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article imageKentucky Baptist Church votes to ban interracial couples

By JohnThomas Didymus     Dec 1, 2011 in World
A small Kentucky church, the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, took a decision earlier this month to ban an interracial couple, Ticha Chikuni, 29, native of Zimbabwe, and Stella Harville, 24, daughter of the church's secretary and clerk.
Huffington Post reports that the move to ban the couple by the 40-member church in Pike County, was ostensibly to "promote greater unity" in the church and the community it served.
Father of Stella Harville, Dean Harville, said that his daughter, who is taking a master's degree in optical engineering at a college in Indiana, brought her African born fiance Chikuni, to church in June, where they performed a song for the congregation. According to NBC Connecticut, Stella played the piano while Ticha sang "I surrender."
The Blaze reports that later in the summer, after the visit of the young couple, Pastor Melvin Thompson told Dean Harville that Stella and her Zimbabwean fiance would not be allowed to sing in the church again.
Pastor Melvin Thompson resigned his pastoral position in August for health reasons. The new pastor Stacy Stepp, reversed former pastor Thompson's decision and told the couple they could sing in church. But the former pastor, still wielding influence in the church, pushed a proposal of policy that while people of all races were welcome to attend services, the church did not approve of interracial marriage. According to The Blaze, the proposal read:
"That the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals.All are welcome to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.”
The proposal was put up for a vote early in the week, and nine church members voted in favor, six voted against, while others in the 40-member church abstained.
Dean Harville protested, "It sure ain’t Christian. It ain’t nothing but the old devil working.”
Stella, his daughter said, “It’s just a travesty, especially of Christianity, that this church feels this way. They‘ve crossed the line in revoking my fiance and my right to worship in a public place. It hurts even more that I have attended this church ever since I was a baby.”
Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, has distanced the Christian community in Pike from this decision, saying: "It's not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form."
While the parents plan to ask the church to reconsider its position, Stella and her fiance do not plan to go back.
Huffington Post reports that regardless of the prejudice of a local church community, researchers at Ohio State University and Cornell University say interracial marriage in the United States, especially black-white marriage, has increased threefold from 3 percent in 1980 to 10.7 percent in 2008.
More about interracial couples, Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, stella harville
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