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. San

    We haven't spoken to the minister who married us since the week of our wedding either...that's the norm and I think this couple needs to stop seeing demons in every doorway. The minister married them, against the wishes of his bigoted congregation. He made it clear that doing so, in THEIR church, would have meant his job. That's the way Baptist churches can be run. I was raised in that church. To say he was cornered would probably be an understatement. The couple needs to let it go and celebrate their new lives together.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Strand

      No..the guy needs to lose his job. Once you see your pastorship, as a job, you need to get out anyway.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • mane

      No. You need to go put on your hood!

      August 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • MzPW

      Hmmm...maybe you haven't spoken with the pastor that married you recently. Then again, did your pastor, at first, place you in a situation where your wedding may not have taken place in the church you chose because of the color of your skin? Different situations....

      August 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • TheOtherGuy

      "The couple needs to let it go and celebrate their new lives together."
      Easy for you to say, huh?

      August 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • memphis pete

      Like the other guy said, put your hood back on so you are easy to identify

      August 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • christian

      No, they need to start a law suit on the church because this is the memory of how they had to start there marriage, he is no hero, I pray that GOD opens your eyes and all in your church!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that is the problem with the south, this type of behavior is hidden, but now it is just all coming out!

      August 6, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • chris ozman

      No. Losing his job by being a true Christian IS his job!

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

      If he had any ethics he would have refused the request of his parishioners not to marry them. He is shamefull.

      August 7, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • queenbee10

      That church needs to also let it go and stop pretending to be contrite. they are the ones making public pronouncements–and since they now have a change of heart–an entire slew of African Americans should make it a point to join their church and get married there to give some credibility to their new found sense of equality.

      August 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  2. jo an

    Many Baptist Churches are ROGUE GROUPS...no core values except...DONT...SIN...HELL... go thru the back roads of the South and there is a Baptist Church in every 'hollow'....ALL you need to start a Baptist Church is a coffee pot and a grudge...surprised the ones against the Black Wedding din't take their coffee pot down the road....

    August 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  3. Strand

    Actions like this and the actions of many other churches should be quickly addressed b removing their tax status. If you aren't a church that is helping to better the community and/or its congregation...immediate tax status revocation.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Kraven

      I keep hearing this ideas of tax status and other dumb ideas. The only Taxes that could rightly be made would be property taxes and many churches pay them anyhow to help the local communities. Trying to tax giving is just stupid. so anything you give to any group would be taxed AGAIN.. Every penny you earn is alrady taxed likely at the highest rate available and then when you buy something it is taxed again. Now you are talking about taxing it again if it is given away and that is simply unamerican. To tax giving which often goes to feed and house the poor is retarded. who needs this money more the poor who go the the food banks run by churches or some senate fat cat like Harry Reid.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Look again Kraven

      Try again, Kraven. Churches are tax-exempt on income. TAX EXEMPT. That means that the income of the mega-churches that have a multi-millionaire pastor getting rich off the "faithful" pay no taxes. They take and take and take... and that's simply UnAmerican.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  4. vincent

    This must be a Conservative Church. Their cry is the black, brown, women, the gays, working folks, teachers, fire fighters, babies are dividing this Country.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • jo an

      Baptist....nuff said...

      August 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Kraven

      You make an BS argument saying that a conservative church is racist and that is a bunch of baloney Most black churches are Conservative. Why do you have black churches? Because people respond to people they can relate too better than they do otherwise. I belong to a multiculutaral church with people from many ethnicities. It is a very conservative church where god is concerned.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Hoping4VoiceOfReason

      Bigotry and prejudice are alive and well in this forum, as demonstrated by all of the prejudicial statements about southerners and conservative Christians. I am sorry for the experiences you must have had that have led you to these narrow-minded conclusions.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Voice of Reason


      I'm hoping you are carrying the name well?

      August 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  5. EVN

    Bigotry and racism is alive and well in Mississippi. The apology is far more than a day late, and a lot more than a dollar short as it seems like the change of heart may really only be half-hearted and only after the church was exposed for what it was. The "first time in the 150 year history" bit only underscores the racially exclusionary position of the church. But go seek your forgiveness from your lord – and (likely) the congregation will continue with its exclusionary ways (if for no other reason than forgiveness from the voice in the sky is amazing cheap and easy to get).

    August 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Cindy

      Bigotry and racism is alive and well – BOTH ways.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  6. nolimits3333

    Bigotry is a proud Southern tradition.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Shane

      The Southern Baptist Convention (the largest non-Catholic denomination in the US) has just elected its first Black president, Fred Luter. National Baptists and Progressive National Baptists are predominately black. This church is not representative of Baptists all across the US. Their thinking is in the minority.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  7. Robert J. Miller

    white power

    August 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • stacy

      your an idiot

      August 7, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  8. Samaritan

    @Stan Weatherford: Where's your hood???

    August 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  9. C. Cook

    Funny how the "church" wasn't sorry about this until it became national news.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  10. Jim40

    If they let one black couple marry in the church the next thing you know other black couples want to get married over there too. It won't be long before it gets filled with ghetto thrash and regular church members will have to find another church to attend. The church members just had to do a preemptive strike to protect the future of the church.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Tracy

      Pretty classy there, Skippy.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Strand

      Yes Jim..outside of your racist marks.God knows we wouldn't want a church to cater to all of its congregation. No, the only weird thing I see about this church is the fact that anyone including the newly weds, would attend it.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • jo an

      I hope the 'heaven' you are dreaming of has Blacks in different compartments...or do you have other information??

      August 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • GEW

      Prejudice Pig

      August 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Sherman Miller

      What is THRASH? Can't you spell your own last name, JIM40 TRASH

      August 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • MzPW

      Won't be long before the church gets filled with ghetto trash? Seems like a church that would turn away a couple based upon the color of their skin has already filled their trash quota....

      August 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      Gosh, Jimmy, Jeebus would be so proud of you. Don't forget to wash your hood before Sunday

      August 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • danny jeter

      ..was that white ghetto.. or a black ghetto there Skippy? I am assuming you live in a white ghetto from your lack of humanity.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • JT

      Then the next thing you know people will be marrying animals....oh wait...you all save that one for the gays.....

      August 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • memphis pete

      You are the reason I left organized religion long ago. On one hand to claim to be Christian, on the other you don't want to worship with people you don't deem your equal. What Would the Real Jesus Do? I tell you what he'd do. He would kick you out of His Church, that's for sure.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Hoping4VoiceOfReason

      Did anyone else not catch the fact that this couple were not members of this church?

      August 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • stacy

      you don,t protect your church you love all members people visting you never know what it took for that person to get to the place where they needed to here the word of god. church should open its doors to everyone with open arms. The problem is people can,t seperate religion and the poltics. Tim maybe you should go to a church that is not in your comfort zone. Learn something people are all the same love your brother not the small bubble you live in.

      August 7, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Netti Davis

      The diameter of your brain must be an amazing 1/2 inch.

      September 1, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  11. RobK

    I imagine that a lot of folks here live in glass houses. To forgive is divine.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  12. Mo

    Easier to ask for forgiveness...If they had done this earlier, it would have provoked a community uprising and shone a bright, hot, light on the racists in that church. The way they did this was to evade the outrage and keep their racist members from becoming targets and community pressure becoming so intense that they HAD to perform the ceremony in that church. Nice try, but the apology rings hollow.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  13. Martin

    Glad to see that bigotry is still thriving in Mississippi!

    August 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Samaritan


    August 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  15. wayne

    Jesus must be rolling over in his Grave about now.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Huebert

      The irony of this statement is absolutely amazing.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • John

      Ah, Christians..gotta love 'em...do we, really?. Hey! Ain;t that what their good book says. I guess Jesus was just talkiing about white people.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Tracy

      Lol Huebert

      August 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • 1 Saint

      You my good peron are an idiot.............

      August 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  16. Christine

    I wish the Wisons all the happiness married life has to offer. As for the church members responsible to stopping their wedding ceremony, they should still have their hoods figuratively removed, and be required to come forward.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  17. Um...no

    So they are sorry for being racists? We're sorry they are racist also.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  18. Samaritan


    August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  19. Calidip

    Huh, I didn't know Jesus Christ was a card carrying member of the KKK.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  20. R Burns

    "Many church members were unaware of the decision to refuse to marry the couple and reacted with surprise to the news." Isn't this an issue that should have been decided by a vote of the congregation, or at least the governing board? I can't imagine a legitimate church organization that would practice this type of policy-making without the proper channels, and certainly not at the last minute with a gut reaction pulling of the rug out from under the feet of good people. Christian? Maybe in name only. . .

    August 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Rob-Texas

      I am not sure Babtist churches work that way, congregational votes.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
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