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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 • Faith Now • Race

soundoff (1,212 Responses)
  1. Carlos

    What hypocrisy! and they call themselves Christians.... what a bunch of BS. This church should shut down.... we are in 2012... there is no more room for this kid of people.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  2. midogs2

    Too late.............................

    August 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • fmfgots

      too late for what? an ice cold one. finish your thought idiot.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  3. mendacitysux

    Wonder how many lawyers the church had working on this "apology". They sincerely don't want to get sued or lose there tax exempt status. They regret their actons only because their racism was brought to light. The pastor is spineless. So much for fearing no evil. His faith evidently isn't that strong.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  4. griff griff

    Yea.. This one stinks up to High Heaven.. The Pastor must go! God will hold him accountable on Judgement Day. Everyone check out MLK's famous "Letter From the Birmingham Jail." It was geared toward pastors who stood idly by and kept silent while many of their congregants terrorized blacks. They knew them and were kin to some of them, but they said nothing. Now, they must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ and give an account of deeds done in the body, whether good or bad. Ain't no sense in singing "When We All Get To Heaven" at their funerals, either!!

    August 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  5. SandyStorm

    Is the church sorry they did it or just sorry they got caught?? Bigotry isn't dead in America, it's alive and well but underground. And before you even think it, no I'm not a black American.

    I wish the Wilsons' a long and loving marriage. Hopefully they will find a true church in their area that accepts them as the loving Christian couple they are.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • fmfgots

      how do you know they are a loving christian couple? Have you had them over to share a forty.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Semper Fi

      @fmfgots, how do you know that they are not good people? Do you know them either? NOOOOO!

      August 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  6. Matt Harris

    I'm not sure. With the recent incident where a black man was driven over and left to die in Mississippi, and now this incident makes me concerned about the rate of progress in that area of the south.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  7. Blackness

    i will try to get some compensation out that hatred they showed. Some blacks think because they have a good job, wife, children, stay in a nice neighborhood, and have a slew of white friends that they will be excepted by a majority of whites not... If you don't dribble a ball, run a ball, an entertainer of any kind they don't care for you... sad. but true...

    August 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • jane

      @ Blackness.....News Flash...Blacks are not looking for white's approval....In case you missed it, those days are long gone!

      August 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  8. Floyd from Illinois

    (Stuff) like this unfortunately gives the believer-hating nuts ammunition. And does no good for anyone, even the bigots.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  9. steve-o

    Waaaaahhh!!!!The far right wing whines and says it's sorry. vote tea party vote for Jim Crow they are the same don't you know.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Mclovin

      Democrats created the Jim Crow laws, KKK, Succession and Segregation. Are you trying to rewrite history.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Semper Fi

      @mclovin – everyone knows that the republican party is pathetically racist. You and your ilk ARE the problem. To blame other people, you blame Jeff in Oregon, the Democrats, the kitchen sink...I mean you give yourself away. You're pathetic. You and the GOP want people to believe that the problem resides with anyone and everyone except people like you and the republican party. The problem is, we can all see Tea Partiers and republicans with racist, hatreds signs all over the internet. We hear Limbaugh and his explosive, inflammatory language towards Blacks. We SEE YOUR language and hatred towards those who are innocent. You and the GOP fool no one as to your vicious hate. You are upset because Blacks see right through your ridiculous party for what it is. And as a white man, I wished more Whites did too. You're upset because you see your racist, pathetic party alienating everyone and marginalizing itself to the point it will no longer be able to win elections. You and your party hate Black people. OWN IT! Take your party, crawl away and die somewhere. Believe me: You won't be missed!

      August 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  10. marve

    To Thomas & Alleygator, Thomas, it's never too late to ask for forgiveness, if that was the case we would not have a chance to mait it with God. If they are sincere only God knows, and God have forgiven them if they asked Him then judging them and not accepting their appology, how can God accept us. Jesus prayed forgive us our debts as we forgive those who tresspas against us.
    Alleygator, it have everything to do with God and Jesus- who is the one that don't want us to forgive. The deveil- and if we cant forgive how can God forgive us.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      To Thomas & Alleygator, Thomas, it's never too late to ask for forgiveness, if that was the case we would not have a chance to mait it with Santa Claus. If they are sincere only Santa Claus knows, and Santa Claus have forgiven them if they asked Him then judging them and not accepting their appology, how can Santa Claus accept us. Santa Claus prayed forgive us our debts as we forgive those who tresspas against us.
      Alleygator, it have everything to do with Santa Claus- who is the one that don't want us to forgive. The deveil- and if we cant forgive how can Santa Claus forgive us.

      You do understand that what this is what atheists see when you print something like this, right?

      August 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Blackness

      Forgiveness please.... If this didn't hit everywhere no apology wouldn't ever happen. I just want one person who says something and then when the media expects an apology they say no apology and I meant that statement !!!. Too much PR these days just make them look more lame when they do one. #Say what you mean, and live by it ijs

      August 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  11. clem

    A guy I just met last night at the casino said, " I have to go home early to get up for church tomorrow and sit on the front pew and pretend I don't gamble" I BEEN SAYING THAT stuff all along. THEY are HYPOCRITES. One ex friend of mine says horrid things about others, yet, SITS on the front pew at church and EVERYONE thinks she's got GOD splattered all over her. OMG, I quite church...rolling my eyes (I have at least a hundred other stories like those, sigh)

    August 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Ceri

      Of course we are hypocrites. Each week we recognize that we are less than perfect. ALL of us are less than perfect – if we only allowed perfect people into our churches, they would all be empty, no pastor, no choir, no-one.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  12. clem

    Their lips are moving, but all I hear is...blah, blah, blah....I'd rather have all my teeth pulled than sit with those bigots in that church

    August 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  13. Miriam

    I really, really wish these idiots would quit hijacking my religion of peace, love and tolerance.

    PS Nothing new age here for those of you who would prefer to think otherwise. I am Lutheran.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Mickey

      If this posts twice – oh well.

      Miriam, check the history of your 'loving' Christianity. Christians murdered millions of Jews who refused to convert!!

      Churches continue to spew hatred of Jews – even though they pray to a Jew!

      I can guarantee you that I've been to more churches of different denominations than you have been to synagogues, even though Jesus would be in an orthodox synagogue and never in a church.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  14. Hillcrester

    So why was that initial decision made? Just a brain fart? Probably not.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  15. Don DaMiddle

    Weren't FIRST Baptist Churches for "White Baptists Only" during segregation...
    otherwise you attended AMERICAN Baptist Churches.
    I would not attend a FIRST Church... of anything. (Bad connotation)

    August 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • clem

      AMEN, Don...I guy I just met last night at the casino said, " I have to go home early to get up for church tomorrow and sit on the front pew and pretend I don't gamble" I BEEN SAYING THAT stuff all along. THEY are HYPOCRITES. One ex friend of mine says horrid things about others, yet, SITS on the front pew at church and EVERYONE thinks she's got GOD splattered all over her. OMG, I quite church...rolling my eyes

      August 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  16. kättemaks

    what are their names? someone, please post those "congregants" names!

    August 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  17. John

    That's right they're a sorry church.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  18. reasonablebe

    Too late. Their bigotry has been exposed. They are only sorry because the rest of the Country has condemned them and now thinks badly of them– and to them, appearances are everything. Not sincerity. And the pastor leaves me ill. Why did he not stand up to this congregation and demand they do the right thing or offer his resignation?

    August 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  19. MJW

    What does the color of one's skin have anything to do with God or anything else for that matter??? I always thought that everyone was welcomed in God's house everywhere no matter what the denomination. The leaders of this church sound to me like they are all for public relations and a bunch of BS and nothing more and should be ashamed of themselves for their behavior!! They sound like a bunch of phonies to me!! Here's to many years of happiness to this couple!!!! By the way the above photo is absolutely beautiful!!

    August 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Arthurrrr

      umm...i am pretty sure that was an actual apology.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • fmfgots

      where do you see beauty in that picture? I thought it was a joke about fat albert marrying weezee.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  20. Jeff in Oregon

    Religion in this country is sour. This "Mississippi" church never married a person of color in 150 years? Really, in Mississippi? So here is a bunch of souther white people acting all racist like for 150 years and we should believe their apology is sincere? Nah, once a southern racist, always a southern racist, especially after 150 years. There is something deeply sad and wrong about our south.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Mclovin

      Stereotype much? You're as bad as the Minister and his racist congregation. You are part of the problem, not the solution

      August 6, 2012 at 7:21 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.