The lead pastor at the Kentucky church that banned interracial couples from becoming members or participating in certain worship activities now expects that ban to be overturned. Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church, a small congregation in Pike County, Kentucky, voted to ban such couples Sunday, months after a former pastor originally drafted a resolution decreeing the policy.
But after outrage from local residents, local religious leaders, and the National Association of Free Will Baptists, current pastor Stacy Stepp told the Appalachian News-Express that he expected state and national Free Will Baptist officials to overturn the ban. He has also called for a new vote on the matter, perhaps as early as this Sunday, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. The ban was instituted in a 9–6 vote of church members Sunday, though much of the 40-member crowd abstained. “We’re going to get it resolved,” Stepp said.
The National Association of Free Will Baptists released a statement Thursday backing that action and clarifying that it did not hold a formal position on interracial marriages because “it has not been an issue in the denomination.” It encouraged local and state church officials, as well as Gulnare’s membership, to “reverse the decision”:
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.
The ban on interracial couples was originally introduced through a resolution by former pastor Melvin Thompson after Stella Harville, a long-time attendee, performed at the church in August alongside her fiance, a native of Zimbabwe.