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. Bresson

    Sounds like they're just sorry it made the national news...

    August 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Jimh77

      Exactly right. If not for hitting the main stream media, those that opposed this marriage wouold still be putting this pastor where he is today. Worthless. Sorry guy, you preach the word of the lord, you preach the truth, even to those who may impart extra monies to your church for you to keep open. If this is the case, you need new sheep and throw away the vile. And trust in Your Lord to provide your church with the funds to cntinue. You shouold throw out all of those that opposed this marriage in YOUR CHURCH. You are the leader, not the follower. Stand your ground big guy. Be firm. Trust in your Lord.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      This is a republic, we don't have lords.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  2. Lisa

    Little late now you racist POS!!

    August 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  3. raised catholic

    the more i discover my christian heritage, i see that the failure of the church to teach its people about God. It seems their whole purpose for being is mind control. I do my best to believe but every time i turn around our great christian society shows me how little christians listen to their pastors. Even if it were not unchristian not to allow the wedding, it certainly was uncivil and unamerican. The ancients were able to leave their gods in the dust, maybe its time for us to reconsider deitified mind control and move on. I don't believe religeous instutions should be tax exempt, they are all about money.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  4. JL Taylor

    The USA is still the greatest hope for mankind and remains the light of the world. God has blessed our
    country in many ways. The best of us will overcome the worst of us as we grow into a more perfect union.
    The South will not rise again.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Well why do about 90% of the world hate America? The best thing America can do is take a non-interventionist policy.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  5. brothersulayman

    The pastor's apology is useless. He wanted to do the marriage, but his congregation threatened to vote him out if he did. He should not be the one apologizing, but the people in his community who threatened him should.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  6. Peter


    August 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  7. Christie Ley

    I wonder, if this incident hadn't gone viral in the press would there have been an apology. I doubt it.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  8. Jimh77

    Well, So now you have a change in heart. Too late, you who refused to grant this marriage in the church you attend are still racist. End of story. You have some major repentance to deal with, and it will take years for your penance. A simple sorry, does not cut it. You racist need to change your ways. Maybe a lobomy is in order. I know a great doctor to set you free.
    Call me, I'll set you up.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • edweird69

      When I grew up, it was shocking for the general public to see a b/w couple. It took years and years for that stupidity to finally end. You would think in this world of violence, hate, greed, seeing 2 people happy together would warm the hearts of any decent human being.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  9. thefrumpeter

    responsible and necessary, and too little to late. If I were them, I would change religions, I wouldn't want to be associated with hypo....oh wait, that means you'd have to abandon religion entirely...IMAGINE!

    August 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  10. gwen

    probably big money givers and that turned the pastors head... shameful... he needs to be transferred and take a course in Christianity and 'what would Jesus do' before he does take on another assignment.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  11. Gabe

    This church needs to lose it's tax exempt status for a year.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      More like all churches forever.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  12. Lee

    So a simply apology is supposed to somehow make this racism ok? I don't understand how any black could possibly go to that church again and feel a part of it. It's really sad to know that racism is still a part of the Baptist Church. I left it many many years ago after my minister said that blacks and whites should be segregated. That was around 1960 or so. Seems some things never change. Shame on that church and shame on the Baptist Church for not coming down hard on the minister.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • edweird69

      "the New Testament prohibits being unequally yoked. Therefore, people of different races shouldn't marry." That was the stance back in the day.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Jacky

      These tea party racists only worship guns and chikfila then pervert the meaning of Christ like behavior.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • edweird69

      @Jacky – yep... I'm with ya. Anyone telling 2 human, adult beings, that they cannot marry, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, make me sick with their judgmental hypocricy. 80% of Americans claim to be Xtian, yet the divorce rate is 50%. Looks like hypocricy to me.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  13. Jeff McCoy

    The Pastor represents the Church.He is the leader. He runs it the way he wants and no one can make him do otherwise. He is solely responsible for what happened. He doesn't represent what the Bible teaches. And if I were a member, I would find another Church immediatly.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  14. Nate Higgers

    Why are these groids going to churches and getting married, anyway? I had always thought that being religious required possessing a soul.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Spider pig

      So you are obviously not married. How is life in the trailer park?

      August 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • socabron

      Nice name, by the way

      August 6, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  15. Eugene

    I agree. This pastor needs to be fired, period! He didn't have the courage to stand up to his racist members. I know my pastor would have stood up and would have brought it to the attention of the whole church. This pastor is weak and if he was strong he would have stood up. Unfortunately, most members will be weak and continue to go. True Christians will demand strength from their pastor. This one should go.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Lee

      I suspect he didn't stand up to his racist members because he's racist himself.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  16. Mayla

    I'm confused. Isn't it the job of the minister to MINISTER? Is he not there to convey the word of god to the congregation? Since when does the congregation minister their hatred unto the minister and the church? Names should be named. I agree with another poster, stick to your values if that's what you truly believe and show your face.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  17. Nate Higgers

    You people amaze me....knowing what we currently know about africans, and their lack of civil behavior, and their inability to live to the standards of civilized human beings, you actually want to not only defend the creatures, but want to live amongst them?Along with your children? My my, how the feeble brain can be so easily manipulated. Fifty years ago, human beings in America at least had some kind of notion of right and wrong. Well, enjoy your n!ggers, your failing property values, and your skyrocketed crime rates, along with all of the r@pes, robberies, murders, etc.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • ToldUso

      I hope you're merely a troll. The alternative is that you're an ignorant, subhuman mo ron who shouldn't breed, not even with your first cousin.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • tallulah13

      He's a troll. Poor thing has to act this way to get anyone to actually interact with him/her. I'd pity him/her, if they weren't so darned unlikeable.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Nate Higgers

      100% serious. N!ggers are NOT human, they should not be allowed to live amongst civilized human beings. Even animals live a more worthwhile life than n!ggers attempt to do.
      I cannot believe that the media and the government have actually fooled American people into believing n!ggers are human, and "just like us".

      August 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Whatever, troll boy. Don't you think it's time you moved out of your mother's basement?

      August 6, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Huh?

      Wade Michael Page, is that you? So, how's the Devil treating you down there? What's that, he's torturing you? Good to know. 😀

      August 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Rogue351

      Is this the only way you can get attention ? Pathetic

      August 6, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Normal Southerner

      Repent son, before you burn in hell.

      August 7, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  18. AaronT3

    I believe in God, but can do without all of these hate filled religions... How awful to speak to people at church, worship with them, go to the church outings, yet be told you can't get married there. How can these same people that have smiled in your face hold such vile hatred towards you because of skin color? They are probably the same group that's sending money to George Zimmerman as a thank you for killing a black kid.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  19. Beth

    The pastor dropped the ball big time. He should have stood up to the bigots. He indicated he was afraid of losing his job. He should have had the guts to get fired if that was what it took. He would have had a badge of courage and been hired elsewhere easily and not had the negative press. How could he not think this would get into the national media in this day and age? If I were a member of that church I'd quit and go elsewhere. That church should close in my opinion.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  20. jay

    stupid pastor, it's his fault this even happened. They need to fire him.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Nate Higgers

      Decades ago, a man standing up for what is right, and what he believes in, would be called a real man, a hero.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:57 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.