After an immense nationwide backlash, a small church located in Eastern Kentucky has voted unanimously to overturn a recently passed measure barring interracial couples from membership.
Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church of Pike County, Ky., reversed the controversial decision made just one week ago in a nine to three vote.
In late November, Gulnare Free Will Baptist had barred interracial couples from becoming members in a proposal that reasoned such a measure would “promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.”
“Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions,” read the proposal.
The approved stated that while they welcomed all people to their worship services, no one involved in an interracial relationship could become a member.
When word got out that Gulnare had barred interracial couples, churches in Eastern Kentucky were among those denouncing the decision.
“While every local church has their own idea how they run the government of their particular congregation, I feel that prejudices concerning race have no part in the church and outreach to others,” Pastor Richard McKinney of Cornerstone Apostolic Church, told The Christian Post.
“I am incredibly saddened by the church's action. They have the right to make such a decision but I do not believe it represents Christianity well or our region in southeast Kentucky,” said Dr. Chuck Summers of First Christian Church of Pikeville, in an interview with CP.
“Prejudice, unfortunately, still exists everywhere. I can assure you this is a minority opinion among Christians in our county.”
Dr. Shaunna L. Scott, associate professor of sociology and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Kentucky, has extensively studied the culture of the Appalachian region.
“Churches, both locally and nationally, criticized the decision of this church to bar an interracial couple from participating in worship services,” said Scott in an interview with CP.
“This is an indicator that this kind of overt racism is no longer accepted in the region or in the nation. They used to say that 11 AM on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. Indeed, that may still be the case. But, slowly, people seem to be working to change that.”
Scott also explained that although she felt that the elimination of racism in the country “is a slow process,” churches are a very important component.
“Churches are particularly well positioned to take a leadership role in this effort, by pointing out our equal worth as human and spiritual beings,” said Scott.