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. Brad Olsen

    How could anyone be surprised. Right wing Christians being right wing Christians. As far as the apology, it was only made because of bad publicity.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  2. saggyroy

    As an atheist, I just sit back and laugh.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  3. Rita Gore

    Remember..Actions speak louder than words..

    August 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  4. Avi Cenna

    If the Church is really sorry for it's 'wrong decision', then let it prove that by allowing another black couple to marry there! Fair call?

    August 6, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • saggyroy

      ...or better yet, a gay black couple

      August 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Avi Cenna

      As a matter of fact, how about Afro American couples making a beeline to the offending and apologetic church to test the honesty of the apology?

      August 6, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • saggyroy

      They probably would lose thier highest paying members if they did that.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  5. J

    Racism and Discrimination is alive and well people, this is sad. What the chuch did to this couple is very deplorable and unforgivable!!! The planning of this wedding did not take place overnight, the church had plenty of time to make a decision. I didnt find the church's apology sincer this apology was an act of trying to save face value but the damage is DONE. This couple will never forget how the church RUINED there special day. Didnt think religion discriminated, guess I was wrong.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Satan

      Alive and well in the goo ole south.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  6. Humility > Pride

    Accepting that we're only humans and tend to commit mistake is the distinct difference between people who believe in God from those who lack thereof.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • saggyroy

      That's not even wrong!

      August 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • dss

      Wait so atheists think that everyone is infallible and no one ever makes mistakes?

      August 6, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • pATHEISTic

      Accepting mistake is a huge NO NO for atheists. It will not only bruised their ego but would severely injure it.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • sis


      Categorically, YES! With the fact that atheists think only for themeselves.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • saggyroy

      No bozo's, I meant that his statement is so far off it isn't even wrong.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • saggyroy

      I thought that someone might have read a science book and recognize the quote from Linus Pauling.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • sis


      Are you talking to me?

      August 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • saggyroy

      dss and path

      August 6, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • pATHEISTic

      Apparently, nobody WAS talking to you, saggy!

      August 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @dss Isn't g-od supposed to keep you from making mistakes? If Christians are making as many mistakes as non Christians, why bother praying? You're no better than anyone else.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • saggyroy

      Good. I will just keep it up then.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • saggyroy

      @Ken, Christians aren't perfect, they just expect YOU to be perfect.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Freewill

      Hi Ken,

      I would invite you to read the original post. And I hope that saggyroy would allow me to borrow his statement just for you:

      "That's not even wrong!"

      August 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  7. saggyroy

    What's the big deal? Its just xtians being xtians.

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

    The "pastor" should be fired and the doors to this church should be closed. How can this happen in this century. It shows how far behind the times some rural communities are in this country. The interview with the "Pastor" was not very convincing. He may have been embarrassed that his ignorance was uncovered, but he didn't actually seem the least bit sorry for closing the doors of the church to this couple. How can they call it a "church" with a straight face. Close it down.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  9. Ideas, Ideals,and not ideologies

    This is what I have from experience and I am trying to lay blame to the church. The vast majority of Southern Baptist congregations are run by members. The pastor is hired to lead to the liking of an active but vocal minority. That minority provides faithful financial support and some even have the church in their will. It's that minority that block the wedding. I've seen 15% of the member of a Southern Baptist church block the hiring of a choir director because their bylaws allows it. The same thing may have happened in that church in MS. Unless the churches changes those bylaws similar things will happen.
    That being said the couple should forgive and move on to another church. As a christian I feel deeply offended by what happened to this couple but I have gotten dirty looks in the middle of NYC for being on a date with a young lady of a different race. My white friend was forbidden by his parents from pursuing a relationship with a hispanic girl both from NYC and both christians. It's not a Mississippi or NYC bias it's a matter heart. As long as some people believe that they know the thoughts of God religious prejudice will not cease.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  10. jb

    Too little too late. The apology is a band-aid to mask the hate and bigotry that is alive and well among the congregation. To the congregation who sat by and passively allowed this counter to their own beliefs and value.....vote with your feet and move over to the next church.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  11. Dave

    Wow! Did I fall asleep and wake up in the 50's. "Sorry" is nice but the damage has been done.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  12. Wildone

    All his children are blessed in the sight of the Lord. Unfortunately some are more blessed than others, according to Southern Baptists. (Black folks are welcome to come to the white folks church to pray and donate to the Pastor's retirement fund, but they better remember who they are and what they are.)

    August 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  13. RobK

    Wow! It seems like the vast majority of people here cannot accept an apology. I sure hope that if you make a mistake that you are not judged by a jury of your peers. You will find no mercy.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  14. peter rice

    Decisions like the church made is what turns people away from churches. Typically racist Southern Baptist church.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  15. Bev H

    I hope this couple is as great at granting forgiveness as they are at seeking national attention for their story. Forgiveness is not something you grant because it is asked for.....It is a gift that you give to the offender – apology submitted or not – and it releases the offended individual(s) from a burden of bitterness. Authentic Christianity........Do we aim to please man or God? Therein lies the distinction.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Crazy Yates

      There is no way this is the couples fault Bev. Sorry, but even a guy as crazy as I am can't buy into that.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm |


    August 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  17. AJ

    Do not kid yourself....racism is alive and well, even in 2012. If anything good can come from this act of utter hatred, would be the unfortunate reminder that all is not well. The struggle continues!

    August 6, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  18. Crazy Yates

    It's amazing what good people will do and say when you confront their inner bigot. This church has a bigger problem that won't be fixed by issuing an apology. If you don't agree with what your church has said you simply vote with your feet and find someplace that you do agree with.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  19. PGelsman

    The couple should sue the church, and the 'church' should lose it's tax free status.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  20. cyg

    What a bunch of rednecks – worship god and spread the hate. Can we nuke the south yet?

    August 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • SADiaz

      Instead of issuing a letter of apology, why couldn't thechurch members that were against the wedding speak out for themselves? Don't issue a public letter of apology, man/woman up and apologize in public...

      August 6, 2012 at 9:17 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.