While saying all are welcome to worship at their sanctuary, a small church in Eastern Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couples from receiving membership.
Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, located in Pike County, voted nine to six in favor of the proposal which has stirred outrage across the country.
“I have to say that I was very surprised,” said Pastor Bill Staggs of nearby Meta Baptist Church in an interview with The Christian Post.
“I can only tell you that from my perspective, the interracial issue should not be an issue associated with any church, period.”
Staggs noted that he knew of many “members of that church who are good, abiding citizens” and could not understand “why the decision was made.”
“When it comes to church membership, there are biblical guidelines that should be followed concerning church membership,” said Staggs.
“Every church that I am familiar with makes those decisions autonomously, but it should not involve skin color or ethnic backgrounds.”
Pastor Richard D. McKinney of Cornerstone Apostolic Church of Phelps, Ky., also commented to CP that “prejudices concerning race” should “have no part in the church and outreach to others."
"I feel this particular church has made a very bad decision in their actions on their stand on race."
While McKinney believed that "in some areas in Eastern Kentucky, racism is still alive," he stressed that "not every Eastern Kentuckian has prejudices."
"Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church is just one local church out of many located in Eastern Kentucky and their opinion does not reflect that of Cornerstone Apostolic Church or the majority of churches in the area," said McKinney.
Melvin Thompson, member of Gulnare, submitted the proposal on Sunday, Nov. 9 and it was approved on Sunday, Nov. 27.
“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,” reads the proposal.
“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.”
Keith Burden, executive secretary for the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc., told CP that Gulnare “acted independently in that decision.”
“The National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc., does not have a stated, official position regarding interracial marriage. It is a non-issue for us denominationally,” said Burden.
Burden also explained that given how the NAFWB is structured, the main body of the organization “does not have the authority to overturn the decision of a local church.”
“The Associational Conference of which a church is a member can make recommendations or submit requests to that church,” Burden explained. “However, if advisory and persuasive labors fail, the only recourse for the association is to withdraw fellowship from the church.”
Melvin Thompson, author of the proposal, could not be reached for comment.