Church refuses to marry black couple

The pastor of First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Miss., says he was caught off guard when some members objected to a wedding in the church because the couple is black.

By Bob Allen

A Mississippi couple claims they were not allowed to get married in the Southern Baptist church they attend because they are black.

According to WLBT television in Jackson, Miss., Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson had already printed and sent out invitations to their wedding at First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs when their pastor called with some bad news.

"The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church and that if he went on to marry her, then they would vote him out the church," Charles Wilson told the NBC affiliate.

Pastor Stan Weatherford said he was caught by surprise by what he called a small minority opposed to a black wedding. He said he was prepared to go ahead and do the ceremony at First Baptist like he had agreed to do but instead moved it to a different church because he didn’t want the couple’s wedding day to be marred by controversy.

The Wilsons are not members of the church but reportedly attend regularly. The Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church founded in 1883 is predominantly white, but says it is open to all races. Church leaders are reportedly holding internal meetings to discuss how to move forward should the issue come up again.

The Southern Baptist Convention, founded in 1845 by supporters of slavery, has worked in recent years to shed the racial baggage of its past and reach out to more people of color. At the convention’s 150th anniversary in 1995 a resolution apologized to African-Americans for past sins including widespread support for segregation. This year the nation’s second-largest faith group made history by electing its first-ever black president, Pastor Fred Luter of New Orleans.