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. Laurence Adams

    150 yrs, and there had never been a black couple married at this half assed chruch?....sounds to me like the pastor was more concerned about keeping his job, and he was obviously intimidated from the core members of this 'so called' church. But in the "Age of Obama', nothing relative to "public seeking racism" surprises me anymore.

    This a classic example of how the bees get very irritated the more the hive is poked....thats all this is. Racists, who are terrified of CHANGE and societal progress.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  2. samy

    Sounds like Mr. Thompson needs to visit Temecula, CA, as the Baptist church here protests the building of a mosque. So much for living a Christ centered life, which by the way is advocated to even in the Quran.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  3. Augustine

    How could anyone call refusing to allow a couple to be married in a church because of their skin color a mistake?

    August 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  4. philip

    Take away their tax free status!

    August 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  5. Doug Smart

    My Dad always said, "Action and talk are two different things. Actions tell you people's true feelings. Talk is meaningless." In this case, no matter how they try to apologize, the racist action of the church to not allow a black couple to be married says it all.

    Shame on them. I would never attend a church like that.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Edwin

      I am reminded of something Gandhi said (well, I remember it from the movie... but I'd bet it is accurate). A Hindu man came up to him and confessed to murdering a Muslim. Gandhi said there was a way to redeem the man - he must find a child orphaned by the riots, and raise the child as his own... and as a Muslim.

      There is a way for the church to redeem itself. It must actively welcome new members to the congregation - reaching out to welcome them... and make sure to welcome new black members, too. More than that, its members must get involved in outreach and aid programs to blacks. If the church members can truly welcome black people, not just into their church but into their hearts and lives, then they can turn a single act of bigotry into a transformational experience for everyone.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  6. curiousdwk

    These words are sufficient according to the Southern Baptist Convention? To me, if it's just words, and no actions, it isn't worth the spit of their pastor who decided to act on the wishes of a few racists and not even disucuss this openly with the whole congregation. Why doesn't the church fire this mealy minister and maybe throw a lavish celebration party for the couple. That would be some actions that would show much more than a few simplistic words.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Charlotte

      Totally agree. The day the story broke I opined on my page that this so-called "pastor" is a coward and a traitor to Christianity and to people who actually have souls. Apparently he is not among them, nor are the godless swine racists who 'anonymously' (come on, I'm SURE he knows who they are and they're probably big donors) coerced him to cancel the ceremony. These people – pastor and congregants alike – are not worthy of wiping the shoes of this young couple who did nothing wrong.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Edwin

      Don't blame the pastor - at least not fully. He was blind-sided by the protest. The protesters told him he would lose his job if he performed the service in the original church... so he was caught in an awkward position.

      It seems nobler that he would have done it anyways, but pastors are trained to try and resolve conflict, not create it. He may well have thought that by finding them another church and performing the ceremony there, he was finding a compromise. He did the service himself, from what I recall of the story - in spite of the controversy.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  7. RealChristian

    I'm sure there are white, non-members of the church that have been married at that location before. People use policy as an excuse for racism all the time. This time, they were stupid enough to tell the truth haha. Feel sorry for the non-ignorant people that attend that church. If they continue to go there it will appear as if they are biggoted...

    August 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  8. lbdmt

    Why on earth were they attending that 'church' in the first place? And why would anyone of color live in Mississippi, the racist capital of the country???

    August 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  9. terri

    I really don't understand why there was a need to apologize. If every establishment all over the world has to act like every other establishment all over the world, and every person has to act like every other person, then the world becomes one very boring place. Customs and traditions and practices give a place "flavor", which makes visiting other places and people interesting. At the rate our society is going, future generations will study how people were before diversity was completely destroyed under the guise of equality.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      W T F? Please be specific, ...what are you trying to say?

      August 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      You need to pull your head out your AZZ.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Michael

      Thanks for sharing, Terri. It's nice to know that hate = diversity. LMAO.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • terri-ble

      Small, shallow mind and deeply ignorant ... I hope you don't live on the same side of the world that I do.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Tom

      You really are one FUB.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Me

      Exactly what "FLAVOR" is it that you are trying to defend? The only flavor i taste and smell in this story is cowardice and racism. Yes, these flavors do permeate Mississippi to its soul, but Terri most people (unlike yourself) are trying to make Mississippi a better place for everyone. I will pray for you.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Edwin

      They didn't need to apologize. They WANTED to apologize. After all, being accused of racism, bigotry and intolerance (things opposed to the teachings of Christ) looks very bad for a church - and I suspect the church members are very concerned with appearances.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • dean

      not if their culture means they get to discriminate against others. some cultures featured murder, sacrifices, ect. there is a reason we don't let these terrible parts of other cultures exist.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  10. Tom

    Christian fundamentalism at its worst–when they ask for forgiveness.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      it is the basis of their religion. I can do anything I want, as long as after I'm done I feel bad about it and ask for forgiveness.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Charlotte

      @Who Invited - no, they don't feel bad. They just make a show of pretending to. These people have no conscience or soul, they proved that already. They just think if they go through the motions then they'll be considered 'good.' Too late.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  11. Robson

    Had the situation not reached the media, there would be no apologies.Typical hypocrites and racists...

    August 6, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  12. maestra730

    As a Christian conservative, I am dismayed and embarrassed to read that First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs tried to make this couple move their wedding. Who's the pastor at that church, Archie Bunker? What a disgrace. I hope that Mr. and Mrs. Wilson had a beautiful wedding after all and enjoy many happy years together.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  13. Carl

    Typical Baptist behavior.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  14. Michael

    "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."

    Southern Baptist leadership sympathizing with racists? Color me shocked!

    This preacher is a coward for catering to the racists in his congregation and not putting them in their place, and that he has apologized to the media and not to the couple personally, and also avoided them all together, only adds insult to injury.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  15. J

    Jesus wasn't white, so I guess he wouldn't be welcome there.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  16. TD

    "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." Exactly why was this couple attending this church in the first place?

    August 6, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • True American Patriot

      I believe they were worshipping God...Hiow dare they attend a church to do that!

      August 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • terri

      I was wondering the same thing. Did they fall in love with the facility or were they intentionally trying to make waves?

      August 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • vere

      Te'Andrea had been attending church there for more than a year. Her father was a member, her uncle was a custodian. She and her husband had planned to join the church after their marriage. There had been no complaints. No one thought she and her husband should worship elsewhere. There was no sign of trouble until a couple of days before the wedding. Both families thought they were welcome there.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      i thought church is supposed to welcome people. How do you get new members then? Somebody has to go there for the first time!

      August 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  17. Serge

    @ fmfgots LOL I see you have nothing better to do with you time but to respond negatively to people's comments. It is you that has no potential. Oh and did I mention you're pathetic?

    August 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • fmfgots

      thanks, sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  18. Tom

    The Baptists are infamous for speaking out of both sides of their mouths. Biggest hypocrites alive.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Mister completely

      i always thought they talkedout the other end...

      August 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  19. bp

    Good move by the church. They get to claim they reversed themselves and apologized as if they truly regretted their bigotry, but knowing full well the couple won't get married there now no matter where. The church keeps the bigots in their congregation happy and thus has it both ways. Whoever advised the Church on this deserves the fee charged.

    “The greatness of Christianity did not lie in attempted negotiations for compromise with any similar philosophical opinions in the ancient world, but in its inexorable fanaticism in preaching and fighting for its own doctrine.” – Adolf Hitler

    August 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  20. SueTN

    This church's apology – too little, too late.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
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