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.”
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Not sure what brand of Christianity this is. What they are doing in this church does not fit the definition that I know. I think they serve another "god". The pastor was afraid to stand up to this group who apparently was running things at the risk of losing his job. He should have faced them down as this is not a place he should want to pastor.
The church did not apologize because "God was working in their hearts." They apologized because they got caught. Don't be fooled. The church along with most of christianity is full of bigots.
to late, burn the church down
IUjock1974 said it perfectly. Control of the population is easier through religion as well as legal. And it lucrative. Need money? Open a church and cater to the those with the deepest pockets!
Setting a precedent for this church, this couple deserved the works, just like the white people this minister is used to SERVING. I'm a Mississippian, and this treatment cannot be tolerated wherever it is found.
Well, Well Well...
Everyone is up in arms about Black's not getting married in a church huh?
Perhaps the Black's and Gay's need to join hands and put a stop to discrimination.
ummm its bigot minded phoney christans like u that decent christans are fighting. Andy.
Andy Daily,fake phoney so called christian!
No such thing as decent Christians anymore. All you want to do is control the rest of us using your faith. Please don't tell us how to live our lives. If people decide to reject your faith don't get mad and persecute them. Our country needs to be careful, with more and more religious influences in our government I can see an American Taliban forming someday.
This building is not a church nor will it ever be and the man that stands in the pulpit is just a man with an empty heart and God can not be fooled.
How about, "We will not tolerate this type of behavior and we have fired our pastor" ?
Nope! That is a bad comment. And, you are Not Very Nice.
Ye are anything but saints!
PEACE LOVE AND HAIR GREASE... THAT'S RU-PAUL!!
Your a db Paul.
Dr. Land, God has not been working on the hearts of those church members. They are apologizing because they are taking heat from the public, no other reason.
It's to late to say your sorry.
Stupid is as Stupid Does.
This is not an apology!! It is damage control spin. I guess this church will keep the racists in the congregation "happy" through it's actions, and hopes to keep the rest of us "happy" by pretending to be sorry.
Didn't know thing kinda things still happening in America.
Why would a religion care what race people are? Is there something in the bible, or whatever fairy dust book the faithful use, that says that their god cares what color a person's skin is?
Religion is such a destructive force in and of itself. Put in the hands of simple, scared, and ignorant people religion becomes a tool to divide.
RELIGION DOES CARE BUT JESUS DOESN'T!!
You are correct, this story is too sad not to try and stir the conversations about it. I hope all of you have a safe evening and try not to cause yourself illness because of this story. These types of incidents come out more often now than erver due to the media and will increase over time. It does not mean it is happening more often just the public is made more aware of it happening. hopefully, this will be the start of a decline in these types of incidents. BTW, my family is multi-racial white, blacks and hispanics and we actually sit around during some holidays ribbing each other and having a laugh together. GOD BLESS!
they look so moist together...lol!!
No longer qualifies as a 'church.' Full of hateful, spiteful, selfish bigots.
Those POS are only sorry because they got caught. Make no mistake about it. Bigotry of all types is alive and well in this country...and mostly in the name of religion.
The news is getting too depressing.
I doubt the hypocritical apology will prevent the forthcoming lawsuit, and I hope it drains the church's sinful coffers dry!
I would have kicked out those who opposed this marriage in their Church!