I am pleased to publish for our readers this statement from the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, MS, in which they express repentance over the racism that existed in the church. Here is the text of the statement that was read Sunday. According to BP, the church stood in affirmation of the statement after it was given.
A Statement of Restoration and Reconciliation
We the members of the body of Christ known as First Baptist Church Crystal Springs do this day affirm our unchanging belief that Jesus Christ is Lord of the church. Our church is indeed His church. We recognize that He, the Savior, died for all people. Our desire is that our church be open to all who desire to come and know Him, meet with Him, and grow with others who seek to follow Him. We also recognize that our church like any other church is made up of sinful, redeemed, but flawed saints who intentionally at times choose not to follow the Lord’s will.
In recent days the focus of the world’s attention has been on Crystal Springs and on First Baptist Church. We, the church, realize that the Hendersons and Wilsons should never have been asked to relocate their wedding. This wrong decision resulted in hurt and sadness for everyone. Both the pastor and those involved in the wedding location being changed have expressed their regrets and sorrow for their actions.
As a church, we express our apology to Te’Andrea and Charles Wilson for the hurt that was brought to them in the hours preceding their wedding and beyond. We are seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with our Lord Jesus Christ, Te’Andrea and Charles, family and friends of the Hendersons and Wilsons, our church family, and our community for the actions and attitudes that have recently occurred.
We the membership of First Baptist Church Crystal Springs, hold the position that we should be open to all people. Our desire is to restore the church to be a spiritual lighthouse in doing the Lord’s will in Crystal Springs and in Mississippi.
In Galatians 6:1-2, Paul tells the people in the church, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” In these verses we find the Spirit of God at work in us this day. We open our hearts to all people and reach out to a world in need of Christ and welcome them to our church and ministries.
We encourage our pastor and staff, leaders and members to help one another, to bear one another burdens, and forgive one another for our faults and failures. We are determined to lift one another up so that the hurts of yesterday will not prevent the blessing and victories of tomorrow. We commit to pray for one another, love one another, and work to enable our church to be everything Christ would have it to be and to reflect His love and grace in every way, in every service, and to everyone.
To God be the Glory!
As far as I am concerned, it is an excellent statement. It takes responsibility for the actions, without assigning blame or trying to justify the sin. It expresses a godly attitude toward racial issues in the future and an intent to seek reconciliation with those who were injured. It is a wonderful document.
Some perspectives on this situation.
1) I am thankful that we are now in an SBC that confronts this kind of sin instead of condoning it.
It wasn’t that long ago that something like this would have been swept under the rug in the SBC. But white leaders of the SBC stepped up and expressed their dissatisfaction at such racism. This is a hopeful sign that racism is no longer going to be tolerated in the SBC. This was an issue that was pretty much black and white (I know, ironic turn of phrase). There was no room to wiggle, no need for a study group, no difficult issues to look over. A church refused a wedding to a black couple because they were black.
We should be offended at that. We should stand against such sin. To do any less than stand forcefully against sin would have been to in some way condone that sin.
2) Genuine repentance should lead to genuine forgiveness.
Had this church not repented of this sin, I would have been in favor of refusing to seat their messengers at the convention in Houston (if they sent any) and other actions to distance ourselves from such sin. We have to treat churches that condone racism like we would churches that condone homosexuality or ones that would condone abortion. It would have been wrong for us to do anything less than that.
Such is no longer necessary. This church has repented genuinely and should be forgiven genuinely. Of course, we would hope that this statement would be followed by actions in keeping with the statement, and I am certainly hope it will be. In fact, this church’s membership has seemed from the very start to be horrified by the action that was taken.
But we, as Southern Baptists, must genuinely and immediately forgive this church and pray for their complete healing.
3) God works all things for good!
If there is a good that comes out of this, it is that FBC Crystal Springs has stated publicly that the racists within their midst were not the majority and they will not lead the church. The action Sunday was a powerful rebuke to those members who came after the pastor with their threats. Evil surfaced, but now it has been confronted and dis-empowered. It is not completely clear from the statement whether those who asked for the wedding to be moved have repented, but perhaps that is what it meant by “those involved” in the decision to move the wedding. But one way or another, FBC Crystal Springs has spoken loudly to the world that racism will not be given a hearing at their church.
And the SBC has had the opportunity to publicly state that we will not tolerate racism in our midst anymore. For too long, we did. No more. This was an opportunity to demonstrate to our African American fellow-Baptists that we will not permit this kind of thing anymore. And, maybe the next SBC church that is confronted with such a quandary will be encouraged from all this to do the right thing and stand up to any forces of racism in their midst.
4) Pray for FBC, Crystal Springs and Dr. Stan Weatherford.
This has been, I am sure, a nightmare for them. I am sure that Dr. Weatherford has some difficult days ahead. And the process of reconciliation may also be a rocky one – there were some rumblings about lawsuits and such.
And, of course, there are probably now a few disgruntled members. Perhaps, unless they have also repented, a few influential folks who wanted the church to move the wedding may not be happy. There may be members upset with the way things went down, of course. No one likes to be the subject of this kind of scrutiny. This is going to be a difficult time for Dr. Weatherford. We should pray for him. We should give him whatever support or encouragement we can (not sure exactly how). Mostly, though, we should just pray for this church and this pastor.
Father, we pray for First Baptist Church, Crystal Springs. We thank you for their statement of repentance and pray that you would guide them through every step of the healing and restoration process. Bless Dr. Stan Weatherford as he rebuilds whatever leadership status was damaged during this incident and as he leads this congregation through the difficult days ahead. We pray for repentance for those who started the problem and healing for those families injured by the sin. We thank you that you bring healing out of hurt and joy from mourning. May you do that at Crystal Springs.