Stella Harville and her fiancée, Ticha Chikuni. (Photo: AP/Stella Harville)
A small Kentucky church is making big news this week over its decision to ban interracial couples from becoming members of the church or participating in some worship activities.
At the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky, the average Sunday service only draws about 40 people. But when Stella Harville, daughter of a church member, showed up one Sunday in June with her Black fiancée, Ticha Chikuni, to sing a duet in front of the congregation, other members decided it was time for the church to take a position on whether couples like them should be allowed.
"It's not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form," Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, said of the decision, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Members of the church approved a resolution barring interracial couples from joining the church and being "used in worship services" this past Sunday by a vote of 9 to 6. Although reports say 40-50 people attended Sunday’s service, only 15 ended up participating in the vote after many members chose to leave or abstain from voting. In addition, members also approved a statement this week saying that the church does not condone interracial marriage.
“We are not a bunch of bigots or a bunch of racists," executive secretary of National Association of Free Will Baptists Keith Burden told the paper. Burden said he was working on behalf of the organization to get the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, a member of the association, to reconsider its decision.
Speaking on the church's decision, Harville’s father Dean said, “It sure ain't Christian. It ain't nothing but the old devil working." Dean is a longtime member who serves as church secretary and clerk, according to the paper.
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