Ethics Dunce: Rev. Stan Weatherford

Rev. Weatherford with a parishioner

The First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, Mississippi has never hosted the wedding of a black couple in its 150 year history, so you can imagine how important it was to the congregation not to break a perfect record. All right, that’s unfair: only a handful of white church members protested to Rev. Stan Weatherford when they learned that he was preparing to wed Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson at First Baptist, but their threat that they would have him voted out of his job if he did was sufficient to cause him to tell Charles and Te’Andrea, just two days before the scheduled ceremony, that they would have to move the event to 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,” Weatherford told local reporters.

No, Reverend, that’s not accurate. You didn’t have the integrity, principles or courage to do the right thing, to tell the six racist protesters that the marriage would go on at the church as promised, that they were welcome to do their worst, and that you would respond by making them and anyone who supported them national pariahs. You chose the easy path of allying yourself with wrongdoers in the interests of avoiding “controversy”, which is just a euphemism for “I don’t care enough about choosing right over wrong to fight for it.” For the leader of a religious institution, indeed for any leader, of any institution,this is a betrayal of core principles. You chose to side with racists against church members who had entrusted you with overseeing what should have been one of the happiest days if their lives. For an American, this is a betrayal of core principles. Weatherford didn’t decide to be neutral in an argument over where to hold the church social, or who should direct the Christmas pageant, He stayed neutral when human rights, fairness and dignity were at stake, and that means that he knowingly and voluntarily assisted in the perpetrating of evil.

The quote is so familiar that it has become a cliché, but Edmund Burke’s words are seldom more relevant than in situations like the cowardice of Rev. Weatherford: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

In a situation like this one, I wonder if it is even appropriate to call someone who sides with racists against a loving couple wanting nothing more than to be married in their own church “good.”

_________________________________________

Pointer: CNN Morning

Facts: USA Today

Graphic: Jan’s World

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

9 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Rev. Stan Weatherford

  1. I have not looked in a thesaurus, so I’m wondering how many synonyms there are for “cowardice”. The pastor should be made to answer, “WWJD?”

      • What? Not saying the pastor’s action and excuse are any less unethical, but that’s easy: a minority votes you out when the majority does not vote, or when the minority finds a way to mis-represent the majority – happens in larger, ostensibly democratic institutions almost every day.

  2. At first, I was willing to cut the pastor a little slack. I thought that perhaps he had done this because he didn’t want people coming in to make a scene at the wedding, making a bad situation even worse. After reading the article, I take that slack back. I am living through similar situations (not about racism, but about small groups of people doing the wrong things) at two different churches that I love. At one church, most people went along with the few, outspoken, unreasonable and disruptive people. The result was that the pastor who was trying to make peace found that a small disruptive group is enough to cow the rest of the congregation into silence and he was thrown out when he no longer suited their plans. At another, the minister stood up, said he wouldn’t take it anymore and resigned. Rev. Weatherford should have taken a stand here. He should have stopped the service the next Sunday, explained the situation, and asked the congregation what kind of church they wanted this to be. If they made the wrong choice, he should have resigned on the spot.

    I realize that this probably would mean that he would be unemployed, but a minister of such conviction should be able to find another church. There may only be 5 or 6 such people, they often have great influence. They force their relatives to vote their way (family life will be much more miserable for the rest of your life if you don’t). They get people who have known them forever to vote their way (if you cross Bessie, we will never have peace at the prayer meetings again). They may only number 5 or 6, but they have probably been members of that church forever. The only way the church can vote against this group is to completely reject them and that would cause a church split (look at all the people who still defend Bill Clinton’s conduct). Most people would rather rationalize it away and blame the victim, saying “Why couldn’t they just find another place for the wedding, it would be so much easier. Why did they have to be such troublemakers?” It takes courage to stand up to evil, especially evil that has cloaked itself in the mantle of piety and righteousness. Standing against it often means you have to lose your church and your friends. It is a high price to pay.

    • True, tough decision, but if the pastor really BELIEVED in that book (Bible) that such people constantly thump, he might have taken comfort in Matt.5:-11-16 (“Blessed are you when men revile you, etc.”).

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