In the small coal-mining town of Pikeville, KY, Stella Harville (from Kentucky) and her boyfriend Ticha Chikuni (from Zimbabwe) peacefully worship together at Harville's home church of Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church, where they fully participate and sing in church as well. Back in July, the couple announced their engagement after recently returning from a mission trip to Arlington, Texas.
As word of their engagement spread throughout the community, the pastor of the church, at the time (Rev. Melvin Thompson), approached the couple and expressed that they could not sing together at the church in the future. Along with not singing in church, Rev. Thompson enacted an "interracial couples ban," which triggered an outrage of mixed reactions in the community and on various social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Recently, after the ban had been enacted, Rev. Thompson stepped down due to health concerns, and the church elected Rev. Stacy Stepp as their new pastor. Rev. Stepp did not have any issues with Harville and Chikuni participating at their church, and contacted the Sandy Valley Conference. The conference ruled the ban as null and void, violating both local and federal law and, therefore, the ban was successfully lifted.
I have provided some of the most recently tweeted reactions to this story below:
http://t.co/S7OCo8qK 1. Really? This needed a vote? 2. They welcome all "believers"? Wish they'd welcome EVERYONE!I'm so disturbed by this->
http://t.co/oyE9YYd6 has our society deteriorated this much? How is this even possible?
The couple the Ky church banned are Ticha and Stella. Anyone who knows Ticha knows he's awesome. People should check out this story
I stand with Ticha Chikuni & Stella Harville, and say that the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church have lost their minds.
With all of the attention that this story is receiving, both within mainstream media and social media, Harville was invited to speak on CNN's primetime show of Erin Burnett: OutFront, and I have provided a sample of her interview below.
Credit: Thanks to Rebecca Harville for assisting with the information for this article.