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. Calvin59

    Newsflash to "Christian" bigots: Jesus wasn't white.
    And to my money worshipping right wing Republican friends, he sure as he!! wasn't rich either

    August 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Charles

      But if you are not a church goer, why bother them to wed you?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Cindy

      Only right-wing Repuplican worship money? You. Are. An. IDIOT. That is just a blatant generalization. MORON.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  2. EPAB

    Name the members who objected to the marriage!!!

    August 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Charles

      So members of the church objected to the wedding of non-members? I think they should have asked them to be a active members first and then let them have the wedding.

      I can not get Vet Benefit by not serving the army. right?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  3. Peter Pearson

    Sorry but I am not buying it. Make amends, not press releases.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  4. Gradschooldude

    Looks like the church, the congregants, and the Pastor need to go back to Civility 101 and Remedial Christianity classes.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  5. Really

    These are the same good christian folks that condem equal rights for gays while sitting in their lofty perches from their perspective of heaven. I believe first God is against hate and second against hypocritcal christians.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      Gay marriage will happen and these bible quoting vermin will scatter as they should

      August 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Charles

      Got nothing against gay people. But the nature created human in a way where only a Ding-a-Ling-aLing and Boobity-Bi-Bo can re-produce a human life. That's nature. Isn't it?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Pete

      Gays reproduce go get an education.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      Charlie: And nowhere is there a need for a church in that equation

      August 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  6. msfaye2u

    what they are sorry for is the fact this story got nationwide coverage and their evil hearts were exposed publicly. while walking around preachin what sounds good they are living with hatred in their hearts. but then there is a lot of hate preachin in the bible so they got it honest. they probably have a sermon once a month that canaan looked at his father with lust and soooooo that is why black people are cursed and we here believe everything in the bible especially that blond haired blue eyed picture of jesus. only jesus was described as olive skin and curly hair.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Peter Pearson

      You hit the nail right on the head.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  7. justin

    I hope the racist, bigot, white-trash losers that were opposed get shamed out of that church. And shame on the pastor for letting that trash tell him what to do.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Shel777

      Amen to that!!! Another reason we should pray for the end of religion!

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

      Very Nice how folks can curse and rant and throw all of this hate around in accusing people of being racist and who knows maybe the person who refused them (probably the pastor) is posibly racist or predudice BUT this is a church and of course you would noty know this but Christians beleive in forgiveness and truely believe that Non-christians know little or nothing of true forgiveness. If Christians did not believe in forgiveness then people like Jimmy Swaggart would not be on TV today. I personally would not use someone with a background like Swaggerts as my pastor but that does not mean that I do not believe that he is forgiven of his sins. I have to believe that of a christian sins and all christians sin that all they have to do is repent in truth and turn from thier sins and God will forgive them. The fact that everybody sins make this even more important because we all have need of this forgivness and if we refuse it to others then it may be refused to us. But fighting hate with hate will only lead to more hate. The great Martin Luther King knew this and thats why he focused on peacefull ralleys for change.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Charles

      Not official members of the church?? Churches shouldn't marry non-members 'period'. It irritates me to see that people don't care to come to church, but yet try to use the church to have a fancy wedding. How about a rule, you have to attend the church for at least 3 months in order to be eligible to be wed there. Otherwise, think about a Vegas Drive Through.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  8. Athiest

    Revoke their religious charter, they should lose their tax exemption for being a bunch of racist trash.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Athiest

      And the pastor was a coward. He can't lead his flock if he's worried what they think. Should have kicked that trash out of there.


      There is no god.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Shane

      You spelled "athiest" wrong. Both times. It is atheist. As in "a-," the prefix meaning not or none. And "theist" meaning one who believes in God, or "theos" in the Greek. And I thought atheists were supposed to be the smart ones.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  9. August

    And the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs call them Christian? I don't think so.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  10. WachetAuf

    These people have not repented. These "church people" are acting only from the fear of God's eternal karma or out of fear of the kind of karma which is more temporal than eternal. When will they act of ouf the more positive elements of Jesus' message, charity and tolerance? NEVER. Why? Because they are lemmings who are "Christian" only by virtue of the accident of having been dropped from their mothers' wombs into a society whose puppett masters have deceived them into believing they are something tagged as "Christian". The only REAL repentence for these people would be for them to open their church to the "illegal aliens" who live in their community and provide them sanctuary and political support. When that happens I may begin to change my mind. I suspect that hell will freeze over before that happens.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Shel777

      You hit the nail on the head.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Jan

      the church members and pastor are not afraid of god – they are afraid of the media coverage and that the entire country will know that they are the center of racism

      August 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  11. Klancy Schmertz

    The First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs is a pretty poor example of Christianity.
    It did exactly the opposite of what Jesus teaches.
    The pastor should have stood up and held the marriage ceremony at the church, and dealt with the racists in the church later, and never breathed a word of them to the Wilsons. If he lost his job because of it, that is what Jesus calls us to do, and is expected of a leader.
    Pastor Stan Weatherford can't be expected to lead this church any more. He has proven his inability to do lead. Perhaps he can get another job at another church as associate pastor and start his way up the ladder again.
    If he ever expects to be taken credibly as a leader, rather than force the church to let him go, he should resign and begin the process of starting over himself.
    That would seem obvious to me. You?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Candace

      very well said

      August 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Jimmy

      I agree. Very well said.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  12. Joe R

    Shame on this Church...................If Non Whites are not welcome to their church.......Then God is not welcomed there..........Jesus born n Died in middle east........Thats part of Asia.......................................BROWN.......................Racist assho**.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  13. Orange Boehner

    Sounds like one 150-year-old church won't be making it much past its 151st year.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  14. Jack

    For the record I'm white. This church and members should be ashamed. This isn't the 1800's where that was common. It's wrong and always was wrong to deny a marraige for color.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  15. blam0h1

    We are deeply sorry...(sorry we got caught hehehehe)...is that mic on?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  16. Sunflower

    It's sad that those within the congregtion who are the least Christian in spirit, and have the least amount of love and compassion that Christ taught, are the very ones in control of the church. If I went to church there, I would definitely find somewhere else to worship. Those people have missed the boat on the message in the Word of God. Hopefully, at some point they will examine what evil is residing in their hearts, and clean the wax out of their ears, the shroud over their eyes and the ice from their hearts.... they are a stain on their congregation... Shame on them.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  17. Rlg

    Too little, too late!

    August 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  18. Confused

    Anyone know why this couple attended that church and had that pastor to begin with? And did I read this correctly that they had the SAME pastor perform their wedding ceremony at another church??? Why on earth would they want someone who hides racists to officiate the most important cermeony of their lives?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • memphis pete

      Perhaps they were fooled by the fact the place was called a 'church'

      August 6, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  19. Bootyfunk

    this couple should call their black family and friends and go to that church on sunday morning. fill the pews with black people and watch this turd of a pastor squirm, watch all the prejudice members of his congregation squirm. this church should be ashamed. go back to 1850, you ignorant bigots.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Which God??

      Oh ho ho, Booty, that would be funny to see. I agree, watch 'em squirm.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  20. Duh

    These church members must think that Jesus was a white, middle-aged Southern male, who hated everyone different from himself. Was that the message they took from the Gospel?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:13 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.