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. 1amazed2u

    How sad it is that the church would not perform the wedding ceremony..........." I propose a toast to the newly married couple." "May you have a wonderful and blessed life together ".

    August 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  2. dave

    It is their church, they should have the right to refuse service to anyone. If my church ever condones g ay marriage I will certainly leave it behind.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Rick1948

      That's the point. They let this couple attend there and were more than happy to collect their donations; then, said they couldn't marry there.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the prototypical contemporary faux Christian. Well done, Dave.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • laurie

      wow..you are what is scary in our world

      August 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • oralisM

      Of course they have that right, dave. But it's the right to display moral cowardice and to contradict the most significant things Christians claim to believe in.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • JK

      And I would leave you behind. BIGOT!!

      August 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • CosmicC

      You're proud to be a bigot. It makes me ashamed to be in the same gene pool.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Sneaky boy

      Spoken like a TRUE Christian!!

      August 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Nadarasa Oastadjee


      You are "legally" correct. But there is a humane side for anything we do/see/believe in. One can say that racism is bad and one might not show his racist side while being a true racist. But that does not mean that racism is a good thing beyond the "legal barrier" when it's buried inside one's heart.

      These things will take many more generations for American's to get rid of their hearts and minds. Americans must understand what love is all about and they must learn it from other nations. You cannot just teach the snitch overnight. It needs real education – not just the formal education.

      – N (eight times I was gun-point robbed in NYC within 2 years)

      August 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • chris

      I hope christians understand the basics, as in, the church is not an inanimate object, but a very organic one, meaning that the church is the people not the building, and belongs to no organization, even though it may seem that way above the surface. That being said, the church did have every right to do what they did. Right or wrong, that is something decided by the Head pastor,and.directed and verified through the leadership The couple should have known that and strived to become part of the church, before desiring to get married there. To me it's seems that the leadership misunderstood their role, and have been repremended for it, hence this statement; genuine or scripted, my guess is scripted, never the less, the heaad pastor needs to lead their flock properly and execute proper leadership, or this will continue, in the public eye.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  3. Rick1948

    I'd like to say this is because it was in Mississippi, but it's really how Christians are in general. If you aren't exactly like them, they think there must be something wrong with you.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • tony

      No tax breaks for collection plates. Begging isn't tax emempt.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • maniacmudd

      WE ALL BUNDLE......

      August 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  4. Carol Anderson "Bibs"

    Apologies were definitely in order ....to the couple and mostly to God. But, it's a dirty shame NONE of the church members, including the pastor who "walked away" when he saw them, were so lacking in guts to do it in person. Very much like a little kid, isn't it?

    August 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  5. madmax

    The most religious christians are the most bigoted it seems

    August 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  6. Sue H

    Since when can Jesus' reputation be damaged? But the church's reputation could be and was damaged. Bet the Southern Baptists threatened to pull the church's charter. This is not forgiveable. This is the 21st Century, folks. Get over your white selves and marry a Black couple. I am white and I think this is the lowest of the low. They probably told the couple since they were not members, the church was not obligated to marry them. If they had given a big, fat contribution, this would not have been an issue.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • dave

      this isnt nearly the lowest of the low. It is a verey small deal, blown out of proportion as usual. everyone claims to be a victim.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • CosmicC

      I may not be a Christian, but I'm pretty sure that the basic concept is that anything can be forgiven for the truely repentant

      August 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Bill


      This is a big deal because it's pure racism coming from a church. A church is suppose to be a safe haven for everyone and this church clearly has shown it's only interested in money.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  7. Nova

    "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," ?????? What a sad excuse to cover one's racism. Gore Vidal once said, "racism...it's as American as apple pie. There's nothing you can do about it." Shame on these people. No amount of spin can cover what you are. Guess there record remains untarnished.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  8. Karen T

    The congregation only apologized because they have garnered national attention. If this had been allowed to slide under the radar then the church would have felt vindicated and they would have continued to force "blacks" to marry elsewhere. I hope the driving force in this church is replaced ASAP. They are not sorry nor will they ever be.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Nadarasa Oastadjee

      100% agreed. Made in America and still happening in America.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Diane

      Personally, I think the 'Church' in question – or their leadership – is afraid that their lack of humanity might spawn a 'domestic terrorist attack' on them. When are we, as a people, going to realize that we are all connected to God and no matter what path we take to get back 'home', it's okay – as long as we do no harm on the way!

      August 6, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • You seemed to be extremely misguided

      Chick-fil-a was even threatened not to be issued w/ business permit by some (pro-gay) states, aside from outrage of gay community and its supporters. So allow me to ask you one question, did Chick-fil-A ask apology.

      No, it's a matter of knowing and accepting right or wrong. Media has nothing to do with it. The article about it that was published last July has not even reached 1,000 comments.

      Please go back to your senses.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  9. Hoping4VoiceOfReason

    God's Word says that we (Christians) are not be respecters of persons – Thankful that in my family, my generation has broken the cycle of prejudice. That being said, there is often more to the story than our media publishes, since they love to sensationalize these types of situations. Many large churches (in fact, all large and small churches I have been a member of) only allow church members to use their facilities for weddings. A wedding is a sacred event and I believe churches should have the right to restrict use of their facilities for those that have become members and have agreed to abide by the principals of the church. One church I know did not have such a guideline in place and allowed a non-member group to use their facility for a wedding. The church was a very conservative congregation and did not condone drinking or dancing. This wedding party threw an all-out bash that included alcohol and dancing and they essentially trashed the church. You can bet that the church very quickly changed their policy to only allow allow members to rent the church facilities for weddings. If the motive for denying this couple was really the color of their skin, then God have mercy on those in this group that were responsible for that decision. However, we should all be careful about judging when the only facts we have are what our media wants us to hear.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      Weddings are NOT sacred events. They are civil and it is only those who marry that CHOOSE to add a religious component. Marriages have happened long before any of the current religions got involved.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Hoping4VoiceOfReason

      Sorry, I should have qualified. For most Christians, marriage is sacred / holy. If one does not believe it is sacred or holy, I would question why they desire to hold their wedding in a church. Lots of other choices.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      I was married in an Air Force church, by an Air Force officer who's denomination I did not know, nor cared to know. The US taxpayers paid for the church to be built and as such, it was a free place to hold the ceremony that was large enough to accomodate those who wished to attend. The ceremony was not religious in any way, and was performed by a man who had the civil authority to provide such a service. I DID have to point out that the officer in charge of the facility was not able to deny me this though, which sparked some debate, but the base commander ORDERED him to comply with the civil ceremony.

      The marriage has lasted longer than any of my "christian" friends.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Try reading again. The pastor said that race was why he asked them to move the ceremony.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • laura

      the article said they were planning on having the wedding there for months but they were told at the last minute they had to marry elsewhere. if they had a policy against marrying people who are not members, they should have told them earlier in the planning process.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  10. max

    Sounds like they’re starting to lose $$ in the offering plate … they are not a church. they are a KLAN clubhouse

    August 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  11. clarke

    Well this church should be ashamed. What a terrible sinful thing to do to people. so very christian NOT.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  12. Craig

    While it's nice they apologized to the couple, what they really need to do is apologize to that guy in the Bible, the guy whose teachings supposedly guide the church and its members. I like almost everything Jesus had to say, but I can't say the same thing for his fan club!

    When the "Christian" church gets back to following the model that Jesus left for them then the whole world will be a better place, with a lot less hatred and bigotry and a lot more "taking care of each other and loving each other without judgement.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • clarke

      Well said, thank you.

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

      that "guy" is about as real as batman, so no apology necessary. the feelings of fictional characters can never be hurt.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Kona

      Well, teachings are open to interpretation and one has to remember the Southern Baptist Convention was sympathetic to slave owners in the South, hence their break with Northern Baptists (abolitionists). Jefferson Davis believed that God sanctioned slavery and this was echoed from the pulpits of Southern churches all the way into the 20th century. So, while they may be apologetic about this incident, the church's record remains unscathed as far as marrying African-American couples is concerned.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Jasmine Lindros

      The Bible DOES condone slavery. It contains instructions on how to treat your slave, how hard you may beat him (or her), how you should treat Hebrew slaves different from non-Hebrew slaves, etc. You Christians really need to read the Bible sometime, it may make you think twice about worshiping a child-killer.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Splinter48708

      Respectfully...Open your mind and heart. Thomas, in the Bible, refused to believe that Christ has risen. So, Jesus obliged him. Once Thomas had acknowledged the truth, Jesus said, "You believe because you see. Blessed are those who believe without seeing."

      OK, before you flame me and attack me for my opinion, just consider something. You know that gravity exists, even though you do not see it. You have faith that because of gravity that you will not float off into space. Why is it hard for you to acknowledge that Jesus does exist? We know that Batman is a figment of Bob Kane's mind, as the Hulk is from Stan Lee.

      But, Jesus was witnessed by the population at that time. He was written about by no less than four people. Luke was the only one that was not a direct disciple, but, he did a lot of research for a man of that time period and with the tools at his disposal. Matthew, Mark and John were apostles of Christ, so was Paul. Paul was a bigger hater of Christ than most people and it took a personal visit to change his mind.

      Faith is a matter of the heart, not the mind. Even if you don't subscribe to this, then, the Bible is nothing more than a history book to you and God's promises mean nothing to you. I pray that you will open your heart because what God promises to believers...He also makes promises to those who do not believe. I have chosen the promises for the believer.

      Can you look at the Bible with an open mind and open heart or would you throw it away out of spite and denial?

      August 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  13. Realist

    I look forward to the day when we see an article like this wherein the Church Apologizes for refusing to marry a gay couple.. It's sad to me that any discrimination/hate exists, or that it's still fully legal to discriminate against gay people in most states in the US. It's even more sad to me how many black people are anti-gay. What a screwed up world.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Motty

      No reply

      August 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Motty

      My reply was censored because I said gay was sinful.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Motty, No, your reply was not censored because you said anything was 'sinful'.

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-nthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-oters…as in sho-oters
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-oon… as in sp-oon, lamp-oon, harp-oon
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sm-ut…..as in transm-utation
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).

      August 6, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  14. shesmetooport

    The headline should have read "Church Sorry Its Racism Became National News."

    Really, do you honestly think that if this had not been broadcast all over that they would have had any contrition? I don't. And I think that they are still a pack of sorry racists who the 21st century left behind.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  15. Mark Yelka

    It is easy to call this situation racist or bad or just plain ugly. But, if this story of discrimination were about gays wanting to get married, it'd be a very different story. Discrimination, no matter how you try to excuse it is ugly and just plain wrong.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • laurie


      August 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  16. Eyebrowsraised

    f"or turning away the young couple." If the groom in this "couple" is considered young – then I must not be so old and tired.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  17. thompsom

    Racists! No matter how much the most of US citizens depart from this ugly thing of the past, there are some elements acting in a manner that tend to ridicule the progress made already.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      have you noticed that prejudice is strongest in the parts of our country that are most religious? coincidence? i don't think so.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • dave

      Why are you so certain this is progress? This melting pot was filled with immigrants that would assimilate into our society. These days everyone wants to be secular in every facet of their life. Our diversity is now tearing our society apart.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @Bootyfunk: Have you noticed that the vast majority of atheists are white males?

      August 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      exactly where did that statistic come from? be specific or S T F U

      August 6, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • CosmicC

      If the majority of atheists are white males, that can be traced to the disproportionate level of higher education we white males receive.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "have you noticed that prejudice is strongest in the parts of our country that are most religious? coincidence? i don't think so."

      You may be on to something. A recent study found that there is strong correlation between conservative views, low intelligence and prejudice.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  18. robyte

    Forgiveness comes from God and only God the Wilsons have nothing to forgive , if they prefere to hate then let it be and that will destroy a person faster than they will ever know !

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

      forgiveness comes from your fellow man/woman. there's no such thing as god.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • CosmicC

      There are these wonderful things called punctuation marks. You should look into the proper way to use them some time.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Fallacy Alert: Bootyfunk: "there's no such thing as god."

      'Argument from ignorance' fallacy.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  19. bander9

    I would have told them all "Go Fuk Yourselves". What would Jesus Do? The Devil would have married them, he like divorces, which 50% of christian marriages in end. He's alive and well in the pulpit, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, The Fallen Angel, Beelzebub, The Deceiver!

    August 6, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Sue H

      what are you smoking?

      August 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  20. Bootyfunk

    i hope that couple gathers all their black friends and family and goes to that church on a sunday morning. they should fill the pews and stare at that disgusting pastor. love to see how uncomfortable him and the prejudice members of his congregation are with all those 'darkies' around.

    yank their tax exempt status - it's reserved for those helping the community, not dividing it.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Craig

      Actually the pastor did what he could, finding another building and still performing the marriage. His flock, however, isn't "Christian" in any way I can recognize by reading the teachings of Jesus.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • deutsche001

      The tax exempt status needs to be removed from all churches; not just this one. Churches are supposed to help the needy, widowed and orphaned. Last time I checked my tax dollar taking care of that.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Nadarasa Oastadjee

      I am wondering how many concubines the pastor has!!! Does he draw a good salary from the church? He should not be there and he should not be about – he himself is an idiot. He should lick the dust from the feet of this couple, period.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
About this blog

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.