Family of interracial couple talk about church controversy

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

The parents of a woman who was banned from participating in worship service at a Pike County church because she is marrying a man from Africa, say they just want their daughter and her fiance to go to church with them.

The decision to ban interracial couples from being members at the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church is now in the hands of the Sandy Valley Conference, the association of the Freewill Baptist Churches in this area.

Cathy and Dean Harville say Ticha Chikuni is part of their family, and next year he will be married to their daughter, Stella.
"We really love our children, and we love Ticha, and we accept their engagement," said Cathy Harville.

They say not everyone at their church accepted their daughter's upcoming marriage.
After the couple visited from college and attended the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church and sang during a service, the church voted not to condone interracial marriage and prohibits the couple from membership or participating in worship service.

"This shouldn't have been brought into the church. This is more of a personal opinion. I know a lot of people have that conviction in our area, and I don't have a problem with people having convictions, I have some of my own, but if it's not backed in the Bible, you should not bring that stuff into church," said Cathy Harville.

The family is asking the church to reconsider.
Pastor Stacey Stepp turned it over to the Sandy Valley Conference for Freewill Baptist Churches in the area.
They will have a meeting on Saturday to discuss the issue.

"Hoping on Sunday, we can get a vote overturned and get our church back to normal where it's supposed to be," said Dean Harville.

"If this doesn't work out in our favor, we will be looking for another church, and hopefully, they will continue to go to church with us when they come in," said Cathy Harville.

The Harvilles say many in the community are supporting them and inviting them to worship at their church.

The Sandy Valley Conference meeting on Saturday is closed to the public.

The church member who proposed the ban, Melvin Thompson, says he is not a racist and the matter is an internal affair of the church.

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