FORREST CITY, Ark. — An Arkansas church is facing heavy scrutiny after a woman claims they discriminated against her family for the color of their skin while she tried to attend service Sunday morning.
The incident allegedly happened at First Baptist Church Forrest City, where leaders say all are welcomed. However, one family is disputing that claim.
In a post that has been shared more than 5,000 times on social media, a woman details the encounter. She alleges that a member would not let her Black family into the 11 a.m. service, while others were allowed inside.
She also claims a church member told her, ”We have had coloreds here before.”
After that word was used, she says her family decided to leave.
“I’ve never in my 34 years of living witness a church turn someone around because of the color of their skin,” the woman said in a Facebook post describing the incident.
Members like Cathy Perdew share a different experience.
“Always been a loving open church,” Perdew said. “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.”
Pastor Steve Walter said that he believes the incident occurred as a result of miscommunication, and he doesn’t believe it’s a representation of who they are.
“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,” Walter said. “That’s where my heart heart is, that she experienced something.”
Walter, who has been at helm just over a year, admits there is racial divide in the community that’s needs to be addressed.
“We need to own up to the 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.
Now after this alleged incident here at First Baptist Church, pastor Walter acknowledges this has been a teachable moment for the entire congregation and now he’s hoping to make amends in the community.
“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.”
A member of the family said they are not ready to comment at this point.
The St. Francis County NAACP tells WREG they are aware of the incident and plans to meet with church officials soon.