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. asdf

    >Many church members were unaware of the decision to refuse to marry the couple and reacted with surprise to the news.

    Wow so you didn't notice your church hadn't EVER married a black couple? What a load of disingenuous crap.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  2. abby1

    Too late. God knows your sins.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  3. Meh

    Hahaha what a pathetic church. It's like they're still in the 1960s.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  4. Fateen

    Despite the resulting action of church leadership I do not believe everyone at the church are racially biased. What it shows is the poor leadership in the church to accept concerns from congregation members on a decision like this.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Shadow

      It exposed a man who doesn't deserve to be a pastor. He should resign in shame.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  5. dctwmt

    One word: Mississippi.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • ryan

      Could not have said it any better...

      August 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • asdf

      isn't that Native American for land full of fat whites and casinos?

      August 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  6. Crazybusy

    That so-called "apology" is a sham. How insincere. If I were a member of that church, I would leave.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Shadow

      Agreed. Or, the real Christians should clean house and get rid of the bigots, including the pastor.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  7. kenchandammit

    I've gotten into arguments, saying that racism hardly exists anymore (I truly almost never see it.) I am humiliated and ashamed by this and now apologize to everyone I ever argued with. Stop the hate, people. Just live.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  8. weeellll yes.

    this is such a rare event in the "black world" you would think this church would like to have them marry there.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Alexis

      My parents were married 46 years until death; my grandparents 40 years until death; how dare you taint the image of my children with this ignorant comment so I don't know the "black world" you refer to as I have lived black all of my life in this world; if you believe what you see on TV you might be a moron (just saying you might be)

      August 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Just wow

      Wow really? that is your input to this conversation? You are proving yourself to be as racist as some of the members of this church, but I think that was your point. How do you type wearing that pointy hat and long robe?

      August 6, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  9. gaucho420

    Redecks done bad? Golly gosh, I'm so schocked, the redneck tradition is such a glorious one!

    August 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • scott bleyle

      long hair hides alot of rednecks

      August 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • lib

      This would never happen in a Black church. No it wouldn't, for those who will say differently. I know for a fact!!! Bus loads of whites come to Harlem Every Sunday just to attend Black churches and believe me, THEY ARE WELCOMED and for those who may grumble. It is only a few and they are not reconized by the majority of Blacks. Everyone is welcomed at our churches!

      August 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  10. Dan

    Why do people continue to go to church anyway?

    August 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • jrc

      Because they are not perfect human beings such as yourself

      August 6, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Timmy

      Indoctrination, fear, guilt and gulibility and to follow the heard and to see and be seen.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      That is a good question!

      August 6, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • cutedog2

      Because in spite of what you read in the news, many believe in God and desire fellowship and worshipping along side those who feel as they do. That you do not understand something doesn't make it wrong.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Because you "understand it" that doesn't make it right.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  11. ToldUso

    Not only should the pastor be fired, they should reveal those parishioners who complained so that their neighbors can see what kind of "Christians" they are.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • lib

      I agree. This apology is not sincere.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Shadow

      Absolutely! Those who told the pastor to not do it should be expelled from the membership, along with the pastor, if that's what you can call him.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  12. trex

    .....Gee, we are sorry we are...................A BUNCH OF HILLBILLY ID IOTS....................

    August 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • trex

      SORRY....................I MIS SPOKE......................a bunch of ...BAPTIST hillbilly id iots

      August 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • weeellll yes.

      yeppers....and we are sorry your sister and brother were not married when they had you.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  13. northernCA

    I bet they're sorry now that they have been exposed globally. What a weak apology too...they issued a statement but haven't had the civility to speak with them personally...share, shame, shame on the "christians" church members!

    August 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  14. Demo Joseph

    To answer 363 – you missed the point.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  15. Thinkstr8

    Why is this a suprise in Mississippi? Perhaps someday, they will be bigot free but not any time soon!

    August 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  16. mslisac363

    What was wrong with the black church? Did these people attend this white chiurch?

    August 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • veep

      Are you Serious?

      August 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Thinkstr8

      Are you from Mississippi?

      August 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm |

      You are look ing for seperate but equal?

      August 6, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • msbernardi

      Jesus accepted everyone. I would like to know what kind of Christian would deny anyone the opportunity to be married under the eyes of God. A Christian? Or, the self righteous bigots that think that they have been saved by Jesus. If you are a believer and a member of this church, you should be on your knees asking for forgiveness and then extend a personal apology to this couple as the minimum of penance.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Babs


      August 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • BFD!!


      August 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • GTA

      Do you realize that it is now 2012? It is no longer 1865. Black and white is not supposed to matter anymore.

      By asking about a 'black' church versus a 'white' church, your own prejudices (and ignorance) are revealed.

      Why don't you question why, in 2012, is it even necessary to think of things in terms of black and white?

      August 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • vere

      Te'Andrea had been attending the church for a year. Her father is a member and her uncle is the custodian. Charles had been attending for a month and they had planned to join the church after their marriage. So it wasn't a case of trying to do something unusual. Their plans had been made months before. They were told a couple of days before the wedding that they needed to find a new place. I am willing to believe that most of the church members did not know about the complaint.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  17. whyyouweremade

    Now that the church has whole heartedley extended its apology to the Te’Andrea and Charles Wilson, and anyone who may have been offended, the matter should be dropped. What has made this story newsworthy is that a church, which is supposed to practice love, demonstrated hate. Yet now that the church has publicly asked for forgiveness, (almost to the point of groveling) it has taken the appropriate step that would be required under the Bible. The ball has been thrown back in the court of Te’Andrea and Charles Wilson. One of the central tenants of the Christian faith is the concept of forgiveness, and the obligation of the Christian to forgive. I understand that the Wilsons may be new to the Christian faith, but as believers they must accept the church's apology, regardless of whether or not they think its sincere. God, not the Wilsons, is the only judge of the church's sincerity.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • veep

      Take it or Leave it?

      August 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Connor Larkin

      Southern Baptists in practice do make judgmental decisions independent and/or without God's knowledge. To wit: Bill Clinton was excommunicated by SBC leadership. Women Baptist preachers have been judged invalid and the congeegation removed from the SBC. In addition, SBC churches have been removed in Texas and North Carolina for accepting gay members. God didn't judge as far as i know, only the so-called 'de-centralized leadership in Nashville.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • T

      The Church and pastor apologized to the public, not the couple. Big difference. Coming out to the news and apologizing but not making that apology privately is a bigger insult. Thats like apologizing for getting caught.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • drakes

      So in essense, refuse first then apologise later? What where the reasons for refusing the wedding in the first place? A wedding that had been planned for many months then asked to move because some people didn't want to see what? .. a wedding..or two black people being married in their church? And you wonder why people have such a bad feeling towards all faiths that pretend to preach one thing then do the other. So you spit in someone's face then say sorry later eh? Their day is ruined..and why should they have to go to a "black"church..I thought god loved everybody and all christians were loving and fair minded?I guess not..lol. Apologize through crocodile tears, and remember the lord is watching you all, even those that dont want their fellow different coloured church goers to get married in their Church and still sing about god's love for all.
      Some more than others eh 🙂

      August 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Shadow

      Wrong. I'm judging them. The pastor is a whimp with no back bone. The members who initiated this are vile. They have not begun to apologize enough.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • forgetthis

      If the church is truly sorry about this incident, why not throw a party for the happy couple at the church? That would be proof that they really are sorry about the whole thing and want to make it up to the Wilsons.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • falcon615

      Remember the teaching Jesus gave about those who publically pray and beat their chests compared to the ones who pray silently? The public "holy" get their reward because they get the admiration of the people for how holy they are. But the one who prays quietly out of public view reaps heavenly rewards. This apology is the public showing. And if the church never approached the Wilson's then shame on them.

      Now what would be a good story is if the church approached the Wilsons, and then THE WILSONS came forward and said, the church made a mistake. That would be the Christian thing to do from all points of view– the church being sorry, the Wilsons forgiving, and then they are being extra forgiving by letting everyone know it's been fixed. The way this has happened is the reverse of the Christian forgiveness, so no, it isn't in the Wilson's court.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • mr.butters

      Except it's not really over. This is just a painful reminder that racism is still alive and well in the US. These were issues face 50+ years ago. And they are still happening. Not by some hate group, but by a recognized Church.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  18. Doc

    The pastor was a coward. He should have responded to the complainers immediately by telling them if they didn't like the wedding they should find another church to attend. End of controversy. At the very least, he should be moved to a new church. Personally, I would fire him.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Connor Larkin

      Then it would have been necessary to fire the majority of Baptist preachers.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Shadow

      I don't see a problem with firing them all if they are like that.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  19. Demo Joseph

    How much money did they have to pay YOU pastor to get the blacks out of THEIR church at the last minute. I hope it was worth it. NO SORRY now will make up for what you did and to still call yourself a man of GOD. People like you are the casue of preaching all this hate. DON't YOU know some people are fooled by anything. And for a dollar you pastors will say and do anything in the name of God. YOU got caught!! you are not sorry.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  20. Demo Joseph

    A white couple would not have to go to a white chuch. This would not have happened to them. A black minister would have married them without thinking twice.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Thinkstr8

      The first time I got married it was by a black preacher in a predominantly, black church. It was the church I attended as a child but was not curretly a member. The preacher gave us counseling and married us and there was never a hint of bigotry. The hate in this country seems to be increasing but this is old hat for Mississippi; been around for years down there!!

      August 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Connor Larkin

      Black ministers in Mass. and Uganda repectively refused to wed a white couple in Mass. and a black couple in Uganda.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:13 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.