Posted: Dec 4, 2011 8:20 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2011 8:21 PM
A Pike County church's vote to ban interracial marriage has sparked a firestorm of controversy across the country and harsh criticism against that church.
Sunday, the congregation gathered to worship.
Members of Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church unanimously voted Sunday against such a ban. The church's pastor, spoke out to LEX 18 for the first time since the controversy began.
Pastor Stacy Stepp says he had just been pastor a week at Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church, when some of the congregation proposed the idea of a ban on interracial marriage. Longtime church member Stella Harville says it was right after she became engaged to her boyfriend, who is black.
"Before I make a decision on anything, I like to go strictly on what the Bible says," says Pastor Stepp. But Stepp says despite the Bible finding nothing wrong with interracial marriage, he was not able to stop the nine-to-six vote within his church to ban it.
"I tried in every way possible to resolve this matter before it got to where it did."
Sunday, the church went one step further with a unanimous vote. "A vote to accept all people regardless of race, creed or color into the fellowship of Christ," says Stepp.
Sonnie Hereford made his way to the church during service, after he traveled all the way from Alexandria, Virginia. "I wanted to see what this was all about, I wanted to see it for myself," says Hereford.
Hereford is in an interracial marriage and was the first child to be integrated into his Alabama school in the sixties. "I just find it incredible that such an action could be taken in 2011," says Hereford.
He says the image of racism that much of the country is painting for the church is not what he experienced as he joined them for their service. "All of them had tears. I had tears. It was quite an emotional experience. There was an outpouring of love."
"We'll grow from it," says Pastor Stepp. "It's made me stronger. It's showed me what I need to do the next time I'm faced with an issue."
The Pastor says he feels like he did everything in his power to try and stop this from getting to the point it did.
The family of Stella Harville, the church member soon to be in an interracial marriage, says she is at school in Indiana but may come back to visit.