyping, a form of group prejudice, as the people of that church. They chose a whole race...you chose a whole state.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • janey33

      I have been to Mississippi and there are a lot of nice people there. Why are you punishing a whole state for the actions of a few of its residents???

      August 8, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  3. 21k

    this ain't nothin. wait till november when these same krakkkers show up at the polling places to prevent non-whites from voting using gop voter id laws.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Jon

      When people buy their liquor somehow they have an ID.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • CRayDallas

      What is wrong with a voter having an id to show that they are eligible to vote?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • 21k

      so when a 50 year old man with gray hair buys booze, they card him? not in the country i live in.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      CRayDallas, the ID does not prove you are eligible to vote, the Voter Registration proves that.

      I have no issues with requiring ID as long as everyone in every state is treated the same in national elections.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • 21k

      hey tex, but don't we all get voter registration cards of some sort when we first register? i did, and i have only been asked to show it once (my first vote) in 30 years. they just go by matching my new signature each time. (do you vote much?, doesn't sound like it). but the new laws generally force people who don't have a driver's license to also get a photo ID at their dmv. bet the gop goons only show up in democratic voting districts though.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • sgurdog

      Some of these people think producing a state or federal ID is appropriate based on the fact they have to show ID for alcohol, but when you look at the people in America that do not drive a car and where they live then it's quite easy to see how pushing these laws in before the election is a way of purging legal votes and deterring or disenfranchising those people. When you ask these same people to prove where voting fraud has affected a race and that the "solution" is somehow not as burdensome as the "supposed" fraud, then they're left stuttering. Voter ID is cool with these people because they have them but talk about the same standard for buying a gun at a gun show and they'll wail about the 2nd amendment.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  4. JohnQuest

    You may not agree with them (I certainly do not), but do they have the right to marry or not marry anyone the choose in their church? For instance, can they refuse to marry a same s-ex couple?

    I don't think we can have it both ways, either they marry who we tell them to in their church or they marry who they want.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • 21k

      how bout we start with ending tax exemptions for all religions? then they can do whatever they want, slaughter goats, marry dads and daughters, ...

      August 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • motorfirebox

      Of course that church has the right. And everyone else has the right to excoriate them for being such awful, awful people.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Mo

      Essentially our tax dollars support every "church" in America by providing them with tax-free existence. We pay for the roads the congregants drive on, we provide police and fire protection for them, and yet they pay for none of it. Time to get rid of this exemption when they are allowed to discriminate.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • MeinNJ

      A church can deny anyone who wants to be married there. My 1st husband & I were denied the church I wanted simply because we weren't members. However, we were told that right off the bat when we asked, not on the day of our wedding. This "Christian" church accepted this couples' request months before the wedding, and caved to racism at literally the last minute.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      I think it was a really low down thing to do, but the Const itution protects the church from the state. I would fight if the state starting interferring with the church in such a heavy handed way. (If you are wondering I am a non-Believer in Religious matters God, Jesus, Mohammad and the like). I do believe in the Const itution of The United States.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Dude

      Pastors and churches have no obligation to marry anyone. Many states only require the couple to say they are married in front of witnesses, and it's done. No paperwork or officials are even necessary.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  5. george

    Too late for "sorry."

    August 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  6. 21k

    are they sure it was the pastor that married them? he would have been wearing his hood, no?

    August 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  7. tom

    the Pastor should immediately step down....he is there to lead not follow!!!!!
    all of the complaining members should be asked to find another racist congregation or at least publicly apolaogize to the couple

    August 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Kriss Greenn

      THANK YOU TOM!!!!! The apology was crap, the pastor is crap, and this whole thing is crap. if this church would was against marrying this couple, I could just imagin what they would do with me (black woman) and my man (white guy) if we had asked. I guess the true test to see if they have/will change their ways is if another black couple asks to be married in the church.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • jls22

      The first thing the pastor should have done was have the balls to tell those clowns in his congregation that were so against this to go join some other church, that's not the way 'real' Christians behave.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  8. Janice Greer

    One of the congregants tried to hit a local female reporter from Jackson when she was asked about the incident. Real chrisitan lady. I live in MS and it is like a throwback to the 60s....sad

    August 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • heyheyhey

      Yea it still is like that in the south

      August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  9. OnTheRoad

    Prove just how sorry you are my naming the church members that were against it!

    August 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      According to the original article, it was "annonymous" phone calls, which makes it even sader that the church gave in.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • cnn'er

      And that would do what? Cause some angry person to possibly cause harm to them? Good grief. The pastor made a mistake. He's admitted it, and he's been publicly lambasted for it. Move on.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  10. 21k

    if the church really wants to show it's remorse, the pastor should burn a confederate flag on the front lawn of the church. they did lose the war, after all.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  11. totempole

    I think it was Arkansas that, after being rated 49'th in the country in several poles, said "thank god for Mississippi".

    August 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  12. Expose the Hypocrits

    Day late, dollar short! I don't believe for one moment that anyone at the church has truly changed their racist ways! Their church is an abomination in the eyes of all Christianity! They do not deserve any forgiveness – as this situation was their creation and born of their blatantly un-Christian actions! Shame!!!!

    August 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • bignevermo

      this right here seems "unChristian" to me!:
      "They do not deserve any forgiveness –"...it is not like they mass murdered anyone! kinda ironic Hypocrits...
      just sayin!

      August 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Expose the Hypocrits

      @ BigNeverMo - No hypocrisy coming from me! I'm no christian! I'm a proud Atheist! And I especially do not forgive bible beating hate mongerers who have the nerve to hide behind Jesus! How many MILLIONS have been tortured, killed, prosecuted, tormented and hurt in the name of "god"?!

      August 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Expose the Hypocrits

      @ BigNeverMo - No hypocrisy coming from me! I'm no christian! I'm a proud Atheist! And I especially do not forgive bible beating hate mongerers who have the nerve to hide behind Jesus! How many MILLIONS have been tortured, killed, prosecuted, tormented and hurt in the name of "god"?!

      August 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  13. Tom

    Too late of a reply to correct their mistake...the damage is done.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • cnn'er

      Of course it can't be corrected. Duh. That wasn't the intent.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  14. RobK

    Hind-sight is always 20/20. Mistakes happen, especially when there are time constraints. To forgive is divine.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • MzPW

      True, mistakes do happen. But something tells me that deciding, at the last inute (literally) not to marry a couple because they happened to have a bit too much melanin in their skin is not a simple mistake. If this "church" is truly sorry, why not publicly deal with the consequences of their actions, which clearly were NOT mistakes?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  15. New Gawker

    They're sorry everyone found out about their racist church.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  16. lunchbreaker

    The only reason this apology was given is because they were dumb enough to NOT think the media was going to be all over this. They only apologized because they got busted.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  17. Xgirl360

    The congregants who showed racism should have been asked to relocate themselves to another church. This minister was a coward for not standing up for what was right and exposing the ugliness in the Parish. He should have refused to ask the couple to move the service and then given a sermon that very Sunday about Jesus' love and the evils of racism.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • sarah

      He should have asked the couple what they wanted to do. I would not want to get married in a Church full of hate. "And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them."

      August 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  18. edwin

    Consider leaving the church.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • cnn'er

      They don't have to leave the church. They were never members.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  19. JohnQuest

    Mississippi God Dam(n)

    August 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  20. HearTheTruth

    http://www.Hear-The-Truth.com

    August 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
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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.