Kentucky church bans interracial marriage

Interracial marriage ban at freewill baptist church

Stella Harville and Ticha Chikuni in a November 2010 photo by Harville (AP)

A small Kentucky church has chosen to ban marriages and even some worship services for interracial couples. The Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, located in Pike County, made the vote in response to a longtime member who is engaged to a man whose birthplace is in Zimbabwe.

Other pastoral leaders in the area were quick to denounce the church’s vote. “It’s not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form,” Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The small congregation, which usually hosts about 40 members each Sunday, held the vote after longtime member Stella Harville, brought her fiancé Ticha Chikuni to church with her in June. The couple performed a song together at the church in which Chikuni sang “I Surrender All,” while Harville played the piano.

Chikuni, 29, who works at Georgetown College, is black–and Harville, who was baptized at the church but is not an active member, is white. Dean Harville, Stella’s father, said he was told by the church’s former pastor Melvin Thompson that his daughter and her fiancé were not allowed to sing at the church again. However, Thompson recently stepped down and the church’s new pastor, Stacy Stepp, said the couple was once again welcome to sing.

Stepp’s decision prompted Thompson to put forth a recommendation saying that while all members are welcome at the church, it does not “condone” interracial marriage, and that any interracial couples would not be received as members or allowed to participate in worship services. The only exception? Funerals.

The Harville family has formally requested the congregation to reconsider the interracial ban, and Thompson has also said he would like to resolve the issue, the area CBS affiliate WYMT has reported.
A copy of the recommendation, obtained by WYMT, reads in part:

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.

Members of the church held a vote on Thompson’s proposed language, with nine voting in favor and six voting against. The other members in attendance chose not to vote.

Gawker notes that Pike County is 98 percent white and home to the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud.
The Harville family doesn’t see Gulnare’s new policy promoting anything like unity or civil peace. “They’re the people who are supposed to comfort me in times like these,” Stella Harville said.
And Stella’s father was much more forceful in his denunciation of the interracial ban. “It sure ain’t Christian,” Dean Harville said. “It ain’t nothing but the old devil working.”

Story found at Yahoo News by: Eric Pfeiffer

I sure would like to know how this church supports their prejudice using scripture.

Updated: August 23, 2012 — 8:19 pm


  1. I go to a Free Will Baptist church here in the greater St. Louis area, and while I can’t speak for other FWB churches, ours clearly does NOT resemble anything close to an IFB church. For instance, our Sunday morning worship is overwhelmingly contemporary, while our Sunday evening services are about…I’d say 75% traditional/25% contemporary. And, our pastor preaches from the New King James. I also sing in the choir there, and everything we’ve ever done in choir is contemporary (at least since I’ve been there, anyways). While our congregation is overwhelmingly white, I have seen a few black people there, and never have I heard anything racist from the pulpit or from anyone else there. And, we’re affiliated with the National Association of Free Will Baptists, so no, we’re definitely NOT IFB or anywhere close to resembling it.

  2. I hope that the both of you realize that there will always be some kind of racial separation in this tiny world that we live in. however, I truly feel sorry for the church goers to this church. They are limiting God’s work and allowing Man to control God’s house. Where in Scripture from the KJV does it say that different races should not be together? it says of the yoked and the unyoked should not be together for that there will be great trials ahead. That means being a Christian with a non believer. praise God that Ticha and Stella have found one another and love to sing and worship in Gods house. That is so awesome and I pray that these people in this mountain community will come to their senses and realize that there is only one God and they are NOT it. I would be so happy to welcome u guys to my church any day any time! Shallow minds have no room in the house of God and those people should bow down and ask God for his forgiveness. And it doesnt matter what denomination you are, God doesnt separate in heaven when u die n put u in categories on denomination, Ok, here are the southern baptists, then over there are the catholics, and down here in row 14 z are the IFB…Come on people, the real meaning is Christians. Being Christ like and I dont ever seeing Christ turning people away from his house for any reason. For those who want to judge by skin color, who said God was white anyways? Praise God for couples being together and being open about their faith despite whose feelings got offended. God wants his people to stand up for him and give him glory to him, not shun people away from their color.. I love you guys and keep praising God in everything you do..

  3. WOW! Some of this sounds like the Nazarene church I grew up in!

  4. It doesn’t truly matter whether or not the Freewill Baptist church disagrees with the IFB on irrelevant doctrinal issues (or, rather, whether the Freewill Baptist church is IFB). What matters is how the congregation is treated, what kind of environment the church fosters in terms of the ability of each individual member to believe and make decisions according to their own conscience, and the impact their teaching has not just on their own congregations but on extended family and community.

    There are PLENTY of racist IFB churches – plenty. Whether or not this church is IFB does not diminish from the original point of posting the article which is to show how a power-drunk racist in a pulpit can teach some of the most sickening things and get away with it. Happens all the time, in all kinds of churches, ESPECIALLY those of the creepy patriarchal strains where the pastor answers to no one and his followers follow blindly.

  5. @Katie
    but you did say they are close enough…..right?

  6. I heard about this on K-Love

  7. John Doe :
    Im pretty sure losing your salvation and having eternal security are not “close” things. lol Good one.

    I didn’t say they are.

  8. @Katie
    Im pretty sure losing your salvation and having eternal security are not “close” things. lol Good one.

  9. @greg
    ……….cool……..8/ weird

  10. I personally like “saved and forgiven” pastors.

    Tuck your shirt in, your IFB is showing alittle. (smiles)

  11. @John Doe

    OK, so 2 things different… I didn’t say exact I said close.

  12. @John Doe
    let me make that more specific just for special people……Biblically qualified pastors.

  13. @Katie
    lol close enough? haha i think theres a difference between believing your always saved and you can lose your salvation. I think theres a difference between divorced pastors and a qualified pastor.

  14. John Doe :
    By the way freewill baptist arnt IFB.

    Close enough.

  15. @John Doe
    My bad, I reread it, your’re right, tks.

  16. By the way freewill baptist arnt IFB.

  17. Ticha and Stella, I’m probably telling you nothing you don’t already know, but unfortunately there still is prejudice in this sin-cursed world, one could certainly hope that they wouldn’t find it in the house and people of God, but we are talking about small-minded IFB’s here, they claim to follow the bible in faith and practice but I’ll bet you haven’t been given any scriptural reason for their decision.

    I wish you both well in your new life together, please don’t judge christianity by these small minded IFB’s, there are millions of “real” christians all across this land that will gladly welcome you into their fellowships.

    May God richly bless you both!!

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