Wedding Banned at a Southern Baptist Church in Mississippi

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Galatians 3:28 (NASB)

Wedding Bands

UPDATE on August 6, 2012:  Miss. church apologizes for barring wedding

Just when the Southern Baptist Convention appears to have taken a giant step forward into the 21st century by electing its first ever black president, it seems there are 'cooperating' churches in the SBC that still have a long way to go. Take a look…

As you can likely imagine, this story has gone viral.  Just Google 'black couple' and 'marriage' and see what pops up.  Here is how the mainstream media is reporting on this discriminatory action. 

Black couple says racism forced wedding relocation

Wedding Banned:  Black Couple Told They Can't Marry in Baptist Church

White Church Bans Black Couple From Getting Married

There has been tremendous outrage within the Southern Baptist Convention with leaders speaking out against the church. ABC News did a piece called Mississippi Church That Refused to Wed Black Couple Criticized by Baptist Leaders

The article states:

"Southern Baptist leaders on Monday urged a Mississippi church that refused to wed a black couple to reject racial discrimination… After outrage mounted locally and the Wilsons' story went viral online over the weekend, officials at the Mississippi Baptist Convention chastised the Crystal Springs church for its refusal to marry the pair.

"Our entire country, and especially here in Mississippi, has been on a long journey for right racial relationships," said Mississippi Baptist Convention Board executive director Jim Futral in a statement…

Since its founding in 1883, the church, in a Jackson suburb of about 5,000 people, has never been the site of a black wedding. Pastor Stan Weatherford said congregants felt so strongly that the Wilsons' wedding should not be the first that he feared he would lose his job if he went forward with the ceremony as planned. Instead, Weatherford, who is white, performed the marriage at a black church down the road."

The Orlando Sentinel headlined the debacle this way:  Black Eye for Southern Baptist's First Black President

Here is an excerpt from The Orlando Sentinel:

"NBC News reporter Louis Casiano has the embarrassing story of the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention having to deal with a Southern Baptist pastor who refused to marry a black couple in his church:

The leader and first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention said Monday that a Mississippi church’s decision to not marry a black couple “is unfortunate” and “an isolated incident from which pastors can learn.”

The Rev. Fred Luter told the Baptist Press, the official newspaper of the SBC, the church’s decision should be not be seen as representing the church’s position.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but we’ve got to learn from it, and be able to go on and do what God has called us to do,” Luter told the BP…

The Wilsons attended the church regularly but were not members.

“What we can learn from it is that we need to talk to our membership about issues,” Luter said in the interview published Monday. “I think if the pastor would have talked to more members about this … when this situation occurred … it probably would not have happened the way it happened.”

The paper reported most of the churchmembers did not share the sentiments of the few who objected to the Wilsons’ nuptials.

The SBC has come out against the church’s decision and affirmed that racism is against God’s will, according to the Baptist faith."

So what do you think?  Clearly, SBC leaders have been endorsing Fred Luter for quite a while (at least since the 2011 SBC Annual Meeting).  It appears that racial reconciliation is one of his goals for the Southern Baptist Convention during his term, and this bad publicity certainly can't help. 

Lydia's Corner:   Genesis 8:1-10:32   Matthew 4:12-25   Psalm 4:1-8   Proverbs 1:20-23


Wedding Banned at a Southern Baptist Church in Mississippi — 33 Comments

  1. What seems stangest to me is the minister and much of the congregation are saying it was only a tiny number of people opposed, but if that was the case, why not just ignore their unfounded complaints and perform the wedding anyway? I think the minister should have just shown a bit more intestinal fortitude and stood by the couple properly, rather than shrinking back and moving the service.

  2. Pam, that’s what I don’t get either. If the minister sincerely wants to take a stand against racism — here’s his golden opportunity. The cynic in me wonders why those particular parishioners wielded such disproportionate power, and hopes it had nothing to do with $$$

  3. Saw that Jack Schaap was fired from First Bapt. Hammond for somewhat undefined physical intimacies with a 16 year old girl.

    You might or might not know; he didn’t have a “Calvinista” bone in his body. He is Independent Baptist; the original “Fightin’ Fundies.”

    IFBers are the orginators of the “secondary separation” art form currently practiced by Wartburg ( if you’re associated with C.J. Mahaney or John Piper, you are deficient and must be denounced).

    Jack Schaap and his deceased father-in-law ruled FBC Hammond for many decades.

  4. 1. No one in the church knew about the wedding until the rehearsal, two days before the wedding.
    2. Christians do not take their issues public according to Matthew 18:15-18.

  5. Bruce H

    Racism, along with pedophilia,  is a national issue and deserves the scrutiny. It is a heinous sin and it is also against the law, even though some churches get around it with their “separaion of church an d state. ”

    I also  vehemently disagree with your interpretation of Matthew 18. Matthew 18 is the last refuge for those attempting to circumvent that which is good and right. We are not talking about getting ticked off at a deacon who just spent the congregations last dime on some new sound system.

  6. Dee:

    I agree with you Mathew 18 is conveniently used by many to mean what they want it to be.

    It is their excuse card!

  7. My understanding is that the minority included several people, perhaps a majority, on a church board that could fire the pastor. A lot of small SBC and other Baptist churches have an elder or deacon board that has the authority to hire/fire the pastor, and that board is often composed of a bunch of old men who serve for life once elected or elevated to that board. In some places, just being a male church member and more than a certain age results in you being on that board. Without information about that board, it is difficult to assess whether the pastor was wise in avoiding this conflict and marrying the couple in another venue.

  8. So, in essence, the man was more worried about being fired than standing up for what is right? Is this the gist of it or am I missing something?

  9. Unsure that Matthew 18 applies here because the offense happened not between two individual people, but between a congregation/sector of a congregation and a couple. That may sound weird on its face but the pastor isn’t the offender here. The couple asked him to marry them and he did, just not at the church they wanted. So the actual racist offense originated in the congregation, which puts this at the final, public level of Matthew 18 from the start. Also, wedding ceremonies are public events – anyone can come if you advertise it, so this had an unavoidably public aspect.

    The fact that no one in the church found out about the wedding until two days before is just an excuse, esp. if this is a big church with lots of weddings going on anyway. If this couple had been white, no one would have cared. The pastor made it very clear that the problem was the color of their skin (and if he was afraid of losing his job, it must have been a pretty big problem).

    Sadly this is not the only story I’ve heard lately about blatantly racist behavior down South. I hope this is just an isolated incident. This generational Yankee (est. 1639) is scratching her head.

  10. Wow, this sounds very similar to something that happened at a church I used to attend ( a minority got their way on a very big issue because they all happened to be extremely influential).

    Sad. Just sad.

  11. sad observer:

    You are correct, the influential folks pretty much run many churches.

    Churches are a strange place as far as living out the Christian life.

  12. Yep, these kind of things still exist in the south because racism has been deeply ingrained in families for generations. Although it does seem like some of the younger generation is not going along with it.

  13. This incident illustrates why a lot of people think that pastors should not receive a salary.

  14. Hmmm? About this white pastor – “The article states:”

    “Pastor Stan Weatherford said congregants felt so strongly that the Wilsons’ wedding should not be the first that **he feared he would lose his job**
    if he went forward with the ceremony as planned.”

    Hasn’t anyone ever wondered – Why – In the Bible – There is NOT one example…
    Of a congregation – Firing – Or Hireing – One of His Disciples – As a… Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”

  15. The hiring and firing of pastors is a tricky issue. On the one hand obviously nobody wants to see a situation where a pastor’s main concern is keeping the influential (eg board or whatever) happy even if it means going against conscience, Scripture or both. On the other hand I can vouch that in the Church of England, where ministers have protected tenure for historical reasons, there is the opposite problem of ministers who are either unsuited to the job (sometimes for laudable reasons) or who spout nonsense or heresy (sometimes both!) and who can’t be budged until retirement.

  16. Kolya

    You write…
    “The hiring and firing of pastors is a *tricky* issue.”

    Sorry – The question I asked – Was meant to be a *Trick* question. BUT – NOT *tricky.* 😉
    About something that I can NOT find in the Bible.

    Let me ask it this way – and add a couple of questions…

    Hasn’t anyone ever wondered – Why – In the Bible – There is NOT one example…
    Of – a “Disciple” – Of Jesus Christ – Having the “Title/Position” – Or – Being called…

    Hasn’t anyone ever wondered – Why – In the Bible – There is NOT one example…
    Of – two “Disciples” – Of Jesus Christ – Being married in a “church?”

    Aren’t we, believers, the Church of God, The Body of Christ, in the Bible, NOT a building?

    Hasn’t anyone ever wondered – Why – In the Bible – There is NOT one example…
    Of – two “Disciples” – Of Jesus Christ – Being married – by – a “Pastor/Reverend/Leader?”

    Where does a so-called pastor get – the right – the Power – to declare a couple – man and wife?

    If NOT from the Bible?

    *My people* hath been *lost sheep:*
    “their shepherds’ have caused them “to go astray,”
    Jer 50:6

  17. @Jimmy

    This blog doesn’t only target the YRR and Neo-Calvinists. They just happen to be easy targets. But any one who claims to be an evangelical and puts something else above the Gospel is game for this blog.

    I saw an interview with someone in charge of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show being asked how hard was it to put up with the jokes. His comment was something like “we understand we’re a target rich environment”. The YRR happen to be one also. But there are others.

  18. “He feared he would lose his job”?

    What Christian minister in his right mind would want to be “employed” by people who put bigotry ahead of obedience to Jesus Christ? Preach the Gospel to your people, pastor–and live it out in front of them. I’ve lost jobs because I’d rather be obedient to God and His Word, pastor; it’s not the end of the world.

  19. A A L: The verses about PRL’s being hired and fired, or marrying disciples “in a church” are found in the same Bible where God blessed Shem and required Ham to be his servant. That “verse” is the “clear” biblical reason “Pastor Stan” was correct not to perform a “black wedding” in a “white church”. It’s just obliviously clear! 🙁 🙁

  20. Consider the possibility of the pastor going ahead with the wedding in the church and the activist minority showing up and disrupting the wedding and firing the pastor on the spot. It would have been terribly unfair, with little more than a day to go before the wedding, for the pastor to risk those kinds of events. I believe if he had had more time, a called meeting of the church could have resolved the matter appropriately, but he did not have the time to do that.

  21. I actually agree that churches should have the right to fire their pastor – otherwise there is no real accountability. But I’m not sure that a small board of deacons or elders should have this ability – it should be up to the entire membership.

    In this situation, it’s hard to defend the pastor. He should have either conducted the marriage in the church and made a stand for racial equality, or else resigned. By chickening out, he’s let the bigots win.

  22. I live in MS, not too terribly far from Crystal Springs.

    The truth is…many churches in MS are in rural areas, and many are small to mid-size churches….In too many cases, these churches have had the same Deacons “serving” for years on end…or have a few families who believe they should control the church because their ancestors founded it.

    All too often, these Deacons or Families become the “Authority” of the church…usually asserting their power over the pastor and the other members. (In MS, this power often rears its’ ugly head when “tradition” changes, many times in the case of “racial tradition.”)

    In this situation, as I have heard members of this church discuss this via facebook on comments, the majority of the members had no idea that this was taking place.

    A few familes in the church who believe they have the power to “control” the direction of the church, basically asserted their hate towards this couple (who were both attending this church for some time–they were no strangers)…and backed the pastor into the corner with threats.

    The pastor, in my opinion, failed in his responsibility to do the right thing. He chose the easy way out in order to avoid hurting anyone, and he ended up creating major fallout.

    He should have taken this before the entire church with the discretion of the couple. If he would have brought this into the light, I believe this would have taken another direction. Sure, there would probablly be some growing pains (possibly a split between the racist bigots and others)…and none of it would be a “comfortable” situation…but this church would be better for it.

    I have seen this type of situation happen WAY too many times in MS. Sadly, racial reconciliation has a long way to go in our state–specifically in our churches..the lack of multiracial churches in MS shows this, along with the stupidity that often bubbles up such as this church in Crystal Springs.

    It always baffles me how people will attend High School football games on Friday night sitting amongst others of the opposite race, cheering on players of various races..

    Yet on Sunday, it is a terrible sin to worship with one of an opposite race. They have “their” churches, we have “ours”….In some cases, people in churches will tolerate people of the opposite race to attend, until they take it “too far”…in the case of Crystal Springs, the wedding took it too far…”Not in our church” is the attitude at hand.

    Sad, Sad, Sad..This is a situation that just flat out disgusts me, and I have seen it way too much.

    It is going to be an awful awakening for these racist bigots once they realize that New Heaven/New Earth will be multicultal—yet I often wonder if their hate reveals an unregenerate heart…

    If they trust in Christ…they need to repent…soon.

  23. Seeker, I think I’m still in shock that this has happened. I honestly feel like I’m in a weird dream. The movie “The Help” has been very popular over here in Australia – it’s sort of hard to believe still that it occurred in recent history – and that the same heart attitude still exists in people today. I think Jesus would be very unpopular in their little circle – what colour do they think he was? He was certainly not white…

  24. The SBC has kicked churches out of the convention for women pastors. Will they keep a racist church in the convention? Unfortunately, something tells me they will.

  25. As was commented earlier, the pastor had the confrontation with the dominating minority after the wedding rehearsal on Thursday evening, with the wedding set for Saturday. There was no time to call a church meeting. There was a risk that dominating minority, which in many churches may the power, would fire the pastor and stop the wedding, perhaps even after it began. The pastor believed it was better to move the wedding rather than take that risk. And now the church must figure out what they are going to be and do in the 21st century now that they know that some of the members are committed to living in the 19th.

  26. The SBC has kicked churches out of the convention for women pastors. Will they keep a racist church in the convention? Unfortunately, something tells me they will. — Beth D

    Remember how the SOUTHERN Baptists started? They split away from other Baptists in order to defend a Peculiar Institution regarding Certain Animate Property.

  27. @An Attorney

    I understand the risk the pastor took, and I am sure he thought it was the best possible thing to do to avoid a big confrontation, but it still troubles me he made this decision.

    He may not have had time to call a church meeting, but standing his ground and saying no to this racist minority, whomever they were, could have created a catalyst for change in this power struggle within this church.

    From what I have heard from the other church members, they were infuriated over this decision and had no clue it was going on. If this pastor would have made a stand, then I am not so sure this “dominating minority” could have intervened if push came to shove..

    Who knows though, the pastor could have lost his job, the wedding could have been interrupted, but now the pastor has to live with his decision that appears cowardice.

    I just think if more pastors would stand up and do the right thing in these situations, instead of “conceding” to people who are clearly in the wrong, then it may inspire other members in the church to stand up to this wrong minority. If not, then at least the pastor will die on a hill with integrity.

    If the church as a whole will not defend a pastor standing up for the right thing, then this pastor should look for another church to serve in.

    @Beth D

    The SBC will not expel this church from the Convention because the racist minority in this church does not represent the entire church. Many in the SBC have spoken out against this decision and the racist minority within the church, but many members in the Crystal Springs church have spoken out against this racist minority as well.

    I think the church should practice some “church discipline” towards the racist minority and ask them to leave…Who knows whether that will happen. I just hope the church as a whole can take this opportunity to stand up against racism and right the wrongs that have been made.


    Yes, Southern Baptists started this way unfortunately, but the SBC has come a long way considering they have just elected Fred Luter as their President. There may still be some racist elements within the SBC (as seen by this racist minority in this church), but this does not represent the entire convention.

  28. No excuses! He should have married the couple! He could have done the right thing and trusted God. Instead the church’s reputation is tarnished to appease people that are not glorifying God. This kind of wrong leadership breaks my heart.