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Pike County church bans interracial couples from membership

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

A woman says she cannot attend the Pike County church she grew up in because her fiance is from Africa.

The Gulnare Freewill Baptist church members voted not to allow interracial couples to place membership or be used in worship services or church functions.

Stella Harville, known as Suzie, and her fiance do not live in Pike County but attend services at the church when she is at home.
Harville wants the church to change its stance.

Harville met Ticha Chikuni at Georgetown College. They fell in love and are recently engaged. However, she says the news was not well received when she came home to Pike County and attended the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church.

On Sunday, church members voted 9-6 to not condone interracial marriage.

WYMT obtained a copy of the resolution. It states:
"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."

Harville talked to WYMT's Angela Sparkman on the phone. She 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 mine's right to worship in a public place. It hurts even more that I have attended this church ever since I was a baby."

Ticha Chikuni is originally from Zimbabwe but he has lived in the United States for eleven years
"He just has one of the kindest hearts for God and then this is happening. People who have backwards way of thinking, they should know that their racism actions should not and will not be tolerated," said Harville.

Church member Melvin Thompson who started the initiative told WYMT he would not comment.

The church's pastor, Stacey Stepp told WYMT he is trying to resolve the issue and that everyone is welcome at the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church.

"I'm not going to wish harmful things for these members who have put my family through this, but they should know their actions will not be tolerated," said Harville.

The couple is planning their July wedding which will take place out of Pike County.

WYMT also talked to Harville's parents who are members at the church. During the church's Wednesday meeting, they will ask the church to change its decision.
If not, then they plan to leave the church and look for a new church to worship.


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