A Black woman alleged an Arkansas church racially discriminated against her and her family when they tried joining congregants for Sunday’s service. In a Facebook post, the woman said the incident at First Baptist Church Forrest City got her feelings “so hurt.”
But leaders at the church said their doors are open to everyone, WREG reported. In the Facebook post, however, the woman said she had never witnessed “a church turn someone around because of the color of their skin.”
She wrote that an older White man initially asked them what they were doing at the church while they were walking up the steps. And when they responded by saying, “church”, she claimed the man told them, “Church doesn’t start until 11am.” But she said other members were entering the church at the time.
The Black woman also claimed that when she asked another White older female congregant if the church was open to everyone, the woman told her that they’ve “had COLOREDS here before.”
“I asked, ‘What do you mean Coloreds? Do you mean Black people?’ Her response, ‘No COLOREDS! When I was growing up we always called them COLOREDS!” she wrote.
She said they subsequently left the church.
Responding to the incident, Cathy Perdew, who is a member, told WREG that the church has always “been a loving open church.” “It doesn’t matter what color you are what kind of clothes you wear, doesn’t matter where you’re from everybody loved, everybody’s welcome,” Perdew added.
A pastor at the church, Steve Walter, also said he feels the incident could have stemmed from miscommunication. He also said he believes what allegedly occurred isn’t a representation of their character.
“I was deeply grieved that we’re perceived or that what that young woman experienced because that is what we sought to fight against, what she experienced, according to her testimony, according to her Facebook post,” said Walter. “That’s where my heart is, that she experienced something.”
Walter, however, acknowledged there’s a racial division within the community. He said that needs to be looked into. “We need to own up to some of the things maybe in the white community that we have done. There needs to be repentance but there needs to be the fruit of that in whatever capacity,” Walter said.
Walter added that the incident has served as a teachable moment for the congregation, and he hopes to atone for what happened.
“On the behalf of the church, she needs to experience a sense of sorrow on our part,” Walter said. “She needs to be told how sorry we are collectively.”
The St. Francis County NAACP also told the news outlet that they are planning on discussing the incident with church officials.