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. Jack

    Hello folks. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 8, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  2. Dee

    It's the Pastor who did not follow God's will. He listened to the Board members of the church in order to keep his job.

    August 8, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  3. Dee

    There are many BLACK churches in the United States and probably one on every corner in Mississippi. So why not get married in a BLACK church. The real deal is 95% of the people in churches are not caring honest people. They are there for social reasons. And most white people like to be with their own kind when socializing.

    August 8, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  4. Do2nT

    This couple must have experienced some financial loss in having to change the location so close to the date set for the wedding.

    Do they not have some legitimate basis to sue? It seems that, as a result of violation of their civil rights, they have incurred actual damages.

    I would love to hear from a lawyer about this.

    August 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Probably not as the church is a private organization and can be as racist as they want. If there was a signed contract of any kind then maybe they could bring a breach on contract suit.

      August 8, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  5. Dr. George Ferguson

    Pastor and Church – You did not specifically ask Te'Andrea and Charles Wilson to forgive you. You did not say something like, "Te'Andrea and Charles Wilson, we ask your forgiveness for our actions." Re-read Jesus' teaching on seeking forgiveness in Matthew 18:15-18. Galatian 6:1-2, deals with how those who are spiritual in the church should restore those who have sinned in a spirit of meekness. In the context of your situation, it is you and First Baptist who have sinned and need to be rehabilitated. Get a Christian Counselor outside the church to first seek the forgiveness of Te'Andrea and Charles then seek to restore you and First Baptist into a spiritual relationship in Christ. Your brother in Christ and the Southern Baptist Convention.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  6. atheists KEEP OUT!

    Small minority of Non-religious are atheists.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  7. Frank Mondana

    "...correct the damage that’s been done to the reputation of Christ and his church."

    I just find it very funny that those who call themselves "faithful", "religious", "pious" or any other word that describes a belief in a supreme being have a built in excuse/blame mechanism that allows them to deflect at least some of the responsibility for their actions and thoughts. Even better is when this mechanism is used for events like natural disasters.
    You've all heard a version of this –
    "The building collapsed killing 760 people. However, 3 lucky people lived. "It was a miracle that I made it out of there. God must have been watching me or God must have a plan for me."
    This God is either vindictive or has one F'ed up sense of humor. "Hey Gabriel! Come over here a minute, check this out. I just killed a bunch of humans and they can't figure out why a few lived! BWAHHHHAAA! Man, that never stops being funny..."

    OK, I'm being glib but so many faithful just can't get how it's possible for us Atheists to be happy or moral without God. That story was just an example of one of those reasons. I don't have any inner doubt about the why's and wherefore's of a supreme being and why bad things happen to good people. I know they just happen with no plan behind any of it.

    Hopefully my "life after death" comes from the memories of my family, the influence I had on my students, or maybe cracking the unifying theory of physics (YES, I am a heathen scientist!). Come on, admit it, more people can probably name more Nobel Laureates than Saints anyhow...

    August 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Patricia

      You are not one of those heathen scientists, you are one of those people that believes that science discounts the divine. It does not. It actually substantiates it for many of us.

      You have your right to believe as you see fit. Exercising our freedom of choice is so very important. I will say this about some atheists...it often seems like a few of you are trying very hard to convince yourselves of something.

      There is no unified theory. 🙂 Mystery and choosing by blind faith has been a part of the human animal from day one. No easy way out for any of us scientists.

      August 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      People may believe that science discounts the divine, but they are wrong. Science and divine revelation cannot contradict one another because God made both and truth cannot contradict truth.

      "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth."37 "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. the humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are." –
      Catechism of the Catholic Church
      Article 1 I BELIEVE
      III. The Characteristics of Faith
      Paragraph 159

      "truth cannot contradict truth"
      Pope Leo XIII
      PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS (On the Study of Holy Scripture)
      Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on 18 November 1893

      August 8, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • sam stone

      I will say this about some believers..it often seems like a few of you are trying very hard to convince yourselves of something. I suppose that is why you have churches

      August 8, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  8. neesy

    The church can't go back in time and change its actions. The pastor offered a statement of apology. What he needs to do is apologize to them in person. A wedding gift – even if just a card congratulation their union before God – would also be appreciated by the couple.

    August 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  9. Sherri

    Too little too late. I wonder why the pastor is now avoiding them. On TV he said that he wanted to marry them, but did it in a different location so as to not anger the rest of the congregation, who had said he could not do it in their church. And that if he did, he was out of a job. What's going on here? And since this church has now discriminated, shouldn't they lose their tax exempt status? Isn't discrimination, on the basis of race, against the law? So, have they not broken the law by doing this? Can they be sued, fined, or something? What good is the law if it can be broken and nothing happens?

    August 7, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Why didn't this couple join the congregation? It's obvious why they didn't after this incident, but why hadn't they BEFO
      RE they asked to be married there? The parishioners are what makes the church the body of Christ. If they wanted to be married in a religious ceremony, why didn't they want to first be part of the church whose tradition they wanted to solemnize the wedding? Many churches require at least of of the engaged couple to have been a participating member of the church and to participate in pre-marital religious instruction before marrying them. That may not be the case here, but I do wonder on these "why?"s.

      August 8, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  10. fmfgots

    why did this man marry a gorilla?

    August 7, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • sam stone

      go wander in traffic

      August 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  11. JimW

    Yet another reason to tax churches

    August 7, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Woodrow D.

      JimW...You nailed it. ALL churches should pay tax. Income tax, and especially property tax.

      August 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  12. Hypatia

    How typical teapot-perpetrate an outrageous act of discrimination, wait until after the fact and issue a lame "apologoy" and then castigate the victims for not immediately falling all over themselves to accept that lame non-apology. Xians are truly revolting!

    August 7, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  13. Alex

    How can it be that they would have been the first black couple to be married in that church's 150 years history? Really? It sounds to me that they were proud of their record. I'm thinking they probably refused to marry any other race than white! In any case it was wrong of the Church, Pastor, and anybody who knew what was going on and didn't make a stand for something as beautiful as marrying a couple in the name of God.

    August 7, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  14. Satan

    Tell your Congress-person to stick up for Biblical marriage, and ONLY Biblical marriage : (you have many options)

    ■Marriage consists of one man and one or more than one woman (Gen 4:19, 4:23, 26:34, 28:9, 29:26-30, 30:26, 31:17, 32:22, 36:2, 36:10, 37:2, Ex. 21:10, Judges 8:30, 1 Sam 1:2, 25:43, 27:3, 30:5, 30:18, 2 Sam 2:2, 3:2-5, 1 Chron 3:1-3, 4:5, 8:8, 14:3, 2 Chron 11:21, 13:21, 24:3).

    ■Nothing prevents a man from taking on concubines or se’xual slaves in addition to the wife or wives he may already have (Gen 25:6, Judges 8:31, 2 Sam 5:13, 1 Kings 11:3, 1 Chron 3:9, 2 Chron 11:21, Dan 5:2-3).

    ■A man might choose any woman he wants for his wife (Gen 6:2, Deut 21:11), provided only that she is not already another man’s wife (Lev 18:14-16, Deut. 22:30) or a relative (Lev 18:11, 20:17, Lev 20:14, Lev 18:18). The concept of a woman giving her consent to being married is not in the Bible.

    ■If a woman cannot be proven to be a virgin at the time of marriage, she shall be stoned to death (Deut 22:13-21).

    ■A ra’pist must marry his victim (Ex. 22:16, Deut. 22:28-29), unless she was already a fiancé, in which case he should be put to death if he ra’ped her in the country, but both of them killed if he ra’ped her in town (Deut. 22:23-27).

    ■If a man dies childless, his brother must marry the widow (Gen 38:6-10, Deut 25:5-10, Mark 12:19, Luke 20:28).

    ■Women must marry the man of their father’s choosing (Gen. 24:4, Josh.15:16-17, Judges 1:12-13, 12:9, 21:1, 1 Sam 17:25, 18:19, 1 Kings 2:21, 1 Chron 2:35, Jer 29:6, Dan 11:17).

    ■Women are the property of their fathers until married and the property of their husbands thereafter (Ex. 20:17, 22:17, Deut. 22:24, Mat 22:25).

    ■The value of a woman might be approximately seven years’ work (Gen 29:14-30).

    ■Inter-faith marriages are prohibited (Gen 24:3, 28:1, 28:6, Num 25:1-9, Ezra 9:12, Neh 10:30, 2 Cor 6:14).

    ■Divorce is forbidden (Deut 22:19, Matt 5:32, 19:9, Mark 10:9-12, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:2, 1 Cor 7:10-11, 7:39).

    ■It is better to not get married at all—although marriage is not a sin (Matt 19:10, I Cor 7:1, 7:27-28, 7:32-34, 7:38).

    August 7, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Roger

      Satan, you chose a good ID that matches your problem.

      2 Peter 2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:

      August 7, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Manda

      Your problem is that you are reading verses other than the ones the fundamentalists tell people to read. The Bible is a magic book, but you're not supposed to actually READ it for yourself, silly.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Satan

      But the bible is the word of god, is the buybull wrong then!?

      August 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Mike P

      1 Cor 7:2 sets the New Testament standard for marriage: "To avoid fornication, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." So the standard today is the same standard as was in Eden: 1 man and 1 woman.

      August 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Satan

      soooo the bible was wrong.

      August 7, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Satan

      Or you cherry pick parts of the OT or the NT to fit your opinions or political views. How convenient.

      August 7, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • sam stone

      Roger: Get back on your knees like a snivelling little sycophant

      August 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      There are three kinds of laws in the Old Testament: 1) moral law, 2) ceremonial law, and 3)laws specific to the political regime of the Kingdom of Israel. Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, Christ has freed us from the observance of the ceremonial laws. A Catholic is not bound to observe the laws specific to the political regime of the Kingdom of Israel. We are still bound to observe the moral law.

      Marriage is higher than a mere law. Christ elevated the natural law of marriage to a sacrament.

      "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

      The Sacrament of Matrimony cannot be changed by man. You can create whatever man-made civil law you want to. It will not be a marriage unless it contains God, a man and a woman and is for the purposed of the moral good of the spouses and is open to procreation.

      Each of the points you attempt to make with your out-of-context scripture quotations is addressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

      PARAGRAPHS 1601-1658

      This begins on http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P50.HTM and continues for the next eight pages.

      August 8, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • janey33

      Most of your "options" are taken from Old Testament Jewish ceremonial laws. They no longer apply since Jesus died on the cross. Your ignorance of the Bible is showing. Jesus said that marriage is between a man and a woman. period.

      August 8, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • midwest rail

      @ janey – for how long ? 72 hours ? 2 weeks ? 2 years ? or just as long as it is convenient ?

      August 8, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Marriage existed long before Jesus, janey. And no one is required to live by your superst itions.

      August 8, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • janey33

      The Bible is never wrong. And it is you who is cherry picking. When Jesus came and died on the cross, He did away with the old Jewish ceremonioal laws of the Old Testament. They no longer apply. Christians are followers of Jesus and adhere to His teachings and the New Testament.

      August 8, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nice deflection, janey. The question remains – how long is the marriage to last ? 72 hours ? 2 days, 2 weeks, what ?

      August 8, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Jump rogue! Leap whore! And married be forever more.

      August 8, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Of course it is. It's wrong about many things. But who cares? It's not the law and the laws here aren't based on it.

      August 8, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ midwest rail: Does that mean you are unclear about what the "till death do us part" portion of the vow means?

      From the Catechism reading assignment referenced above pay special attention to "perpetual and exclusive", "can never be dissolved", "marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable" and "They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit."

      Before you come back and start questioning divorce... read paragraphs 1649-1951.
      "Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. the spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation. the Christian community is called to help these persons live out their situation in a Christian manner and in fidelity to their marriage bond which remains indissoluble.157

      1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"158 The Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

      1651 Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons:

      They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace."

      1638 "From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament."

      1640 Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. the Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.

      August 8, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • midwest rail

      Chick-a-dee – janey was referencing the Bible. You, it appears are referencing the Catechism. In either case, do you honestly believe that all the three and four time divorced/remarried folks claiming to be Christian are actually following the stringent guidelines you enumerated ?

      August 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ midwest rail: No. Then again, I can only vouch for myself. Every person must make choices of his or her own free will and deal with the consequences of their own actions or lack thereof. The Church can only teach. We have to be humble enough to receive the message and God's graces.

      August 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  15. k flyn

    "...They’re apologizing and seeking to correct the damage that’s been done to the reputation of Christ and his church.” – Land

    That statement is my problem with their apology. It's not the damage that's been done to the people involved or to the greater body of Christ, it's reputation of the church and the people of that congregation. Should they be forgiven? Yes. Should this be forgotten? Maybe not so quickly.

    Hopefully the Wilson's will find a church that is inviting and accepting of them. Do not let a select few misguided people who are wrong speak for the whole Body of Christ.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • myklds

      You nailed it, right on the head!

      August 7, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  16. Jane Says

    Is there anyone here who doesnt think that it was pretty convenient for the church to apologize after it was already too late? IMO this apology is too little, too late. Now that the wedding has already taken place, I am sure the pastor can rest assured that they won't have to deal with this issue again because certainly a black couple won't want to get married there. There should never have been an apology because the pastor should have stood up to his congregants in the first place. Why would he cowtow to a small group of bigots? Maybe they're the ones who contribute the most money? The pastor should be incredibly ashamed of himself; his actions were cowardly, self-serving and incredibly un-Christian.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  17. not a pastor

    I think christians really get off on admitting their faults. Who can forget Jimmy Swaggerts heartfelt, tear laden, confession to the congragation that he had sinned, 'forgive me JJEESSUUSS', repeat a half dozen times.
    'We are seeking forgiveness and reconciliation wiyh the lord jesus christ' is just too easy. We forgive ourselves and won't screw up again, thats all folks, carry on.

    August 7, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Hypatia

      That's not 'religion', it's drama. And it's all done for the cameras.

      August 7, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  18. Sherley

    God please forgive them!!!!!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  19. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    This church.. and most of those in the bible belt should be ashamed. Next up…. Black churches and their hypocritical stance on gay rights.

    August 7, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Shut up, troll.

      August 7, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hardly a convincing argument.

      August 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      None needed. IYKWIMAITYD.

      August 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  20. Adjel

    Okay, first of all, why was this a "church" decision and not the decision of the pastor only? If the pastor saw nothing wrong with it (as he said), then he should have, as a Christian, married them in the church. Unless the couple getting married invited the congregation to the wedding, it should have been no one else's business, but the pastor. I just don't understand why the pastor had to tell congregants. Perhaps (I would like to think) he was happy about it being "groundbreaking" for the church and told some people? Regardless, I put the fault on the pastor, whose job is to *lead* his congregation by example. That he caved to pressure from some bigots in his church puts a shame on him that should drive him out of ministering. He failed that couple, he failed his church, and he failed to follow the teachings of Christ. I think he was afraid of losing his position in the church, which makes him a coward, as well. So what if he lost half his congregation over it? It would have been a half that wasn't Christian anyway.

    August 7, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • k flyn

      Sometimes it depends on how the church is structured and that frequently depends on the denomination. Not all denominations "run" their churches the same way so this very well could have been a "Church" decision rather than an individual pastor's decision. Regardless, I do agree with you in that it was the job of the pastor to lead by example.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:21 am |
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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.