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. rlj

    Do they really think that people will say Oh they apologized, so everything is ok? We all know those people are still the same people today as they were the day they turned the couple away.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  2. Ewb2001

    This is damage control. Their lawyer wants this fake apology to mitigate the civil claim for damages. I hope they sue the hate right off that church!

    August 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • DaVinci64

      Definitely damage control. After the fact it is easy to say, "oh, we should not have done it that way." You can't un-ring a rung bell.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  3. Pam R.

    Easy to say now after the event. Racist nuts. They should have thought about 'Their The Lord Jesus Christ' before barring these people from having their wedding at the Church.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Jay

      Churches are a waste. No surprise that stuff like this still happens. I remember as a kid sitting in church listening to the pastor preaching about how the nation was filled with blacks, Mexicans, etc., qu**rs (yes, he said that from the pulpit!!), and that women had 2 roles: on their backs making or having babies, or in the kitchen. I cannot stand to hear a church's opinion of anything, and I whole-heartedly believe they should ALL be stripped of their tax-exempt status.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  4. sid viscious

    Someone should burn that church to the ground. We don't need these people in America.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • blf83

      Violence, physical or psychological, does no good for any side of the issue.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  5. blf83

    I'm sorry that they can still be called a church. Their tax-exempt status should be revoked and the church closed for its racism. Unfortunately many Baptist churches operate as individual fiefdoms with little to answer to on a regional or national level.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  6. Dann

    How many of the people outraged by this article went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch to show their support?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • rlj

      Chick who?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  7. Kraven

    I am totally sure that the congregation did not know about this marrage denial until after the denial so to lump up everyone who sits in apew because a leader or two made abad decision is just stupid of course The bible says that people who are not of christ will not recognize or beleive the words as in "
    2 Corinthians 4:4
    The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

    So being mind blind makes the unbelievers think that they are so smart as the reason in their own little minds and try to out reason God. But to so would mean to refute each verse of the bible and every time they try to do this they find that they cannot or they end up becomeing believers themselves due to their own research while reading the bible

    August 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • rlj

      "Their pastor, Stan Weatherford, made the request on behalf of some congregants who didn't want to see the couple married there"
      Read the story before you get "completely sure" of anything.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  8. rich

    Good ol' religion...the bastion of tolerance (sarcasm)

    August 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  9. Bootyfunk

    funny that the most prejudice places in our country are also the most christian. coincidence?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • blf83

      I wouldn't call the action Christian in any way; perhaps "religious" would be more apt.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Bob

      Amen brother

      August 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bill

      The Pope is the definition of Christianity.

      The Catholic church is hardly the only Christian church to hate and discriminate against gays.

      As the major Christian churches all preach the same hate messages, saying such hate & discrimination is not Christian, is simply incorrect.

      Since the beginning of the religion, Christianity, and its followers, have thrived on hatred of others.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • rlj

      God is only as good as the people who createdd Him

      August 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  10. angeleyes

    If you don't like your Church come to mine! There are about 500 members and half of them are black, We have mixed race families chinese, hispanic, you name it. All are welcome with love and caring. This is the way it should be.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  11. Jez

    Ain't religion great?! Praise da Lord!

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

      Religion had nothing to do with the racist actions of this particular church.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      religion gives people the impression that they speak for god

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

      religion has a great deal to do with it. the bible is full of xenophobic remarks.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • hooah

      You're wrong to state Religion has nothing to do with it. KKK feels their beliefs and their actions are consistant with god's words.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  12. Dennis

    We are so sorry. Yeah sure you are. Sorry you got caught, sorry this received national attention, sorry that your church got exposed as the racist congregation and spineless pastor that you are. Yep you are sorry just admit it.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  13. Alziolko

    The people in the church who were against the wedding and prompted the minister should be asked to leave. They don't belong in a church. The minister doesn't belong ministering, either. If he couldn't convince members of his congregation to act like Christians, he isn't very effective.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • thx113874

      Well, if the church really seeks to bring those who are lost into the light of Truth, these people shouldn't be expelled from the church at all. In fact, they should be given a chance to atone for their small mindedness and prove some degree of contrition to the excluded couple and to the community at large. At least, that's how religion is SUPPOSED to work. That IS what Jesus would do...if you're into the whole Jesus thing.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  14. us_1776

    I guess MIssissippi is still stuck in the 1950's.


    August 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Stereotyping a whole state is as mindless as stereotyping a whole race. Open mind before opening mouth.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • cbc

      And Wisconsin is the center of domestic terrorism.

      The actions of one (or several) people don't define a state or region. Get a clue.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  15. JECD

    What an embarrassment. Sometimes I'm ashamed of my fellow americans.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • rlj

      Ignorant and fearful people are everywhere – thankfully they are a small minority in most places, as in America.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. bern dog

    I would like to see the faces of these racists when they face God on judgment day and find out that God is black

    August 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Dennis

      And is actually a woman who, by the way, is also gay.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • blf83

      Amen to both Barn Dog and Dennis!

      August 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  17. Peter

    If I ever found out my church didn't marry a couple because of their skin color I would find another church immediately and I would most definitely would call the Bishop and report my church.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  18. Shel777

    LOL, Duh! Yes, Jesus was a white, Southern Baptist LOL

    August 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  19. Sylvia

    Members of the congregation who are truly religious, should not attend this "place of worship" anymore. The philosophy of this church is totally against EVERY teaching in the Bible. Our Lord Jesus Christ died for us (i.e. every human being regardless of race or religion), so we will be saved. Who are these bigots who think they are "superior" to other people – they are everything that a Christian should NOT be.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Shel777

      Excellent, Sylvia! I can't find anything my Bible that excludes any race.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • anon


      August 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  20. Anomic Office Drone

    Religion is a Trojan Horse. They get you in the door with the peaceful teachings of Jesus Christ (or whoever the central figure in the religion may be) and before long they're telling you who to hate.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
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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.