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. carm

    They're sorry they got caught.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  2. Andsowhat

    Worldwide Christian Church is there for one purpose – To own your obedience and 10% of your salary. Period. It is a very sophisticated slavery ring. Dismantle is the only thought.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Hallie

      What is the Worldwide Christian Church? I am pretty sure that is what Jesus wanted but it didn't happen. There are like 42,000 Protestant denominations in just this country alone.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  3. Lindalou

    Their faith should have been all that mattered. It's what goes on in your head that dictates your faith, not the color of your skin.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  4. shuffler

    I've passed this story several times. I finally took a bit to read it. There is absolutely no reason to not marry a man and a woman that want to get married. This church failed it's congregation.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  5. Snow

    They are not sorry.. they are just mad that they got caught.. says a lot about their belief system in place in their minds

    August 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  6. Brenda

    This congregation is an abomination.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  7. jimzcarz

    No you're just sorry it got plastered all over the news.
    I do believe in a God..But I sure as He// don't believe in what MAN has twisted religion in to.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  8. Jimbo

    Oh the irony, they preach the lord jeebus under that roof and that place is 10x more evil than any rock concert venue that they probably view as satanic. What a bunch of sister/brother relationship manking backward stinky fat southern morons.

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

      Not for anything there is human evil and demonic evil

      August 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • shuffler

      You'll probably find many more northern folks like that than southern...... you for instance.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Hallie

      Northern folks like what?

      August 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Suzi


      August 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • buffin

      Eye once went to cee a concert feeturing Blacky Lawless, and eye dont tink the church s 10 times mohr evil, maybe 3 timez at best.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  9. bill

    It is a shame that it was the mounting pressure of public outcry rather than the love of Christ that convicted these people. The only thing that "church" is sorry for is that a bright light was cast upon their sins and ignorance for all to see. It is church's like this that give true "Christians" a bad name.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  10. Ludiwg

    Like many people who engage in this type of behavior, they are only sorry they got caught.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  11. The Bee Man

    A lot of Christians seem to think that things like Evolution are serious impediments to people accepting the Christian faith.

    Not so! The primary impediment to becoming and remaining a Christian is the behavior of those who claim to have already done so. Ghandi was reported to have said that he would become a Christian if he ever met one.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Hallie

      That Catholic Church as believed in evolution for a while now.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  12. TigerPawRaw

    "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."

    What, that's supposed to be an explanation to their heinous acts? "They're not used to seeing blacks doing things us white folks do, so that's why that happened. Sorry." Really? Oh, that clears it up for us. Thank you, Mr. Weatherford, you have really straightened this out for me. Praise Jesus!

    August 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  13. Ron

    CNN loves when the Christian church is found to be not up to par and obviously is totally fine with all of the intolerant atheist bigots who pervade this blog. However, it is deemed intolerant and bigoted to point the same finger of disgust with those who would attack us in the name of some sort of Jihad? To many liberals, this incident with this church is looked at as much worse than 9-11.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Ron is from the stinky south.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Al

      Thanks for throwing in the token "There's a war on Christianity" comment.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Josh

      If something is wrong it should be adressed, no matter who is the villian.
      Is a Christian Murderer less a muderer just because he quote´s himself a christian? seems to me that´s the sort of equation you like.
      Intolerance is always to be found in fundamentalists thinking, no matter which colour they wear. Take a look in the mirror.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • TheSpleen

      [Citation Needed]

      August 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  14. annoymyhat

    That church can ask for forgiveness, but they are all human garbage for their actions. Further, their actions may not have represented the entire church. But, the folks who stayed silent are much more cowardly than their bigoted, outspoken compatriots. If I were church-going, I would find somewhere else to worship if "my" church did this. Their true colors showed and now they want us all to forget what we saw. I'm sad that so many still really on these places to hold wedding ceremonies. There are much more typically honorable places than a church.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Karen

      Individuals have to learn, grow and change; those that sincerely did get a pass from me. At fault here is the church leadership – they're supposed to guide congregants through that sort of personal growth.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  15. Tim Jordan

    When religious organizations act like this they should lose their tax exempt status.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Suzette

      I second that.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  16. Jimbo

    POS Church and all it's affiliates, the fact that it was even the slightest issue to begin with says it all. I'm not from the south and haven't spent much time there, stories like these make the whole area just seem like a hot pit of stupidness. I'm so happy I was not raised in the stinky south.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  17. Romin2003

    I'll tell you what happened: the Feds are knocking on their doors with "mmm...we are thinking you may not deserve tax-exempt status. You may discriminate all you want but y'all paying taxes now." That's the only reason they apologized, MONEY, the only thing that matters at the end of the day for them churches.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  18. Have you no shame

    MLK said "In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"

    August 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Youie

    The church is a business.......convincing people of a man in the sky and then taking their money....these church leaders should be in jail for extortion

    August 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Hallie

      God is closer to you than water is to a fish!

      August 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • joe

      It's called an offering, totally anonimous and voluntary. Meant to pay the bills and give to other charities. That man in the sky loves you even as you mock him.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  20. Josh

    Didn´t know they were the first black couple to marry at this church. Are there no other black members in that congregation? If there are, where did those marry? And why not at "their church"? By the way, if someone asks "Why do people now come out front with this racism", and want me to take it for face value, you are insane. Take a look at the campaign of GOP´s McCain and associates in 2008 beating the Drum about an "unamerican" candidate. Take a look at all those lunatic comments beeing posted here all time since. If you still don´t get it, dream on.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:04 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.