July 30th, 2012
04:53 PM ET

Church that barred black wedding affirms commitment to equal treatment

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) -A Mississippi church that wouldn't allow a black couple to marry in its sanctuary because of the couple's race  appears to be trying to right a wrong, as officials with the church's denomination decried the incident.

Charles and Te' Andrea Wilson, regular attendees at First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, were forced to relocate their wedding this month at the last minute.  Their pastor, Stan Weatherford, made the relocation request on behalf of some congregants who didn't want to see the couple married there, according to CNN affiliate WLBT.

Weatherford performed the ceremony at a nearby church.

At services on Sunday, the congregation's leadership addressed the controversy in a statement read to the church.

"Our many ministries here are open to everyone and have been for many years," the church deacons said in a statement read to the congregation, according to The Clarion Ledger. "We would never consider doing otherwise."

When contacted Monday evening, Weatherford said the church would have no comment on the situation.

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In an interview Monday, a local Baptist official said the church leadership was trying to address the controversy and to move past it with the statement from church deacons.

"The deacons made an affirmation that First Baptist Church would be available to minister to anybody in the church or the community.  That went over real well," said Copiah County Baptist Association Director George Pat Bufkin, who attended the service. " They're now in the way of amends."

Bufkin portrayed the move to deny the black couple a chance to marry in the church as the work of a small minority whom he called "radicals" and who he said made mostly anonymous calls to their pastor to complain about the black couple's wedding.  Bufkin said he did not know who exactly was behind the calls.

Bufkin, whose group is made up of 30 Baptist churches in the area, said First Baptist is among the largest in the county. The 150-year-old church has around 800 members, he said, and is in the midst of a building campaign.

"Anytime the church grows you always have the devil there, trying to stir up problems," Bufkin said.  "That's what occurred here and the deacons have already nipped that in the bud."

Weatherford, the First Baptist pastor, told CNN affiliate WLBT last week about why he agreed to move the wedding.

"I didn't want to have a controversy within the church, and I didn't want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te' Andrea," he said. "I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day."

Calls, e-mails and text messages to the pastor by CNN were not returned on Monday.  No one answered the telephone at the church office.

Jonathan Thompson, the 27-year-old community relations director for the city of Crystal Springs, was at First Baptist's Sunday service, and said the incident "didn't represent all the people of the church."

"I wanted to come as a voice of racial reconciliation and spiritual reconciliation," said Thompson, who is African-American, explaining his decision to go to the church on Sunday.

Thompson said he was welcomed at the service.   "I was allowed to give the closing prayer," he said.  He said he prayed God would forgive all of them for their sins and that they would be able to find reconciliation.

Thompson has organized a unity rally for Monday night for area churches to come together to meet, sing and pray.

"I think this is an opportunity to really get intentional about reconciling," he said.

First Baptist's move to deny a wedding venue has been blasted by local and national officials with the Southern Baptist Convention, whose 16 million members make up the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

"Mississippi Baptists both reject racial discrimination and at the same time respect the autonomy of our local churches to deal with difficulties and disagreements under the lordship of Jesus," said Dr. Jim Futral, the executive director the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

"While there may be hurts, wrongs and mistakes that must be addressed, the context for this to happen is in a historical church with a genuine caring pastor and thoughtful leaders who are seeking to do right," Futral's statement continued. "We, along with our entire body of faith, pray for them and stand ready to do anything that we can to help that church and that community."

A spokesman for the Southern Baptist executive committee told CNN the group would defer to local and state organizations for comment.

"We're not a top down organization," said Roger Oldham. "We're a bottom up organization. The congregation is the governing body."

Oldham said the local church needs to take corrective measures and he said they appear to be doing that in this case.

"The SBC has taken a strong position that racism is a sin and Christians should always oppose it," he said, referring to the Southern Baptist Convention.  "We're also grieved when a small group attempts to set policy for the entire congregation."

Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, criticized First Baptist's action.

"There are valid as well as nonvalid reasons for not permitting a couple to get married with the blessing of that local congregation of believers," Land said. "The race or ethnicity of that couple is never a valid reason and any local body of believers who rejects a couple on those grounds should be reprimanded."

"Everyone should understand that in the SBC this decision resides with the local congregation for good or ill. If this couple was indeed rejected because of their race, as a Southern Baptist I’m embarrassed, frustrated, and I apologize to the couple on behalf of the Convention for the hurt and emotional pain they’ve experienced,” Land's statement continued.

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Charles Wilson, the groom at the center of the controversy, said on Sunday, "All we wanted to do in the eyes of God was to be man and wife in a church that we thought we felt loved. What was wrong with that?"

Te'Andrea Wilson said, "I had dreams of having my wedding the way I wanted it, and I also dreamed of having it at the church and unfortunately, it didn't happen."

Her husband said if there was a time to "step up and be Christ-like," it was before their wedding.

"If it was such a minority of people, why didn't the majority stand up and say, 'In God's house we don't do this'?" Charles Wilson asked.

On Sunday, some church members reacted to news of the wedding with surprise. Many hadn't known what happened to the Wilsons until they heard about it on the news, and offered apologies.

"I would say I'm sorry this happened and would you forgive the people who caused it? Because we're gonna try to," Bob Mack told CNN affiliate WLBT.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Christianity • Church

soundoff (933 Responses)
  1. Don

    Well, they did get married somewhere else and also refuse to go back to that church, and rightfully so. What a bunch of hypocrites, just like most religious people. It's ashamed how many bad things are done in the name of religion. What a joke religion is becoming.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  2. J.W

    There are racist atheists on this thread

    July 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  3. beelzabarber

    Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, go get married at a nice resort or somewhere else you like. Invite your friends and loved ones. Dont give your business to that church, or any other for that matter. Horrible idea churches. We should tax them and clear up the national debt

    July 30, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • J.W

      How much money do you think that taxing churches would bring in? It would not be in the trillions.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  4. equality for all

    this is STILL happening in the south????? God well, cross Mississippi off my list of states to ever go to...I will not support people who sanction this type of bigoted, racist behavior....and btw I'm white.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      My wife who is Asian was drivng through Mississippi when you was a young girl with her family, and a bunch of little red-neck boys ran up to the car in the street and made buck-teeth, chinky eyes faces and taunted them.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Karen

      Agreed. It's more than disheartening.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Nah

      equality: "this is STILL happening in the south????? God well, cross Mississippi off my list of states to ever go to...I will not support people who sanction this type of bigoted, racist behavior....and btw I'm white."

      Your hypocritical bigotry is cute. Or do you not see the irony in your own intolerance?

      Not to mention, characterizing an entire state based on the actions of a few people in one local church is a bit ridiculous.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  5. lol

    People base their lives on the ancient ravings of some ignorant schizophrenic jewish eunuchs
    lol just lol!!!!!!!!!

    July 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Skwisgaar Skwigelf

      LOL's !

      July 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  6. bananaspy

    "Anytime the church grows you always have the devil there, trying to stir up problems,"

    You know what, shut up. The church validated this kind of behavior for almost 2 thousand years, and now that secular society has deemed it wrong, the church wants to claim racism is the work of the devil. Total garbage.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Nah

      banana: "You know what, shut up. The church validated this kind of behavior for almost 2 thousand years, and now that secular society has deemed it wrong, the church wants to claim racism is the work of the devil. Total garbage."

      Oh dear. You must not know much about history.

      The church was one of the most vocal advocates against slavery and discrimination.

      Or do you not remember the SCLC? MLK Jr.? Abolitionists in the north? Religious abolitionists for a hundred years before the Civil War?

      July 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • ME II

      So they had 2000 years to work on it and you give the church credit for abolishing slavery in the last 100 or so? really?

      July 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • ME II

      For the other 1900 years, people and governments used the Bible and religion to justify slavery not abolish it. Why don't you acknowledge that?

      July 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  7. Stella

    This is unbelievable. Just because there were people ignorant enough to make such calls doesn't mean the church had to listen. I can't believe they actually made this couple move the wedding. What planet are these nitwits from.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  8. Teluu

    Why should black people become Christians anyway? A religion that always try to drowned their souls and label them as poor people.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • BlackPeopleMeet.com

      Dont' be askin' no boosheet 'bout lovin' JEEEE-SUS! Lawdy lawdy, bless him! Take me Jesus, take me now Lawd!

      July 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Juanmom2

      Blackpeoplemeet.com, not only are you racist but your juvenile to boot. Do you think if you make fun of black people you will somehow gain something, respect maybe? WRONG, we're all laughing at you! You think you're a big man by coming to an ANONYMOUS site and posting your stupid "step n fetch it" routine. I feel sorry for people like you, you're so insecure that you try to make fun of others to cover up your shortcomings;-/ SMH

      July 30, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  9. Crazybusy

    If I were a member of that church, I would leave.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      If I was a member of any church, I would be just as stupid as they are.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  10. To UK

    wow.. First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, Mississippi.....you truly do a disservice to your country and state...what backward neck of the planet do you think you represent?

    July 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  11. jimmer

    Looks like these inbred toothless dimwits decided that the blacks aren't jesusy enough for them.

    Just one more example of how reta rded religion is.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Tommie Tom/Scotty, you are one of the minions of satan. I p.e.e in my coffee cup. Keep believing in the man-made lies of the talmud rather than the Truth Jesus taught us in his letter to us, the Bible.


      July 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  12. Loyal Northern Democrat

    I thought that blacks did not marry but the mother goes on welfare as the different fathers have disappeared.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Skwisgaar Skwigelf

      I likes how you are total bigots just the the chickens fillets! That is so metals.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  13. Kool Aid

    Two-thirds of the Mississippi budget for the year 1865 had to be earmarked for prosthetic limbs. Seems folks in that part of the country are willing to spare no expense and fight tooth-and-nail to defend their stupidity.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  14. i3raveheart

    looks like the race card isnt pulling in many readers eh cnn?

    July 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Skwisgaar Skwigelf

      I em nots able to reads the englishes.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Really?

      No, but idiots like yourself still manage to comment. OH THE IRONY!!

      July 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  15. JayneQP

    Are we sure it was their race that was the problem and not the age difference? She looks like she's about 14 and he's, what, 65? Holy moly!

    ...and why would anyone care if God's creations commit to eachother? who cares! it's like some folks have NOTHING else in their lives so they pick on other people for make belive reasons. they're not "radicals", the're retarded!

    July 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Skwisgaar Skwigelf

      Thats old mans is totally robbings the cradles!

      July 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  16. steven

    The only reason they changed their mind is publicity. Embarrassing.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • pattic

      You took the words right out of my mouth! Nothing like a story on CNN illlustrating your bigotry to make you see the light!

      July 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  17. HeavenSent Blog

    Welcome HeavenSent Thrill Seekers! Wow, what a great job you are doing. Thank YOU for making this HeavenSent event a huge success! Our HeavenSent engineers are working around the clock to make your HeavenSent experience the best ever.

    Stay Carnal!

    July 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  18. BG

    This couple are regular attendees at this church? They've put money in the collection, sang the songs, and prayed along with everyone else?

    Sounds like they'd make a great church Deacon and Sunday school teacher. Go ahead, pastor. Ask them. Then we can talk about any 'redemption' that might come your way.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Skwisgaar Skwigelf

      This is likes, you know, sausage fests.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  19. HeavenSent

    God does not want the black people to marry in His house. They have snakes in their belly. Moldy cheese is good. You athiests will burn burn burn for all eternity while you are writhing in your filth. I have webbed feet. True Christians don't listen to the liar satan.


    July 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  20. ME II

    Sounds like this church could learn something from the person they rejected.

    Charles Wilson "said if there was a time to 'step up and be Christ-like,' it was before their wedding."

    July 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      We will all be Christ-like in due time because we will all die and rot.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
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About this blog

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.