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. longtooth

    You can always count on Mississippi to help keep us in the dark past of the American South. The Christian folks who felt so strongly about this wedding should be given a chance to explain their feelings. Without the KKK hoods.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  2. Observer

    What did the church do wrong? They were just showing belief in the mentality of the Bible's support of slavery.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  3. Priscilla

    Of course they're sorry now–the whole country knows about their ways.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  4. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Next up…. Black churches and their hypocritical stance on gay rights.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Typical right wing nut, changing the subject. The fact here is this particular church did not marry a black couple because some affluent members are biggots. Evidently these members pay more and have the ear of the pastor. Why don't you just focus on one issue at a time?

      August 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Actually.. I’m a left leaning independent. I’m sorry you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time… but that’s your issue not mine.

      August 7, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  5. charlie

    Amazing how so many "religious" people are such hypocrites.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • CG

      1 Timothy 4:1-5

      August 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • fred

      Thanks !
      1Timothy 4:5 "If you point these things out to the brothers you will be a good miinister of Christ Jesus."

      August 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  6. Rey Irizarry

    Maybe it was a message from God the to Hendesrsons and Wilsons to have their most sacred moment sacred moment of their lives away from those empty harted and hypocritical members of that " church" . maybe He did not wanted that beutiful moment to take place in such a tomb.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • jp

      No. It was not a "sign from God." It was a bunch of stupid, ignorant bigots who wanted to follow the twisted, hypocritical tradition of hate, all in the name of religion.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  7. Paul

    This "church" should lose their tax exemption for good!
    Heathen Baptist freaks

    August 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  8. content_pessimest

    why do black women have fat baboon looking necks?

    August 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Observer

      Why do ignorant people use blog names that they can't even spell correctly?

      August 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  9. lunchbreaker

    I'm just glad the society has made it uncomfortable for people to be openly racist. The people who complained called the pastor anonymously. Apparently their convictions (of racism) are not strong enoughfor them to endure persecution or they actually know they are wrong and don't care.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  10. content_pessimest

    Black women are the ugliest of all women, especially this one.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Dark and Lovely

      If you are woman, you must be sore from losing your man to a black woman. And if you are a man, you must be very sore from being turned down by so many black women. Go figure!

      August 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • xila

      beauty is in the eye of the beholder, also beauty is subjective

      August 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @Dark and Lovely
      You're not helping.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  11. Jessica

    Take away their tax exemption ASAP !!!!
    The "pastor" (and i use that term lightly) should be re-assigned to a state that is not so racist.
    The 'church' should be used as a homeless shelter.
    The names of the people who were so racist should be made public so they can't spread their hate.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  12. AtlantaCatholic

    Hit 'em where it hurts....YANK THAT CHURCH'S TAX EXEMPTION, then they'll really "come to Jesus" or die!

    August 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  13. Mister Jones

    "... We are seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with our Lord Jesus Christ ..." Really? This had to make national news before you realized that it was wrong? But now you are asking for forgiveness, so it's all good? No harm, no foul, right?

    August 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  14. jespo

    Bite me and go back to your hateful ways.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  15. Mindy

    No one should go to this church ever what they did was at its core unchristian race does not matter in the eyes of god only your deeds in life satan has a nice toasty spot for you people you can take your sorry and shove it where the sun dont shine!

    August 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  16. hey

    They're still racist. They just don't want people to think they are.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      They should take a lesson from the Mormons about inclusiveness and publish a few statements like the LDS has.
      "I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Neg.ro. Dar.kies are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church."
      – Joseph Fielding Smith

      August 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  17. Beeman

    "Chrstians", "Mississippi". Replace those with "brain washed" and "ignorant" and it's easy to understand why this happened.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  18. bxgrrl

    A day late and a dollar short. Someone send that church a current calendar so they can know this isn't the 1950's anymore.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • fsjunkie

      More likely that the church was "sorry" for the bad press. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt, (at best) the Christian guilt and fear factor kicked in and they don't want to go to Hell. The heart doesn't lie, people. You had your chance to do your good works. Now it's clearly contrived.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  19. Dave Anders

    The pastor was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. He decided against the outsiders. I wonder if they ever got married and if they ever actually wanted to get married- considering the outrageous money paid by CNN and others for anti-white interviews.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You think CNN bribed people to give "anti-white" statements?
      I think your tin-foil hat might need some minor adjustements.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • paulmsn

      Dave Anders, you realize that you are completely insane, don't you?

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

      Folks, what you're looking at here is a real live red-blooded all-American bigot. "Anti-white interviews"? Yeah. Uh-huh. White supremacist much?

      This guy exemplifies the type of thinking that leads to racially-motivated incidents such as the Sikh temple shooting, perpetrated by yet another real live all-American bigot.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • jp

      How were they "outsiders," you nit? They were members of that church!

      August 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  20. CG

    Where did this policy of not recognizing blacks or gays come from? It wasn't there in early Christianity.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Of course they recognize them.
      Recognize them as lesser human being worthy of eternal torment.
      Nothing says "Baptist" like condemning others from a fiery pulpit.

      August 6, 2012 at 3:58 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.