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. Mike

    Ironically, Baptists have always believed in white supremacy because white conservaties vote Republican, yet blacks are predominantly Baptist, but they tip the scale in the Baptist church because blacks tend to vote Democratic.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  2. lilsfgal

    Too little too late...I'd bet a fiver they wouldn't have apologized had this not made it all over the internet.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • PG in NC

      Agreed. This came straight from the top. The hurt and insult inflicted on that couple cannot be erased by a press release. This is the ugly face of bigotry by a group of holier-than-thous. Reminds me of another civil rights struggle going on at the hands of righteous Christians who hide behind the Bible and call themselves saved. Right.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  3. Berman

    Sending out a press release is about the most pathetic "apology" I've ever heard of.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  4. Augustine

    As a black man, I can't help but wonder what it must be like to work with some of the members of this church.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Alan

      As a white man who loves God, I can't either.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  5. elvinmerij

    Most people in Mississippi are probably good people. Sadly, the events of their lives never make the news. After all, how can that sell advertising in the media?

    August 6, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Alan

      But just because "most People" are good people does not excuse the leadership of this church. What era are they living in down in Mississippi?
      The Jesus I knew would weep at the actions of this group. How hateful and racist. Now the entire Southern Baptist denomination will be demonized because of this as is evidenced by some posts on here.
      If the pastor, the shepherd, knew this was wrong then he should have stood up to whoever made this stupid, racist, backward decision.

      August 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  6. SickOfSpin

    "The incident "didn't represent all the people of the church," said Thompson"

    Yes, it did.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • fmfgots

      how do you know it did?

      August 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  7. Dzerres

    Christians are revealing their true nature every day – especially since the election of Barack Obama. And don't tell me "well, not all Christians", or "they don't represent us". Yes they represent YOU. YOU are letting this happen in Jesus' name – just the Westboro Baptist Church fiasco – where are the "christian" churches protesting those Christians?

    August 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Jim

      Christians are based on the teaching of Christ not on what called "Christians" do, and the teachings of Christ are against discrimination, against sin; this discrimination is sin. Dezerres doesn't know anything about Christ Jesus.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  8. EricaAlexander

    I cant wait for the "Lifetime Movie" to come out.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • fmfgots

      bring back mogilla gorilla, wont you buy her take her home and try her, gorilla for sale!!!!!!!

      August 6, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  9. Rebekah

    So shameful and very, very sad

    August 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  10. The Hillbilly

    Typical Mississippi.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  11. Dilip Samuels

    TEA Party bigots, right wing Christian fundamentalists who claim to be Christians...should be ashamed of themselves

    This is not Christianity....this is bigotry in action ...the pastor leading this congregation of religious bigots

    August 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • fmfgots

      how can they claim to be christians when you acknowledge they are christians, don't you mean right wing fundamentalist?

      August 6, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  12. zagloba

    Got to love the Christians! The Nazis were devoutly Christian too!

    August 6, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  13. ReligiousGuy

    If the church is open for their marriage, why not get them married again and this time in that church by the same pastor? That I guess is the only way to prove that they are not against black marriages.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  14. Dana

    The pastor is a coward of the worst kind, one hypocritical to truly Christian beliefs. If the the congregation is genuinely sorry, they will fire that pastor, hire a tolerant one, and try to rebuild the church's good reputation. Even better, the church should oust the ignoramuses who convinced the pastor to nix an in-church wedding. On the balance, the refusal to marry the black couple probably did a lot to show the necessity of countering the ever-present menace of racism.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • alleygator

      If you've followed the story, you'd know that the pastor wanted them to marry in the church, but a sizable portion of the congregation did not, so the pastor married them in another church.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  15. TheOtherGuy

    How shameful! Only in the deep south, right?
    The church's decision is not a reflection of the entire congregation, huh?
    So I take it y'all gonna attend a different church starting THIS Sunday, right?

    August 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  16. Thomas

    Nothing like bad PR to bring out apologies. Too little Too late and I don't believe a word of it.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • ReligiousGuy

      @Thomas: They can turn it around by getting them married in that Church. Let the couple have a second marriage, but this time within that Church and by that pastor....or better still get a new pastor.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • IndyMike

      I'm not buying it, either. The pastor should be fired. He and the like-minded bigots can start their very own whites-only church.
      If the pastor had stood up to the bigots, this would have been a non-issue. He failed big-time and he needs to go. If he had any principles, he would have resigned before caving in to the racists.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • fmfgots

      and make sure it's a black pastor, maybe jesse or sharpton. btw, why haven't they jumped all over this by now?

      August 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  17. Me


    August 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  18. alleygator

    Really doesn't matter if they apologize or not. they showed us who they are, and it ain't got nuthin' to do with God or Jesus.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  19. ME II

    Funny, I got a similar question the last time I went to a predominately tall church.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  20. wowmoment

    Just goes to show you that racism will ALWAYS exist...no matter how much progress we make. Why they wanted to attend a predominately white church in the beginning puzzles me.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • anon

      Why not? Should churches be segregated by color?

      August 6, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • oscar r

      you are part of the problem

      August 6, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      If there is only one G-od. Should it matter.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:40 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.