After a firestorm of outrage, the church in eastern Kentucky has overturned its ban on mixed-race couples attending services.
The Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County announced Sunday that it welcomes all believers. Pastor of the church Stacy Stepp told The Associated Press that the vote to prohibit interracial couples from attending was declared null and void, as it was discriminatory and therefore unable to be adopted.
Stepp told church members on Sunday about the decision, which he said would promote “peace, love and harmony.” His resolution was reportedly passed with a unanimous vote earlier in the week.
In August, the congregation had voted nine to six in favor of the barring proposal, and said that people were welcome to attend public worship there – but that the church did not condone interracial marriage. The decision opened outrage across the country, with conversations sparking on Twitter.
“Thank you Gulnare Free Will Baptist for making Christians look bad again,” wrote Twitter user Jeremy.
About the band, Taylor wrote on the site, “This makes me sick to my stomach, shame on you.”
The issue arose at the small church when longtime member Stella Harville and her boyfriend from Africa Ticha Chikuni attended the mass earlier this year. The couple, now engaged, performed onstage together and was targeted afterward when former pastor Melvin Thompson banned them from singing again.
Harville’s father and church secretary Dean Harville said the vote was “nothing but the old devil working,” and added that his daughter was hurt by the ban.
Thompson, who pushed for the barring ballot, but did not explain his actions while speaking to AP.
“I am not racist. I will tell you that,” said Gulnare Free Will’s former pastor. “I am not prejudiced against any race of people, have never in my life spoken evil [about a race], that’s what this is being portrayed as, but it is not.”
The Christian Post spoke with Pastor Bill Staggs of nearby Meta Baptist Church in Kentucky, who said he was “very surprised” by the issue at Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church. “I can only tell you that from my perspective, the interracial issue should not be an issue associated with any church, period.”