The Southern Baptist Convention is working to repair its image and address concerns of racism after a member Mississippi Baptist church refused to marry a black couple.
Stan Weatherford, pastor of First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, informed Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson that some members opposed holding their wedding at the church.
The couple, who are regular attendees, say they got the bad news just days before their big day.
"The congregation had said because we were black that there would be no black wedding at the church," Charles Wilson said.
The Southern Baptist Convention is historically known for supporting slavery. But with the recent election of Fred Luter as the SBC's first black president, many members saw it as proof the convention had progressed far from its discriminatory past.
Luter called the ordeal with the Wilsons "uncomfortable" and said it's key that leaders learn from it.
"We just have to be aware that the enemy will use anything he can to come against our churches and our ministries with something like this," Luter said. "We've always got to be aware that the enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy."
"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," he added.
Spokesman Roger Oldham said, "The convention's position on race relations is clear: 'In the Spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism.'"
He went on to call racism a sin, and said it's also unfortunate that a small group in the church was able to "determine church policy without giving the church an opportunity to discuss the matter and take formal action as a congregation."
Wilson said it was tough to explain the situation to his daughter.
"My 9-year-old was going to the church with us and how would you sit around here and say to your 9-year-old daughter, 'We cannot get married because, guess what, sweetie, we're black!'" he said.
Pastor Weatherford performed the July 21 ceremony at another church in the area.
"I didn't want to have a controversy within the church," he explained. "And I didn't want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te'Andrea. I wanted to make sure that their wedding day was a special day."
Meanwhile, Mississippi Baptist Convention Executive Director Jim Futral called the church's decision a "sad thing" and said it's "not reflective of the spirit of the Lord and Mississippi Baptists."
Some church members opposed the decision, including Casey Kitchens who said she and others were outraged. She added that most of the congregation knew nothing about the decision to cancel the Wilson wedding.
"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."
WLBT-TV is reporting that church officials now say they welcome any race and will hold internal meetings on how to move forward.
The Wilsons said they are speaking with attorneys.