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Even in multi-racial parishes, clergy of color face discrimination

Even in multi-racial parishes, clergy of color face discrimination

Diversity without justice.

Pastors of different races receive different treatment reports The ARDA.

New findings from the Religious Leadership and Diversity Project suggest white pastors of multiracial churches receive disproportionate resources, have greater authority and are valued more by their congregations than clergy of color.

In their own words, many black and Asian pastors in multiracial churches say they are denied a seat at the table in predominantly white denominations, while they are also alienated from their spiritual homes in Asian American and African American churches.

“The stories of the African American pastors and Asian American pastors are ones of people standing on the doorsteps of assimilation only to be ultimately denied entrance through the door of whiteness and access to the privileges enjoyed by the white majority,” reported researchers Korie Edwards of Ohio State University and Rebecca Kim of Pepperdine University.


Three articles analyzing study data were recently published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

What the research revealed is that even in multiracial churches, “Neither African American nor Asian American pastors—regardless of their particular ethnicity, race, culture, or histories—are gaining entrée into the white majority. They are both hitting the same white wall,” Edwards and Kim wrote.

Consider these findings:

• Separate and unequal: An Asian American pastor starting a church in a new neighborhood deliberately omitted photos of himself in church advertisements. A black pastor did the same “because there’s a stigma that comes along with an African American.” Overall, Edwards and Kim found pastors of color were “dismissed and dissed:” dismissed because they were seen as outsiders by African American and Asian American church leaders; dissed because they are not given the same power and privileges as their white counterparts in multiracial congregations.
• Hoarding resources: White pastors leading multiracial communities reported being given access to support from denominational sources, civic leaders, philanthropists and others within their predominantly white networks. But for most leaders of color, access to multiracial church resources “felt nonexistent,” according to researcher Christopher Munn.
• No justice: Nearly all pastors laid claim to being qualified to head multiracial churches based on their desire for diversity and being motivated by past acts of racial injustice. But many pastors in discussing racism referred back some 50 years or more to the civil rights movement, with the understanding that the institutions they served were more concerned today with diversity than addressing racial inequality. “Given that recognition of racial injustice is an important step to ending it, the formula stories socially acceptable in multiracial churches may be reifying racism rather than rectifying it,” researcher Oneya Fennell Okuwobi reported.


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