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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.

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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. Angel

    The church is most likely filled with tea party members! They're all racist idiots!

    July 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Tom

      agreed

      July 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  2. jeffision

    Religion actually creates the mental conditions for this type of bigoted behavior. Religion trains people to react to the world emotionality and irrationality. The human mind has a very difficult time distinguishing between "good" irrationality and "bad" irrationality. There's a dude in the sky watching everything everyone does...and...black people are less than white people. Both are irrational...religion, which is force fed to Americans from childhood, creates the mental/emotional conditions for other irrationalities like fear and hatred of people who are different in some way. Looking at history, a very good argument could be made that that is the real social purpose of religion...to divide people, because a divided people are easy to control and manipulate.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Toki Wartooth

      Wowee! You ems very smarts!

      July 30, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Alex H

      Unless you are a pHd researcher, there is a pretty good chance I am replying to someone more ignorant in most topics of life than myself.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  3. belinda

    The Baptist Church claims that they are not Racist and they do this ? Why am I not surprised ? They support Republicans . Republicans who want to steal from the middle class to give to the Rich . Republicans who want to deny food stamps , to people who need them . Republicans who don't care if you lose your home . Republicans who are going to steal your medicare to give to the Rich. Republican Traitors, who would rather see Americans suffer, rather than sign a jobs bill, in order to bring our President down. Wolves in sheep's clothing . Republicans.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  4. Jon

    What a bunch of foul mouthed ignorant commentors. You are a sorry lot that really test the free speech principal.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • T or C

      You can lick my hairy bean bag.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Toki Wartooth

      Jons, you cans eat my sh.its. you fuking tool LOL's!

      July 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  5. Tom

    sounds to me like this church needs to remove their steeple and put up "KKK" instead.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  6. indyreader

    "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."

    Srsly, what kind of spineless ___s would fold to ANONYMOUS calls asking for blind prejudice? I just don't get what they could have been thinking.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  7. Truth or the Shocker

    James Holmes > Religious Fuktards

    July 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Toki Wartooth

      Oh wowee! The shockers is brutals!

      July 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  8. GOD PARTICLE UK Dave

    Clearly this church in Mississippi HATES LOVE! 🙁
    Let the disbelievers destroy this church in Mississippi WITH MY BLESSING! 🙂
    Set the example against this Baptist church in Mississippi my disbelieving friends!
    Once the Church knocks Love, I will destroy the Church myself!
    This shower better pray for Mercy! 🙂

    July 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  9. BANNY THE B

    sorry to say that racism has not been eradicated here in the usa. veterans such as i wonder at times what most of our

    military men & women who died in europe & the pacific theater during ww2 would make of racial problems that still

    exist in 2012 and that such problems may be with us for some time to come.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  10. CBR

    If so-called "radicals" can determine what happens in a Church than the church has taken a big step backwards. It is unfortunate that this story puts the spotlight on this church and its members and leadership. This is a sad commentary on religion in the Mississippi.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • 2tor

      Radicals are also doing the same thing to our country. The exception has become the rule.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  11. Nija

    This is exactly what happened when Peter denied Christ and we deny HIM every day. The Pastor and his majority denied Christ.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  12. James Wright

    BAD REPORTING CNN. I was born and raised in a neighboring community to Crystal Springs. The first fallacy that I'd like to point out is that the couple were not members of the church. Neither were any members of their families. Second, the church never stated that it was because of their race that they weren't allowed to get married. Making it an issue of race is just an easy way to get publicity, stir things up, etc.. The couple was most likely denied the privelage to get married in Crystal Springs baptist church because of the HUGE age difference between the two. And now, the man is obviously filing charges, seeing as how he couldn't comment on any legal matters. Shows how "Christ-like" he really is.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Truth or the Shocker

      Why are people from Mississippi so mentally challenged?

      July 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • James Wright

      We're so mentally challenged that we listen to the media. Btw, I'm not posting under a false name and can easily be found on Facebook.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Truth or the Shocker

      Why is Mississippi the poorest state in the US? Also one of the least educated. Stop voting red and maybe the schools there will get better and you can stop leaching off of the rest of us.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @James Wright

      Hi -James...

      Thanks for weighing in with your opinions, since you are close to what's going on.

      You Said: " The couple was *most likely* denied the privelage[sic] to get married in Crystal Springs baptist church because of the HUGE age difference between the two. "

      'If'... you are in fact, correct, 'why' would 'age' have anything to do with it ? Are they not 2 consenting adults ?

      More importantly, for the christians... is it 'biblically' a 'sin' to get married to someone with an age difference ?

      Curious...

      Peace...

      July 30, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • James Wright

      You pull that off of Wikipedia all by yourself? How did you ever find the time between trolling irrelevant articles and posting ignorant comments. You tell us to stop voting red and then make a very capitalistic remark in the same sentence. Genius!

      July 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • James Wright

      @ Peace2All- Thank you for your intelligent, and valid rebuttal. You raise a good point. I will not deny that people are a little backwards in small-town Mississippi to say the least. Some older people in the community are very set in their ways. There's really no telling the motive due to the anonymity of the people that voted against the marriage. I just do not see racism being the motive. As old-timey as we are here, racism isn't nearly as big of a problem as it has been in our past. I just see the truth being compromised in their favor to make a good headline. It's easy to beat up on a state with an already bad stigma. The media has brought Hell to this small town over this story, The couple just seem to be feeding off of the media. Their original story in our local paper The Clarion Ledger was very different. Btw, I'm not religious at all, if you were wondering.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @James Wright

      No problem... Thank you for the compliment. And... thanks for shedding some insight to this situation.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      July 30, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • lsgyrl

      This is a debate you need to have with the pastor. He said it was the reason on camera.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  13. ReligiousPoopShoot.com

    Any religion based on Jesus Christ is gonna lick balls, because Jesus does in fact lick balls.
    T.F.

    Fuk Jesus and Mohammed, fuk them up their stupid as.ses.
    the_dude

    Jesus and Mohammed are one-note jokes that only retards follow. They’re fuking clown shoes. If they were real I’d beat the sh.it out of them for being so stupid.
    Lance H

    July 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Jesus and Mohammed

      All you motherfukers are gonna pay! You are the ones who are the ball-lickers! We’re gonna fuk your mothers while you watch and cry like little whiney bi.tches. We’re gonna make you eat our sh.it, then sh.it out our sh.it and then eat your sh.it that’s made up of our sh.it that we made you eat!!

      July 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • 1word

      God forgives you for being a complete moron.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • ReligiousPoopShoot.com

      1word

      Thank you for leaving your comment on ReligiousPoopShoot.com!

      July 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  14. Rich

    hello tea party.....small group of haters

    July 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Ntrain2k

      Ignorant much?

      July 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  15. the_dude

    This really doesn't make much sense at all and I can't tell if it because of horrible writting / editing by CNN. Just makes zero sense almost as if this is completey made up to generate a buzz headline.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      Yup, horrible "writting" dude.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Phil in Oregon

      If I were faced with the choice of moving the wedding and losing my job, I would consider unemployment a step UP from being in that church.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  16. Talk to Sampson, Fly to Moon

    When does the rap video come out?

    July 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • lsgyrl

      Right after the country vid.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  17. Talk to Sampson, Fly to Moon

    Stories like this make me want to punch a deaf person.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  18. Lance H

    Sadly...speaking as a christian myself, I think this kind of behavior ismore the rule, than the exception. I think every pastor has to ask themselves, be it because they are black, white, gay , or poor... What is the price you and your congregation for turning ANYONE from God's house?

    July 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      Then why are you a Christian Lance. Are you fuking stupid?

      July 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  19. Smitten with Mittens and his Delightful Army of Kittens

    Religious people need to stop drinking their own splooge.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Skwisgaar Skwigelf

      I am tries it on chicken fillets sandwhiches ac...acc.....ciduntally... ands it was not goods!

      July 30, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  20. T. F.

    Maybe part of the problem is with the Deacons and a Congregational government of the church. The pastor should have stood up to these bigots and had a "come to Jesus session." And then gone ahead and married the couple. And if for some reason he was voted out or asked to resign, he didn't need to be there anyway. plus It also sounds like the statement from the Deacons was kind of lame. Scripturally Deacon led churches are plain wrong. The offices in the Church from Ephesians are are Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor/Teacher and in the ancient church the only offices in the church were Bishop, Pastor and Deacon. So, when do Deacons tell a pastor what to do, preach or say? Thats why this Pastor (me) left his former denomination. Once I realized that Deacons have/had no Scirptureal authority over the Pastor, I left. The SBC does a great job with preaching/teaching God's Word, but a terrible job with local church government.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      Maybe the problem is Christians are morons.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:22 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.