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Mississippi Church Refuses To Marry Black Couple

A Baptist Church in Mississippi is finding itself the focus of controversy for refusing to marry an African-American couple:

A Jackson couple had their wedding rehearsal last week, two days before their scheduled big day at the Crystal Springs church where they were planning to get married.

But the couple’s dream of exchanging vows in the church they had been attending was dashed when the church pastor relayed to them that some members had complained about the black couple getting married in the predominantly white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson said it was devastating having to move their wedding to another church only days before the July 21 wedding.

Insiders say five or six members went to the Rev. Stan Weatherford after seeing the couple’s wedding rehearsal the Thursday night before their Saturday wedding.

The church pastor said he was surprised by the reaction of some church members.

“I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church, and I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’Andrea. I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day,” Weatherford told WLBT-Channel 3.

Charles Wilson said it was a huge disappointment that he and his wife couldn’t get married at the church they attended because of the color of their skin.

“I feel like it was blatant racial discrimination,” Wilson said Friday.

The 150-year-old church hasn’t had any black couples married there in modern times. Weatherford married the couple but moved the ceremony to a nearby church.

Some people still haven’t put the past behind them, it seems

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Murray says:

    That some “parishioners” complained is shameful and the pastor’s reaction is even worse.

    The “I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church…” excuse to move the wedding is completely lame. Why not tell the plaintiffs to find another parish?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  2. alanstorm says:

    Interesting. If you read the article, it states nowhere that the couple was denied BECAUSE they were black. Could be so, but the omission is notable. I rather doubt it, however, as the article states that the wife and her family have been part of the church for a while. One would think that any racial issues would have surfaced before now, but there’s no mention of these either.

    Of course, if it happens to be the case, the usual suspects will point to this one instance and condemn all of society for it.

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  3. Ron Beasley says:

    The church should lose it’s tax exempt status.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    The very next two grafs of the underlying article are as follows:

    Wilson said he had been attending the church for about a month and his now wife had been attending for more than a year. His wife’s father also attended the church, and her uncle was custodian at the church.

    “Prior to this, I had been telling people how nice they were here,” Wilson said. “It makes you re-evaluate things. We were doing everything right. We wanted to get married.”

    So, the woman’s uncle was a church custodian, the woman’s father in law attended the church, the woman had been a long-term attendee, and the groom also attended the church, apparently without incident, but then suddenly a few members of the congregation not only went full racist but they also managed to persuade the pastor not to marry them there, because they’re black. Hmm. And the only quote from the pastor himself does not mention race, only some vague and ambiguous reference to a “controversy” is cited.

    Sorry, folks, but color me skeptical about this story. Granted, it could have been and perhaps was because of race. But there are too many other possibilities blindly to accept as gospel that race was the proximate cause of what happened here.

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  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Oops, the “woman’s father” attended the church, that is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. DRS says:

    This article has been out there for a few days, and one of the blogs I found is addressing it:

    http://sbcvoices.com/shameful-public-racism-in-an-sbc-church-a-test-case-for-racial-reconciliation/

    This blog is the Southern Baptist Conference’s and they’re discussing this issue. Note that none of the commenters – many of whom are themselves pastors and/or ministers – challenges the ClarionLedger’s account and all seem to find the story totally plausible, based on their personal experiences and current observations. But they’re also blowing a collective headpipe that it happened at all and there’s a refreshing tone of “For the love of *bleep*, this is 2012 already – how much longer is it going to take?!?!”

    I’m not a fan of the southern evangelical tradition and tend to view them through a jaundiced eye but I was quite pleasantly surprised at how seriously they’re taking this and the suggestions they’re making for dealing with it. And if Pastor Weatherford thinks he’s getting free diet Cokes at the next SBC conference, he’s in for a surprise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. DRS says:

    I’m not sure why you think it’s unlikely, TN. It’s quite possible that the couple attended the church and met many quite nice people who had no problem with them being there and holding a wedding there. The pastor says it was only 5 or 6 people who objected. (And why did they happen to be there on a weekday evening when the rehearsal was going on?) He shifted the venue so as not to create a controversy – like that worked really well.

    The church’s Facebook page’s comments section (which I don’t have the link to but which I saw from another blog) is full of comments from other parishioners furiously denouncing what happened and declaring that the pastor isn’t speaking for them. Seems to me the pastor had a wet noodle for a spine and caved to a minimal amount of pressure. Could be the same small group of individuals have been busy resenting blacks in the parish for a long time and felt that while attending service was okay that holding a private celebration was Just Too Much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. al-Ameda says:

    “I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church, and I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’Andrea. I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day,” Weatherford told WLBT-Channel 3.

    So he (Reverend Weatherford) caved in to those slime who objected to holding the wedding in that church?

    Great moral choice selection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. rudderpedals says:

    Is the pastor’s name Cathy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. jd says:

    Later in the article:

    The denomination has been trying to expand its appeal beyond its traditional white Southern base.

    Seems to be going swell so far!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    You have assumed a racist congregation for that church is necessary for this to have happened, but that is not the case.

    Saw the pics of the church on CNN last night, and it’s an impressive building, with what appears to be an attached wing, almost certainly a school. That’s an expensive facility to maintain, and it’s unlikely they get enough from the collection plate. Not many church’s do, actually.

    It’s quite common for church’s to depend on just a few big donors. They are more likely than not to be elderly people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Carson says:

    Our pastors have, over the years, denied marriage to couples for various reasons. The most common reason is that couples will show up and want to use the church for a “prop” and have a church wedding, which around here is the only choice for most couples (unless they want to be a social outcast, most people around here dare not marry any where but a church, with all the trappings and ceremonial aspects. These are people who have no relationship or membership with the church other than their uncle used to be a member here thirty years ago or something like that. Often, one person is a Christian and the other isn’t and the pastor is certainly justified and in their rights to deny marriage in that situation. So there are many reasons a pastor could deny a church wedding to even a church member and it not involve race. This in no way could effect or violate the tax exempt status of a church, since this is a religious ceremony.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  13. DRS says:

    @Carson:

    The most common reason is that couples will show up and want to use the church for a “prop” and have a church wedding… These are people who have no relationship or membership with the church other than their uncle used to be a member here thirty years ago or something like that.

    That wasn’t the case here. The pastor would certainly not have allowed the wedding rehearsal to take place in the church two days before the ceremony if it were.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. Armando Echeverry says:

    When I heard the report that baptist church refused to marry a black couple, brought anger and disappointment. There are many people who call themselves Christians, even pastors who preach every Sunday. But these people are so far from living a gospel centered life. A pastor’s responsibility is to mentor and guide his flock. This pastor should be ashamed that like Judas he sold out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. Carson says:

    @Ron Beasley: Tax exempt status of churches is not dependent on the religious practices or particular beliefs of the church. By professional status, a pastor is free to approve or deny any couple the Christian rite of marriage, as they are any other rite – in some cases subject to the standards of the church and/or denomination. Other rites could include baptism, confirmation, anullment, and others. The pastor is bound by certain rules concerning confidentiality and cannot discuss any counseling sessions’ details with others. A church I was associated with once had some sort of “crisis” involving misbehavior of a very popular associate pastor. The pastor was dismissed, and to protect his family, no reasons were given to the congregation. Many members were upset by this and left, but the board had pledged confidentiality and to this day, no one knows why but them. In most churches, the pastor and board (council, deacons, elders, etc) meet and approve or disapprove the request for marriage, in most cases the will of the pastor prevails. This case is peculiar in that the pastor seemed to be ok with the wedding until some members came to him with their concerns. In which case, the pastor should have taken the concerns to the church leaders. Some churches do let non-members have a wedding at their church, usually charging some sort of rental fees. Our church did not do that, but did rent out the fellowship hall for receptions and parties, provided it was cleaned up and absolutely no alcoholic beverages were served. The issue of tax exempt status never came up during my time on the board. We had to sign a yearly form with the county that the church was still being used as a church, but that was merely a formality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. Trumwill says:

    Right now, we’re trying to convince the country that we should allow gays to marry. We are arguing that gay marriage actually poses no threat to those that are uncomfortable with homosexuality. We are trying to assuage fears that gay marriage will end with the Catholic Church having to marry gays against its beliefs.

    You know what’s a really bad idea right now?

    Even suggesting the possibility of removing tax-exempt status of churches who are not marrying the people that we believe they ought to be marrying.

    Condemn them all. Condemn the pastor. Condemn those that influenced the pastor. Condemn the SBC. They deserve it.

    But threatening them is really not a good idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  17. Jason M says:

    @alanstorm: @alanstorm: It was in earlier stories there has never been a weeding by African Americans in this specific church and some parishioners forbide it from happening going so far as to tell the Pastor if he did they would seek to have him removed.

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  18. CB says:

    @alanstorm: Who are “the usual suspects”?

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  19. CB says:

    @Dazedandconfused: So by your logic if I make a big donation to my church, I now have the authority to say who can and cannot hold their wedding at my church. In that case, where does this end? “I don’t like (insert name/color/gender/orientation etc. here), do something about it or kiss my donations goodbye” I don’t want to attend a church like that. Do you?

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