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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.

CNN's Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the big stories

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. Express Jodi

    An ode to the wedding songs in Punjabi Wedding

    Punjab is the state of festiveness. It is said that punjabis can groove to the beats of dhol even if there is no occasion. As such, when there is a shaadi in the house, it given them a reason to sing and dance. In Punjab, there are different genres of songs when it comes to marriage songs. There are categories divided on the basis of moods and situations.

    Some of the most popular categories include:

    Gharouli de Geet: These are happy songs that are sung when the pitcher is filled for bride/bridegroom's bath on the day of the wedding.

    Sehra: As the Hindu priest ties the sehra (flower veil) on the forehead of the groom while chanting sacred mantras, the close family members sing sehra songs to pep up the environment.

    Suhag: A fairly popular category of wedding songs, the suhag songs are sung by the bride herself as she praises her of her life. Some of these wedding songs also reveal her anticipation of the approaching life in her husband's home. In some households, bride friends and cousins also sing these songs on her behalf.

    Jaggo: Jaggo songs are sung a night prior to the wedding. These songs are sung as a celebrative way to invite the neighbours to the wedding.

    South Indian Melodies

    Laali: These are songs of praise for the bride and the groom who are seated on a swing in a ceremonial manner and are rocked back and forth. The back and fro motion of the swing in the ritual signifies the waves in the sea of life while the chains represent the eternal karmic link with god. Their movement on the swing depicts that the couple is together in body and mind that they would together cross the ocean of life.

    Nalangu: During this ritual, the new bride sings and calls her husband to spend time with her. These songs fill the atmosphere with a sense of merriment. The time signifies the breaking of ice between the bride and the groom as there are several other playful activities that take place, subsequently. While family members break papads on the couple's heads toward off evil, the bride anoints husband's body with sandalwood and sings to him. The female relatives poke fun at the couple and the in-laws while singing songs.

    Adding a Zing of Culture

    A part from the pre-wedding ceremonies that are replete with the sounds of traditional wedding tunes and lyrics, these days marriages are also witnessing a sort of rebound that seem incomplete without these rhythms and libretto. Live performances usually have the popular singers belting out hit numbers some originals, some legendary wedding songs that set the mood for the evening and get the guests tapping to these numbers. Traditional wedding songs are those symphonies that have bouts of emotions hidden behind, that bring people together to celebrate and have fun and that which any Indian marriage is not complete without.

    August 5, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  2. expressjodi

    An ode to the wedding songs in Punjabi Wedding

    Punjab is the state of festiveness. It is said that punjabis can groove to the beats of dhol even if there is no occasion. As such, when there is a shaadi in the house, it given them a reason to sing and dance. In Punjab, there are different genres of songs when it comes to marriage songs. There are categories divided on the basis of moods and situations.

    Some of the most popular categories include:

    Gharouli de Geet: These are happy songs that are sung when the pitcher is filled for bride/bridegroom's bath on the day of the wedding.

    Sehra: As the Hindu priest ties the sehra (flower veil) on the forehead of the groom while chanting sacred mantras, the close family members sing sehra songs to pep up the environment.

    Suhag: A fairly popular category of wedding songs, the suhag songs are sung by the bride herself as she praises her of her life. Some of these wedding songs also reveal her anticipation of the approaching life in her husband's home. In some households, bride friends and cousins also sing these songs on her behalf.

    Jaggo: Jaggo songs are sung a night prior to the wedding. These songs are sung as a celebrative way to invite the neighbours to the wedding.

    South Indian Melodies

    Laali: These are songs of praise for the bride and the groom who are seated on a swing in a ceremonial manner and are rocked back and forth. The back and fro motion of the swing in the ritual signifies the waves in the sea of life while the chains represent the eternal karmic link with god. Their movement on the swing depicts that the couple is together in body and mind that they would together cross the ocean of life.

    Nalangu: During this ritual, the new bride sings and calls her husband to spend time with her. These songs fill the atmosphere with a sense of merriment. The time signifies the breaking of ice between the bride and the groom as there are several other playful activities that take place, subsequently. While family members break papads on the couple's heads toward off evil, the bride anoints husband's body with sandalwood and sings to him. The female relatives poke fun at the couple and the in-laws while singing songs.

    Adding a Zing of Culture

    A part from the pre-wedding ceremonies that are replete with the sounds of traditional wedding tunes and lyrics, these days marriages are also witnessing a sort of rebound that seem incomplete without these rhythms and libretto. Live performances usually have the popular singers belting out hit numbers some originals, some legendary wedding songs that set the mood for the evening and get the guests tapping to these numbers. Traditional wedding songs are those symphonies that have bouts of emotions hidden behind, that bring people together to celebrate and have fun and that which any Indian marriage is not complete without.

    July 27, 2013 at 1:25 am |
  3. expressjodi

    Sindhi Wedding

    The Sindhi wedding is presided over by a special priest known as "Mehraj", specialising in matchmaking and a Guryanni , who presents the horoscopes of eligible boys and girls to those for a match.

    Pre Wedding Rituals

    Once the prospective bride and groom is selected by the families and their kundlis match to make sure that they have a happy married life, the big Sindhi wedding starts unfurling with its numerous unique rituals.

    Janya or the sacred thread ceremony starts with the groom donning the sacred yellow thread while the Mehraj whispers Guru Mantra in his ears. Though this ceremony ritualistically should be performed during adolescence , most Sindhi's now prefer to do this day or two considered incomplete. After this comes the two step engagement ritual called Kachchi Misri and Pakki Misri.

    Kachchi Mishri

    Kachchi Misri is the informal engagement between the bride and the groom , where they are given coconuts and misri that signifies their acceptance into each other's families. The shagun is exchanged by the prospective families which usually consist of numerous gifts (Shagun) to the soon wed couples. Additionally the bride family sends 5kg of sweets, five coconuts , a basket of fruit and a small token amount of money to the boy's family. The groom's sister covers the bride's head with a red duppata and feeds her suji sheera , followed by the other relatives.

    Pakki Mishri

    Pakki Mishri is the formal engagement ceremony where the rings are exchanged in the presence of the priest , either in a temple or at home. The groom's family gifts the bride , clothes, cosmetics and jewellery , with which she is then adorned by the groom's sister and sisters-in-law. Similarly the bride's family gifts a clay pot of misri. This is followed by a Varmala ritual where the bride and groom exchange garlands while the families finalise the verbal promise of their marriage or shaadi.

    The engagement is followed by Berena, performed ten days before the marriage, where is satsang is dedicated to Jhulelal, Sindhi God. Dev Bithani refers to the installation of chakki (stome grinder) in the homes of both the bride and the groom, while a Brahmin priest performs the ritual. After this ceremony, the couple is not encouraged to leave their homes and Ainars (marriage guards ) are appointed for them. During Lada , the groom's family invites the women in their neighbourhood for a musical night where they all sing traditional songs accompanied by dholak beats.

    Tags: Shaadi | Matrimony | Marriage | Match making | Indian Marriages | Matrimonial | Free Marriage Sites | Indian Matrimonial Services | Indian Matrimonial Sites | Free Matrimonial | Indian Matrimonials | Sathi

    July 18, 2013 at 4:22 am |
  4. Express Jodi

    Importance of Mehndi in Indian Weddings

    Indian marriages are known for their many rituals. In fact, the beauty of Indian weddings comes forth in the numerous traditions that are associated with the special celebration. Marriage day being the most important day in one's life. Infact one whole ceremony dedicated to its celebration popularly known as "Mehndi Ki Raat". Indian marriages are incomplete without dance, music and lots of laughter.

    It is a common belief that the darker the color the mehndi leaves on the hands on a bride, the more will she be loved by her husband and mother-in-law. However, the significance of applying mehndi during weddings is not restricted just to sentiments and beliefs. Although these beliefs make the application of mehndi a much anticipated and charming tradition, the actual reason is of much deeper significance.

    ExpressJodi.com-Common Platform for Happiness...

    June 13, 2013 at 1:47 am |
  5. Iris

    Dear Solomon,I am sorry to take so long to answer your quetison on our website. I lost my password and was unable to open the comments. I would be happy to answer any quetisons you may have concerning faith, love, and trials. You may contact me easier on my email address, and I will respond immediately.Tom Dotson

    October 7, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  6. Who invited me?

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    August 3, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  7. Ro Wills

    Amazing how people think they can put words in God's mouth and/or speak for God. Does Mississippi still have the lowest scholastic ratings in the nation?

    August 3, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  8. kateslate

    That pastor is a wuss, and I don't actually believe that he got anonymous calls. Who backs down on such an important principle due to anonymous calls? He should have notified the congregation what was going on, and the congregation should then have made SURE this couple got the wedding they deserve. What a cowardly pastor. What an immoral church.

    August 3, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!-

      August 3, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • SGT G

      I believe Prayer changes everything, in addition to prayer, there is Logic. if God Allowed us to utilize our Brains to create cures for deseases , then maybe that is Gods way of helping us. you have to understand that back then when Jesus walked the Earth he did heal the sick, however, he's only here in spirit NOW and because of that, he allowed his creation to evolve, but unfortunately some people seem to over look that. If someone i loved was sick and i knew there's a cure or special treatment you have to be smart enough to realize that God is meeting us half way you have to go the other 50%, be smart and take his hand and get treated. Geez!

      August 5, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  10. nothing new here

    It is hard to believe that, even in 2012, we are still dealing with this nonsense.
    I hope that these troublemakers are dealt with, and that the pastor of this church will no longer cave in to unreasonable demands from unstable people.
    Good luck to the newlyweds!!

    August 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • hokieduck

      And in 2032, people will be saying the same thing about marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

      August 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  11. tracy

    The only reason they back-pedaled is because of the news coverage on the church. If they hadn't received any attention, they would have banned them.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  12. SB1790

    Sounds like they did the right thing. Honestly, I couldn't see the majority of a Baptist congregation (especially Southern Baptist) lobbying to ban a black couple from getting married in the sanctuary. I could see it if they weren't members and never attended the church or if there was something about the marriage that went against church doctrine (some pastors will not marry couples who have not went through premarital counseling or had a previous divorce that the church deems wasn't on legitimate grounds, like adultery). They could have chosen to take up the issue at a Wednesday night business meeting but they chose instead to address the issue on a Sunday in front of the entire congregation. I applaud them for that. Even in Mississippi, asking for the wedding to be moved seemed a little strange. I figured it was a few bad apples and not the majority of the congregation.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  13. Name*penguin

    We'll see how accepting that church is when it allows a black couple to marry in the church AND also allows a black/white marriage. It seems "christrian church" is an oxymoron

    August 1, 2012 at 7:02 am |
  14. Satan

    Man, dat biatch has sum DSL. DIC.K SUCKIN LIPZ!

    July 31, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  15. Gee

    Ùnbelieveable! is this a church or social club? My heart bleeds!

    July 31, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  16. Tony Goins

    Please take the time out to read and help out a Veteran by logging on here

    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/191859?a=954290#...

    July 31, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  17. Denverboy

    Intresting...realy would they have done there 180 had the media not gotton involved...??? My guess is NO they would have held onto there long held moronic record of No balck Unions in 115 pluse years..A very white Idea Not very Christian .....The DARKNESS that is BIGOTRY cannot claim to be of Jesus or any of his teachings..It can claim to be of Satan and the idea of enslavement to the great LIE...So im not at all surprised this BAPTIST CHURCH started singin a differn tune...Perhaps had they done it on there own it might have MENT SOMTHING MORE

    July 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  18. PAUL

    I WONDER WHY IN 2012??

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw_zVjLhzcU&feature=plcp

    July 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  19. Name*mat mat

    Yum

    July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  20. Who invited me?

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    July 31, 2012 at 7:33 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.