ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
JACKSON, Miss. -- A Mississippi couple say the church where they planned to get married turned them away because they are black.
Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson said they had set the date and mailed invitations, but the day before their wedding they said they got bad news from the pastor of the 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 a local television station 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," Mr. Weatherford said.
He 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," Mr. Weatherford said.
The television station reported that church officials now say they welcome any race and 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 said most of the congregation knew nothing about.
"This is a small, small group of people who made a terrible decision," Ms. Kitchens said. "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."
Charles Wilson said, "I blame the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, I blame those members who knew and call themselves Christians and didn't stand up."
Mr. Wilson told the newspaper that he understands that Mr. 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 did not want the couple to marry in the church.
The Rev. Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, said, "It's not reflective of the spirit of the Lord and Mississippi Baptists. It's just a step backward. … It's a sad thing."