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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. just wondering

    FALSE CHRISTIAN'S TO SAY THE LEAST

    August 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      So who is the true scotsman?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • fred

      Doc
      That is why Jesus said only God is Good. This is why without God there is no higher authority to resolve the issue of what is good. Without goodness that comes from the Divine men make up their own stuff and we cannot even answer the question is there a true Christian.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  2. KrisPy

    It sounds like this congregation doesn't even take their white hoods off while in church. The article says this wedding would have been the first African-American wedding held in the church in its 150 year history. Most people in America live in the 21st century while you all seem to be stuck in the 1800s. Get with the program First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  3. Lou Snow

    I said it once already, at least they CAN get married we have to go to an entirely different state and this nation is supposed to be based on freedom, equality, and seperation of church and state. You can't seperate the church from the state when you use terms like "gays can't marry because its against god's will"... This nation is full of hipocritical nonsense and the fact that Africans (I won't say African Americans because if it wasn't for us and our hateful ways they would never have been called that until they came here of their own choice) were brought here by the white man to do his dirty work should tell you all, that this government needs a revamp on its views. and yes I'm white but I know right from wrong Slavery is WRONG, LOVE is RIGHT, we've got the one down now if we could just see that Love is Blind in who it chooses.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  4. JayC

    This church should be stripped of its tax free status, " we are reborn" give us a break

    August 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • IslamIsTheBest

      Salaam Brother, You nailed it right. Give Islam a chance and for a better America. I did ten years ago and have converted more than 10,000 black brothers and sisters to this great religion. Go Islam!

      August 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Lou Snow

      ABSOLUTELY.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  5. IslamIsTheBest

    Brothers and Sisters – On this holy month of Ramadan, I ask minorities of this country to take up Islam as your faith. Allah (PBUH) will be there for you for the poor and the downtrodden. Go Islam!

    August 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • A hoax

      Clearly a fake. Muslims only include "PBUH" (peace be upon him) after the name of prophets, not after the name of God. Nice try.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • choki

      Yes we know Islam is the best of the worst religion in the whole world

      August 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  6. rockysfan

    Too little, too late. That should have been a teaching moment but that pastor lost it. The pastor should be booted. To head a church that claims to be christian and this is how they treat people? Shame, shame, shame. The path to hell is paved with good and bad intentions!

    August 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  7. teresa

    Well this makes for a church split and lost revenue. I guess the pastor is going to have to go out and get a job.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  8. MashaSobaka

    Yeah, I bet they are sorry that the world found out what kind of bigotry they harbor in their supposed house of God.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  9. Devon

    Sounds like christ has not been in that church for a hundred and fifty years. How can you love a parent and hate his children.They know not of what spirit they are; they are of their father the devil- the synagogue of Satan.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  10. Roxie

    This is 2012. There can be no ethnic bigotry. Period. Screw your heads on correctly, people.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • np

      I am embarrassed for people who do not have the common sense to move forward
      and do what is right. Black, white, red, yellow, muslim, christian, jewish, buddhist, and whatever,
      we all have an obligation to look after one another...we are all brothers and sisters...period!!!!

      August 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  11. Jeffery

    Baptists are not christian(s). They think they have the right to tell everyone else how to live. Make judgement on others and not admitting there on sins. I was raised in a baptists church and boy did I see a lot of sin. They are stupid people. I'm not making judgement on them. Just stating what I have seen. I left the church when I was sixteen and stopped going to baptists school. They know just how to brain wash you. I believe in Sikhism religion who believe every one is equal.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • StevenR

      I DO NOT want to pay MY TAX DOLLARS to support BIGOTRY and HATERD like this.

      YANK THEIR TAX EXEMPTION. They have been around for 150 years. NOT ONE MORE!

      August 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Huebert

      Why do you always take two baptist fishing?

      Because if you just take one he will drink all of your beer.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jeb

      Jeffery, you are not correct in your blanket statement. Many if not most baptists are Christians, but some are only cultural Christian (in name only), and you are correct that there are many self-righteous people in any congregation. It is up to the pastor to refuse to accept this sort of bigotry, call the guilty members to repentance, and if they refuse to repent for their sin to ask them to leave the church. This church needs to question their pastor and consider whether to ask him to leave. Please don't, however, make blanket statements and harden your heart against tens of millions of Christians because of the actions of a few bigoted people.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Carole

      Jeffrey.....Do you know how ridiculous you sound saying that about Baptist? Every religion has good and bad points. How dare you say Baptist are not Christians. I AM a Baptist and I AM a Christian! You need to think about what you write before showing your complete ignorance.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • JanieWilkey

      I am 59 years old, born , raised and proud to say I am a Baptist raised in Texas. This is the first time I have heard of such bigotry in the Baptist religion. I think it is high time to have an old fashion "house cleaning" at this particular church. Over a period of years certain church members tend to elevate themselves to a higher position than the leader of the church. When that happens churches tend to split and members create their own new churches. It goes against everything written in the King James Bible. Those so called Christians have "fallen short of the Glory of God" when they act like this. I hope the newly weds will find forgiveness in their hearts and accept an in person apology from all the church members. Do not let this destroy your faith.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • GE

      Anyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Saviour is a Christian

      August 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  12. jed

    Some things never change. I was born and raised in that state. My peers and I were constantly admonished to leave this state because of the climate of bigotry and the fact the state was constantly rated last regarding economic growth and education.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  13. Vernice Francis

    Oh!! Please don't tell me you were married in a black church...

    Now you know were you belong.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Snow

      so what IS a black church? do they disallow white people to come inside?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  14. John

    The People of the Church that stop the wedding Is what people of Mississippi are call good Christan , but It what Most people just plan call It Racist.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  15. jqent

    Yes, they are "sorry..." now that the entire country knows about their shabby behavior.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Sylvia

      You got that right. Just like MIcahel Vick. Not sorry, just sorry he got caught. Same thing for this so-called 'Christian' church.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  16. nfl1

    QUOTING "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."

    SO, being they are open to all people...I guess they will not react the same way if a gay or lesbian couple wishes to marry there?? If they have been members of the congregation? Or would they resoundly reject "these" people?? Civil rights for ALL.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Perplexedd

      A gay couple cannot be married in a christian church. Their lifestyle is sinful and sin cannot be endorsed by any christian church which is following christ.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  17. Greg

    If the church is serious about their regret, they should stop services immediately and convert their physical assets into a homeless shelter or a kindergarden or a food bank. This will ensure that the buildings are used for purposes which benefit the community. Whatever went on in that building up to now was certainly not conducive to improving the members of that community.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • StevenR

      ...and if they don't, TAKE AWAY THEIR TAX EXEMPTIONS.

      My FEDERAL TAX DOLLARS are supporting them as far as they DO NOT PAY TAXES.

      I am SICK of this. All these D@MN Chuches STEALING from every one of us as they LOBBY our government for special treatment then DON'T EVEN PAY TAXES.

      Who do they think they are? MITT ROMNEY???

      August 6, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  18. caralee2010

    It is easy for us to wonder why those who knew this was wrong did not stand up at the time, but from the article (and from other articles I have read that make it clearer) only a very few people even knew about this. There were the few complainers, and the pastor...and almost no one else was included in the decision. The pastor missed a fine teaching opportunity, and the church was misrepresented by his actions. I do hope and pray that forgiveness and reconciliation can occur – and that some deep lessons for the future have been learned.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • BeenThereDoneThat

      Amen

      August 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Lee

      Raised S.Baptist & assure you the "few" who knew were the deacons (church spiritual leaders), which makes it even worse!

      August 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  19. paul

    Let's test the congregation. Offer to have a "multiple" black marriage forgiveness day. Open the church and minister services for free and invite any black couple to marry inside the church.

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

      Giving black people free stuff doesn't work out very well.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  20. Dude

    Pastors are not required to marry anybody. The couple should have gone elsewhere.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      The pastor is a better person than you, because he DID marry them, just at a differet location. But speaking of legal requirments, whose law was he supposed to be following? He would not have been following God's law if he denied to marry them because of race.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • rep

      umm....they did go "elsewhere." this wasn't about the pastor being required to do anything. did you not even read the article?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Woman

      But come on - they didn't tell them until the day before the wedding.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Uncle Jerry

      Whatever "Dude". I mean Racist Dude.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • JT

      A church has a right to refuse service to marry anyone they want....just like the boyscouts can exclude atheists...why is this hard to understand? If the couple had been gay, everyone here would be cheering the church....

      August 6, 2012 at 3:46 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.