Pastor refuses to baptize infant of couple 'living in sin'
A priest baptizing an infant. - Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS

On Friday, WBLT News reported that a Mississippi reverend's letter to two new parents has gone viral on social media after he unexpectedly refused to perform a baptism of their infant, due to their being unmarried.

"Kamri Mclendon lives with her boyfriend of two years, Tristan Mcphail, in Sumrall. In May, the 18-year-old gave birth to a girl, Presleigh. She said the pregnancy was not planned, but her daughter has become the couple’s 'greatest blessing,'" reported Josh Carter and Andrew McMunn. "Mclendon said she grew up in the church, and thus wanted to have an infant baptism performed on Presleigh in the Hickory Grove United Methodist Church. Her family has been attending the church for 'generations,' and it is where Mclendon herself was baptized."

According to the report, Reverend Dewayne Warren was aware of the circumstances of the birth when he initially agreed to perform the ceremony — and the letter changing his mind came as a shock.

"I am informed that you and the baby's father are living together in sin; the baby was conceived before the persons were married," said the letter. "The grandmother is living with a man in sin. You and the father have not been in regular, faithful attendance at our church." The letter concluded, “I say all of this in Christian love. I know it is harsh, but it is the truth. I was trying to wait for the Holy Spirit of God to convict you on this, but we were running out of time.”

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"After a discussion with her boyfriend, Mclendon said she posted the letter on Facebook, where it was shared more than 400 times," said the report. After the controversy, "The conference ... said Rev. Larry Hilliard, the District Superintendent of the Seashore District where Hickory Grove United Methodist Church is located, had spoken with all parties involved. Hilliard said he could not offer many details about his conversation with Warren given the “supervisory nature” of his role, but did say that the parents of an infant being unwed would not be reason enough for a United Methodist pastor to refuse to perform an infant baptism."

Controversial behavior of church officials around the country has made news this year. One church in South Texas was forced to by the production of "Hamilton" to stop performing an unauthorized knockoff that came with a sermon comparing LGBTQ people to drug addicts. And Greg Locke, a far-right Tennessee pastor, made waves earlier this year by vowing to expel "witches" from his congregation.