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. jonp

    i thank this church for demonstrating what their religion is all about.

    August 7, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • Doug

      I thank this church for once again proving to me that the most evil force on this planet is religion..

      August 7, 2012 at 4:54 am |

    Since when God chooses colors of the skin to worship in the house of the Lord, in God eyes we all are one in flesh and blood,for me the ones that go to church they are the worst of all, just go to church to render their garment and not their heart,to be a christain u have to over look beyond,not who have a bad reputation,or was a criminal, etc., etc.,what ever a person is they do have a little soft side in their heart ,people look around u and see what is happening to the world life is too short to, so give a smile to ur enemies ,for we with nothing in our hands and will not take back nothing not ur pride ur wealth nor any thing just our good and bad to be judge by the almighty,we die and leave the world behind us, cannot take it neither .

    August 7, 2012 at 4:39 am |
  3. W.G.

    The Pastor is avoiding the couple. He sided on the side of a few bigots . He apologized to everybody but the insulted
    couple . Dr. Land a Southern Baptist leader sounds like he´s covering up for these bigots . This is just plain typical
    for Missisippi , a republican state where like all republican led states bigotry and racism are the norm and are considered
    acceptable . The apology of the " first baptist church in crystal springs " ( I use small letters on purpose) isn´t worth
    the paper it´s printed on or the breath it took to read it until Black and minority congregants are the norm and people
    of all colors getting married there are everday occurances .

    August 7, 2012 at 4:32 am |
  4. Ira Radnick

    Racist bigots. There are several reasons I turned my back on organized religion, and eventually religion in total. The "we are holier than you" mentality is a large part of what disgusted me most, followed closely by the tendency to exclude "sinners", who are allegedly the very reason for religion to exist to begin with. Of course a reformed sinner is fine, just don't soil our little party with your presence during "the great transition."

    Self serving fools and idiots, the lot of them. When will folks wake up and realize we humans created "god" in any and all forms, not the other ay around? I know the answer. As lng as we have weak minded members of a society who are willing to turn their gift of reason over to another person who supposedly are smarter or wiser than said person we will have religion – and the masses will be thusly exploited.

    August 7, 2012 at 3:25 am |
    • janelane

      where are all the chick-fil-a folks running to the side of the church who were only expressing their first amendment right?

      August 7, 2012 at 3:35 am |
    • W.G.

      Your wrong Ms. Radnick ,your salvationally wrong . This church and others like them and the people that attend them
      are sinners don´t let satan cloud your mind with his followers . There are churches out there that are doing their best
      for Jesus, sadly this church in crystal spr. isn´t one of those churches as far as the evidence shows and why many
      people are sick and tired of the southern Baptist , who everyday becomes more politically far right and less Christian .
      Find a church you can worship in a place to find salvation through Jesus . They´re out there , I´ll pray for you .

      August 7, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • Mirosal

      church: (noun) ... man-made monument to mythology

      August 7, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • sam stone

      W.G.: Perhaps people do not want or need you prayers

      August 7, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • sam stone

      you = your

      August 7, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  5. mariner v

    “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" God was not able to comment directly because he was out of town (as he always is) so he had to ask these people to speak on his behalf. Clearly they realized eventually, that their first decision goes against everything that religion is supposed to uphold, which of course makes them frauds. Lastly, probably the only actual reason that these jerks yielded is because they have been doing a torpedo dive in the court of public opinion. Who knows maybe even donations are down. It sure ain't because they found god and religion!

    August 7, 2012 at 3:24 am |
  6. Mr Perry

    i don't think is a church of Christ, they do what please them instead of please the lord, and Holy spirit too don't have place in the church, it is a dead church

    August 7, 2012 at 3:14 am |
  7. helen beaty

    How about also allowing gays to be married in your church then, since you " hold the position that we should be open to all people." Or is that going to take another 150 years to overcome??? When is the church going to simply accept all people as they are... just as Jesus did ????

    August 7, 2012 at 3:04 am |
    • PanzerJager

      Jesus was a politician from Rome and the Bible was his journal.

      August 7, 2012 at 3:15 am |
  8. Aardie

    They're just sorry they got outed as racist trash.

    August 7, 2012 at 3:00 am |
  9. Chris

    "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.

    The above statement is absolute bull. It wasn't reacting to something new. It was out and out racial intolerance and a desire to keep their church "clean" of blacks. This is one of many reasons why, as an American, the southern states utterly embarrass me.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:47 am |
  10. Skytag

    Keep stirring the pot, CNN...its the only thing that's been keeping you afloat for more than 5 years now.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • fekt

      because ignoring problems and hoping they will go away on their own is a better solution? it needed to be reported. the fact it cast this church in a bad light in the court of public opinion stems from the actions of the people involved. it is not the majority opinion in this country. just the opinion of some really loud whiners.

      August 7, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  11. Skytag

    Wow...I was wrong....I fully expected to see Soledad Obriens name on this story when I seen it on the homepage.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  12. Bob Zenuch

    let those who voted come forward and appologize individually...then maybe we can consider it sincere........these people are as sick as their secrecy.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:37 am |
  13. Pharos

    Let's see if the church members have more to say after the LAW SUIT is settled. Let's see if they have repented and learned their lesson.
    If the black couple wants, I assume they can acquire the church and turn it into a black wedding center. Let's see if the Christians at the church support it.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • Chris

      As a private organization, they are legally free to exclude and/or refuse service to anyone they desire for any reason. A lawsuit for racial discrimination would have no standing in spite of the church's disgusting behavior.

      August 7, 2012 at 2:50 am |
  14. Jim P.

    And 150 years ago, this refusal to marry black people in that church would most definitely have been "god's will" and was pretty much the expressed policy of the Southern Baptists..

    Amazing how often "god's will" gets changed under public pressure as we continue to mature as a species. Hasn't been that long since Mormons decided that same will needed some updating too about people of a certain color.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • Lars J

      Reminds me of the Mormon "revelation" that black men could now be priests, instead of the cursed children of Cain. When did their god change his mind? With the maturation of the civil rights movement in the mid 70s. The undeniable truth is clear: these gods are made in man's image.

      August 7, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • sam stone

      It does seem that morality changes, despite the contention of the faithful that it doesn't.

      August 7, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  15. GeorgeMc

    Attacking religion is misguided and completely overlooking the real problem, ...RACISM is the real problem!

    August 7, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • pfranckly

      Actually, GeorgeMc, racist (un)christians are the problem, swathing themselves in holier-than-thou, breast-beating sanctimoniousness and simultaneously spouting vitriol against minorities, women, gays, etc., etc. What ever happened to: Whatever you do to the least of mine you do unto me Matthew 25:40 ?

      August 7, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • sam stone

      The problem is the folks who feel that they speak for god.

      August 7, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  16. Timothy

    And God said thou shalt not be black... oh wait that isn't in the bible.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Aardie

      Wasn't Jesus black?

      August 7, 2012 at 3:01 am |
  17. indianazombiesquadu1

    That's why religion is killing the human race. Their hypocrisy knows as many bounds as politics does. They can't even follow what their prophet preached. What a bunch of hate mongers and flat-earth insects. And no, I'm not Atheist. Ponder that one.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • GeorgeMc

      Amazing how some people just skip over the truth. Religion is NOT the problem, ...RACISM is the problem!

      August 7, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • religion=ignorance

      I agree! Tho I AM atheist.

      August 7, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • sam stone

      racism hiding behind religion is the problem

      August 7, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Religion promotes and fosters a closed mind. Turning a blind eye to history and the overwhelming evidence… is ignoring the ‘real/ problem.

      August 7, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  18. Bootyfunk

    christianity and prejudice go hand in hand. what parts of the country are the most prejudice? the parts that are the most christian.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  19. Jeff in Oregon

    Whatever. I am sure glad these people are not part of my community. Sounds like they fit pretty well in the south. What a sad part of our nation.

    August 7, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Cindy Tyon. white southerner.

      I used to live relatively close to you. there I saw bigotry in it's splendor, aimed at Native Americans, and Hispanics. Yes the south is really bad, but we are not alone. unfortunately.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  20. Cindy Tyon. white southerner.


    August 7, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • LinCA

      Are you sure?

      August 7, 2012 at 1:52 am |
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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.