A young couple in Mississippi wanted their new baby to be baptized at their church, but said the reverend sent them a letter refusing to perform the sacred ceremony because they were not married and ‘living in sin.’
Kamri Mclendon, 18, and her boyfriend of two years, Tristan Mcphail, are parents to daughter Presleigh, who was born in May.
Mclendon had been attending Hickory Grove United Methodist Church in Sumrall, Mississippi since she was young and wanted her own daughter to be baptized there.
But in a letter the young mother shared on Facebook, Rev. Dewayne Warren wrote that he would not be performing the baptism because the baby was born out of wedlock and that Mclendon and ‘the baby’s father’ were living together ‘in sin.’
He also pointed out that Mclendon’s mother was also not married, yet living with a man, and that the couple were not in regular attendance at the church.
Mclendon, who shared the letter on Facebook, explained they had missed some church services because of their schedule with a new baby.
She added that she felt ‘shamed’ by the church she grew up in and wrote: ‘Instances like this are why young people are scared to go to church. We are aware we sinned, but us repenting for that is between us and the Lord, not to be shamed by a church,’ Mclendon wrote.
‘When people ask why there are no young people in these churches this is why.’
‘I will be the first to admit that yes I have sinned and have done wrong in my life,’ she wrote. ‘How did me trying to dedicate my daughter to Jesus turn into us being shamed for being young parents and unmarried?’
The letter, which was dated September 15, also stated that if Warren were to perform the infant baptism, it would set a bad example for the youth and children of the church.
‘I am informed that you and the baby’s father are living together in sin; the baby was conceived before the parents were married,’ the letter began.
‘It would be saying to them that the lifestyle that you are living is OK for a Christian. That is not so.’
Mclendon and her boyfriend told WLBT that they were shocked by the letter, after they were initially told that Warren would perform the baptism for their daughter.
‘He knew all of the information of us not being married, all of that,’ Mclendon said. ‘And he agreed to it. He was like, “Yeah, that works.” His wife sent us the material of what would need to be said at the service. He even announced it to the congregation. My grandmother and my aunt and uncle were all there. And then he sent us that letter.’
In a post, Mclendon wrote that they had requested a ‘baby dedication’ for their daughter and were told yes. The ceremony was even announced at the church.
But then received the letter that they do not perform ‘baby dedications’ but instead baptisms, which are a covenant with God.
‘Like, we know what the Bible says,’ she said. ‘We did, in fact, sin. But he knew all of that and he still agreed to it. If he had been straightforward from the get-go, this wouldn’t have been a problem with either of us.’
Mclendon then shared an update that a district superintendent for the Methodist church had spoken with the reverend and ‘rectified the situation.’
But she said the words from the letter still affected her.
‘My heart is breaking,’ she wrote.