(GULNARE, Ky.) -- The pastor at a small Kentucky church says he has nullified a vote by parishioners that banned interracial couples from the church.
"As far as I'm concerned and the church is concerned, this case will be closed as of tomorrow," Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church pastor Stacy Stepp said on Saturday, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. "We will...get back on the right track and continue to win souls for the Lord."
Stepp, who said he opposed the vote, declared it null and void after approaching the Sandy Valley Conference of Free Will Baptists, which consists of 13 Pike County churches.
The conference met on Saturday and released a statement saying it had reviewed the situation and concluded that the vote was of no effect because it, "was not carried out in accordance with" Robert's Rules of Order, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, and would therefore require a change in the church bylaws.
The Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church voted nine to six on Nov. 27 to ban interracial couples from church services or functions, with the exception of funerals.
Stella Harville, 24, and her fiance Ticha Chikuni, 28, are the couple that prompted the church's actions. Harville is white and Chikuni is black. The couple met at Georgetown College in Kentucky, where both were students, and they plan to marry in July 2012.
Harville is in graduate school in Indiana and Chikuni is working at Georgetown College, but when the couple visits Harville's parents in Pike County, Ky., they usually go to church with her parents, Cathy and Dean Harville.
But after a service in June where Stella Harville and Chikuni participated by singing and playing the piano for a hymn, the family was shocked when then-pastor Melvin Thompson approached them after the service and told Chikuni he could not sing anymore.
The next week, Cathy and Dean Harville met with Thompson and were that members of the congregation had said they would walk out if Chikuni sang again.
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