Church votes to lift ban on interracial couples

Church members at Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church in Pike County voted again, but this time the outcome was different.

They unanimously voted to allow all people of all races to attend their church.

Pastor Stacy Stepp says he hopes the lifted ban ends all of the controversy.

Sonnie Hereford, who was the first black child to integrate public schools in Alabama in 1963, drove from Washington, D.C. just to attend the church service.

The controversy caught of a week of national attention.

"I tried every way possible that I could to resolve this matter before it got to where it did," said Pastor Stacy Stepp.

Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church members hope the controversy is over.

"We voted, a vote to accept all people regardless of race, creed, or color and to accept everyone into the fellowship of Christ," said Pastor Stepp.

The ban against interracial couples attending the church started with Stella Harville and her fiance from Zimbabwe.

Pastor Stepp talked to Stella before Sunday's service and welcomed the couple back to his church in Pike County.

"That was an answered prayer for me, so this has a good ending," said Cathy Harville, Stella's mother.

Pastor Stepp says he opposed the ban from the beginning and is ready to get his church back on the right track. He invites everyone to attend services at Gulnare Freewill Baptist.

The Sandy Valley Conference informed Pastor Stepp that the ban was null and void before it was even voted on.

"This order of business that was tried to be passed through was completely out of order in first part, so it was actually never even feasible," said Pastor Stepp.

Which is why Sonnie Hereford drove eight hours through the night from Washington, D.C.

"I have dealt with civil rights and issues of racism since I was 5 or 6-years-old. And this one just really called out to me that I had to be here today," said Hereford.

Hereford says he is happy with the church's final decision.

"Being in an interracial marriage myself and just finding it incredible that such an action could be taken in 2011," said Hereford.

Church members plan to move forward in unifying their church.

The Harville family says Stella was pleased to hear the outcome of the final vote.

Church members hope the couple will return to their church.


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