JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi couple says the church where they planned to get married turned them away because they are black.
Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson say they had set the date and mailed invitations, but the day before their wedding they say they got bad news from the pastor of predominantly white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs: Some members of the church complained about the black couple having a wedding there.
The Wilsons, who live in nearby Jackson, said they attend the church regularly although they are not members.
Pastor Stan Weatherford told WLBT TV he was surprised when a small number of church members opposed holding the wedding at the church.
"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," said Weatherford.
Weatherford performed the July 21 ceremony at another church.
"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," said Weatherford.
WLBT reported that church officials now say they welcome any race. They plan to hold internal meetings on how to move forward.
Church member Casey Kitchens said she and other members of the congregation are outraged by the church's refusal to marry a black couple, a decision she says most of the congregation knew nothing about.
"This is a small, small group of people who made a terrible decision," Kitchens told The Clarion-Ledger. "I'm just ashamed right now that my church would do that. I can't fathom why. How unfair. How unjust. It's just wrong."
"I blame the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, I blame those members who knew and call themselves Christians and didn't stand up," said Charles Wilson.
Wilson told the newspaper that he understands Weatherford was caught in a difficult position and he still likes the pastor, but he also thinks the pastor should have stood up to the members who didn't want the couple to marry in the church.
"It's not reflective of the spirit of the Lord and Mississippi Baptists," the Mississippi Baptist Convention executive director, the Rev. Jim Futral, said. "It's just a step backward. … It's a sad thing."