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. J.W

    It is too late for this church. The end of days is coming, and God's wrath will come upon them. This couple were actually angels sent from heaven to witness God's church from the inside, and what he saw angered him.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Two abbreviated words for you.

      Psych. Eval.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • J.W

      Those abbreviations could stand for anything. How am I supposed to know what to do based on those abbreviations?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Sorry dude, the end times were supposed to be 2,000 years ago.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Wow, if you really don't know what those are abbreviations for, then you may be beyond help.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • J.W

      But you are a secular humanist, and I am a human, so you should want to help me.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Who says I'm a humanist?

      August 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • J.W

      If you aren't a humanist what are you? A plantist? An animalist? A fungusist?

      August 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Why must there be a single label? Wouldn't it be much more accurate to say that I'm me, that my views are my own, and if you wan't to know a specific take, then it would be most prudent to merely ask?

      August 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  2. Sam

    Our Christ gave us a command – "Abide in my love by loving eachother". Church, you might want to evaluate how you are following this command.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Sam, do you think Christian Churches should marry same se x couples?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  3. Why_Bother

    I am sorry they can call themselves a church.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  4. str8vision

    To little to late, the world witnessed your "true" inner nature and intent as did God. Ironic that Christians "picture" Jesus as a lily white, English appearing man. If he were to return today in his true former image the church and its followers would discriminate against him as well because of his middle-east heritage....and appearance. Christians do not follow the teachings of Christ but instead worship man's corporate church and it's skewed, self developed, self-serving ideology. They turned the message of love into hate, respect into oppression and tolerance into judgmental racism. May as well be worshipping corn flakes as far as judgment day is concerned, I now understand why the Bible states so very few souls will see heaven. But perhaps God has a REALLY good sense of humor or at least a very, very forgiving nature......

    August 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Solitairedog

      Corn Flakes! Excellent description of these yokels. Worshippers of corn flakes.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  5. blondie

    Who cares. Who's surprised? It's christianity at it's finest. Sick sick sick.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Ron

      Blondie, don't dare make a sweeping generalization like that over every Christian. By that statement, you reveal your own ignorance. I am saddened about this happening, especially in today's society, however, in many ways, I am not surprised. The Bible says that judgment will first begin in the church. The church needs to do more than repent and the pastor needs to own up to his own mistakes. The sad part is that many pastors do this when they are taken to task on something. However, to point your finger at Christianity as a whole is absurd. How would you like it if I said every non-Christian is as ignorant as you seem to be?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  6. Andsowhat

    Great – Everything is now OK, and we should all clap hands and move forward right? Except the blacks of course who will (and should) boycott this supposed place of worship – I would rather call it Klan-Land

    August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Solitairedog

      Yeah, I don't buy the apology at all. They didn't apologize to the victims of their bigotry, the couple, so what is that "apology" by the temporary bowing and cowtowing of a cowardly bunch of white supremist ignoramouses to the pressure of the media? Bogus.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  7. Peter


    religion has a great deal to do with it. the bible is full of xenophobic remarks.
    What authority you have to intrepret the Bible?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Huebert

      I thought the Bible, being the word of god, did not require interpretation.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      That's only if the individual agrees with it. If they don't it's fair game.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Hallie

      I am pretty sure 2 Peter 1:20-21 says private interpretation is wrong.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      What's your point? I have yet to find a believer that doesn't pick and choose what they follow in the bible.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Hallie

      Maybe you shouldn't hang around protestants so much.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      So you're saying that you don't cherry pick the bible at all?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  8. Debbie

    Apology not accepted......they are only apologizing because they made the news......

    August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  9. PR

    It's Mississippi, what do you expect? The place is still as backward, ignorant and bigoted as its always been...

    August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • cbc

      Unlike, say, Wisconsin?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  10. nonyabidnes2

    Seems like membership a requirement for marriage? Apparently,religon has influenced those individuals...

    August 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  11. Logic n LA

    When they said ther were sorry, was it for being narrow minded bigots standing behind Christianity?
    The old phrase= you can't put the ketchup back in the bottle holds true.
    This church showed its prejudice and no apolgoy can change that.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  12. rob

    The congregation should tear down their church, then rebuild it. The pastor should sit in the pews where he can be taught, he has no business standing in front of anyone teaching them anything. Disgusting.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Andsowhat

      I agree – This Klan Paradise must be torn down and a multi-faith facility should be built instead.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  13. Sly

    That is one White Republican church that should be Burned to the Ground.

    Torch them KKK Nazi's.

    Only a matter of time before these SkinHeads in that church commit more terrorist acts like 9/11.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  14. Doc Vestibule

    Racist Southern Baptists? Say it ain't so!
    It's not like the religion was founded because their Northern Baptist brothers found slave holding to be contrary to the teachings of Christ and refused to allow racist missionaries...

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

      Right? Who would have thought that religion would ever be associated with intolerance?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The mind boggles at the very thought.
      Christians especially are taught to love everyone and would never do something like burn crosses on someone's lawn, kill doctors who perform abortions or deny basic civil rights to minorities.
      Especially Southern Baptists. Next someone is going to try and tell me that Mormonism is rife with racism.
      Neither Joe Smith nor Brigham Yound would ever have taught Mormon children that black people are the descendents of Cain and thus are inferior to white people.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  15. z

    There is ONLY one race, the Human Race. But 2 spirits, with or against the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob. We're suppose to reflect upon our amazing, gracious, and merciful Savior. The church is the body of Christ a community of people and NOT the building. If this community does not understand that ONE Spirit under God is the same Spirit. Then, yes, you shouldn't get involve with such a shameful so-called follower of Christ. There are tons of sheep in wolf clothing. Congratulations on the wedding, may the Lord our God, bless you!

    August 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  16. tim young

    Saints pray for the members of that church because the decisions made in that church not to marry that couple shows that the church is not being led by the Holy Spirit of GOD. Pray for the pastor that the Lord can help him lead the church in the way that is pleasing to the LORD.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  17. Free Thinker

    Bigotry still lives on in America. "We are accepting of everyone....as long as they are middle class, white and christian...."

    August 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  18. weike2010

    The incident "didn't represent all the people of the church," said Thompson,

    ...but obviously this incident clearly represents the people who DO COUNT in that Church...

    Racist tendencies all seemed to be on the decline....at least "hidden". But recently, it's
    almost as if people now think it's okay to be racist/do racist things so openly without shame.

    Why is that?

    August 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  19. pat

    I thought it was going to say they were refused in 1962 or something like that, not last july!

    August 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  20. MajeztyRene'

    Best believe it's NOT just Mississippi thats racists. They're all over.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:47 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.