The most segregated hour

The main stream media is beginning to pay attention to the fact that the faithful are racially segregated during Sunday morning services. CNN offered this sobering account:


The Rev. Paul Earl Sheppard had recently become the senior pastor of a suburban church in California when a group of parishioners came to him with a disturbing personal question.

They were worried because the racial makeup of their small church was changing. They warned Sheppard that the church's newest members would try to seize control because members of their race were inherently aggressive. What was he was going to do if more of "them" tried to join their church?

"One man asked me if I was prepared for a hostile takeover," says Sheppard, pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, California.

The nervous parishioners were African-American, and the church's newcomers were white. Sheppard says the experience demonstrated why racially integrated churches are difficult to create and even harder to sustain. Some blacks as well as whites prefer segregated Sundays, religious scholars and members of interracial churches say.

Americans may be poised to nominate a black man to run for president, but it's segregation as usual in U.S. churches, according to the scholars. Only about 5 percent of the nation's churches are racially integrated, and half of them are in the process of becoming all-black or all-white, says Curtiss Paul DeYoung, co-author of "United by Faith," a book that examines interracial churches in the United States.

DeYoung's numbers are backed by other scholars who've done similar research. They say integrated churches are rare because attending one is like tiptoeing through a racial minefield. Just like in society, racial tensions in the church can erupt over everything from sharing power to interracial dating.

Read it all here.

How integrated was your worship service this morning? What works to encourage diversity in faith communities?

Comments (4)

Diocese of Washington churches are some of the most completely integrated in the nation. I have been fortunate to be a member or clergy at two of them. Yes, there are issues. But really, it's not as hard as people would like to make it out to be.

Maybe we want to make it seem hard so we don't have to integrate ...

Diocese of Washington churches are some of the most completely integrated in the nation.

Kit, would you mind explain what you mean by "completely integrated"? Do your parishes reflect the racial make-up of the U.S.? Of Washington DC? Of the Episcopal Church?

I guess I would say that most of the Episcopal parishes I've been a member of, could do better (I suppose that could be said of almost anything! ;-/).

JC Fisher

I mean that the membership in these churches has no one ethnic majority.

This is a cultural issue far more than a race issue. I grew up around poor white Baptists and Pentecostals, and I promise you the Pentecostals at least would be far more comfortable in a Church of God in Christ service (mostly black) than in the 11 am Rite One Choral Eucharist at the mostly white St. Paul's Cathedral here in OKC. Race is far less of an issue than a shared religious culture with a certain sound and feel. Our religious culture likewise has a certain sound and feel. In both places, it would be a loss for humanity for either religious culture to compromise itself.

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