Pike County church could have new vote on interracial marriage

By Angela Sparkman | 

The pastor of the Pike County church that voted to not condone interracial marriage expects a new vote this Sunday.
The National Association of Free Will Baptists is encouraging the church to overturn the ban.

Dean and Cathy Harville believe their congregation at the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church will take another vote on whether or not to condone interracial marriage.
"We're anxious to have it over with and get it settled," said Cathy Harville.

The family has received national attention after the church voted to not allow interracial couples membership.
The decision came after the Harville's daughter Stella became engaged Ticha Chikuni, a man originally from Zimbabwe, and the couple visited the church while in Pike County.

The Harvilles say the Eastern Kentucky community is supporting them.
"Few have called us and invited us to their church, and they are praying for us, and we appreciate that," said Cathy Harville.

The National Association of Free Will Baptists issued the following statement:
"Recently, the action of a Free Will Baptist church in the state of Kentucky raised questions regarding the position of the National Association of Free Will Baptists on interracial couples. This statement is intended to bring clarity to the subject.
The National Association of Free Will Baptists does not have an official policy regarding interracial couples because it has not been an issue in the denomination. The Free Will Baptist Treatise neither condemns nor disallows marriage between a man and woman of different races.
Free Will Baptists have historically championed the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of race. The denomination's leadership in the abolition movement is evidence of that fact. Free Will Baptists currently spend millions of dollars each year to take the good news of Jesus Christ to people of every race.
Many interracial couples are members of Free Will Baptist churches. They are loved, accepted, and respected by their congregations. It is unfair and inaccurate to characterize the denomination as racist.
It is our understanding that steps are being taken by the church in question to reverse its decision. We encourage the church to follow through with this action. Leaders from the local conference and state association in Kentucky are working with the church to resolve this matter."

Randy Johnson who is not associated with the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church but is head of the Pike County Ministerial Association, is also encouraging the church to reconsider the ban.

"That's not the way we are. The church here and the people here are forgiving and loving and we're hoping and praying this weekend can change things for them and for our community," said Johnson.

Johnson said many other Christians in Pike County are supporting the Harvilles and Chikuni.

"We want the world to know, we want the community to know that that's not the way the church and Christians are and act in Pike County and central Appalachia, and this is not who we are. We're still believers in God and most of the rest of us believe God oversees color," said Johnson.

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