Baptist Group’s New President Responds to Bias Against Black Couple

Fred Luter

Baptist Group’s New President Responds to Bias Against Black Couple

The newly elected Black president of the Southern Baptist Convention said a Mississippi church decision not to marry a Black couple is an isolated event.

Published August 6, 2012

When the Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was elected as the first Black president of the Southern Baptist Convention, it was widely viewed as opening a new chapter of racial tolerance in that denomination.


But in the last week, Luter has been plunged into controversy within his denomination that is deeply rooted in the racial history of the South.


The storm came from a decision by the pastor of Mississippi's First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs not to perform the wedding ceremony of an African-American couple. The 129-year-old church had never had a Black couple married in its sanctuary and many of the white members had complained about the prospect of the wedding between Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson.


One day before the wedding, Stan Weatherford, the pastor, told the couple that he would prefer to avoid controversy and perform the ceremony in another church. Weatherford said the objections came from a small number of the church’s members. 


Luter said that the attitudes of the white congregation members were not consistent with those of members of the Southern Baptist domination.


"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 in a statement carried by the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.


“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 said.


"What we can learn from it is that we need to talk to our membership about issues,” Luter continued. “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," Luter said.


Luter’s election as president is considered to be notable because the denomination has a long history defending slavery and it served as a spiritual haven for white supremacists during a good deal of the 20th century. 


The election came just weeks after officials of the congregation said race relations within the denomination had suffered due to racially charged remarks made by the group's longtime ethics chief.

Richard Land, the president of the denomination’s ethics and religious liberty commission, was reprimanded earlier this year for accusing African-American leaders for what he characterized as using the killing of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida high school student shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, for political gain.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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