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Survey: Protestant church diversity ‘heading in the right direction’

“My church is predominantly one racial or ethnic group” Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research

(RNS) — More than 4 in 5 Protestant pastors say their congregations are predominantly made up of one racial or ethnic group.

That 81 percent figure is high, but it’s not as high as it was four years ago, according to a study published Tuesday (March 20) by LifeWay Research.

It was 86 percent in a similar survey of both mainline and evangelical churches by LifeWay in 2013.

“Protestant churches are still mostly divided by race, but they’re heading in the right direction,” LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a written statement.

Pastors of churches with 250 or more congregants were less likely (74 percent) to say their churches are mostly one racial or ethnic group.

Denominationally, Pentecostal pastors were least likely (68 percent) to say their churches are made up of predominantly one race or ethnicity. Lutheran pastors were most likely (89 percent) to report a lack of diversity.

The LifeWay data does not include the actual racial and ethnic makeup of churches — only how pastors responded to the statement, “My church is predominantly one racial or ethnic group.”

Its publication comes just over a week after a report in The New York Times described a “scattered exodus” of black churchgoers from predominantly white evangelical churches after their white pastors failed to address police brutality and their white congregants overwhelmingly voted for President Trump. Earlier reporting by Deborah Jian Lee in Religion Dispatches said Trump’s election “forced a reckoning” for evangelicals of color.

LifeWay’s survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted by phone from Aug. 30 to Sept. 18, 2017. It had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

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RNS staff

14 Comments

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  • “Heading in the right direction”, my foot!

    SO WHAT if “Pentecostal … churches are [not] made up of predominantly one race or ethnicity”?!

    SO WHAT if “Lutheran pastors … report a lack of diversity” in their churches?!

    God & Jesus really don’t care!

    SO INSTEAD can somebody please do a (prophetic) survey on God & Jesus and determine if They’re still “heading in the right direction” toward Apocalypse Now, as promised? Or have They changed Their minds on whether or not judgment must first come to and start in Their own household in the United States of Babylon I mean America?

    Tell me something I don’t already know, in other words. Thank you.

  • The diversity or lack thereof cited in the survey is not necessarily an objective measurement of “diversity” within sects. Race or ethnicity is probably the least important measure of diversity, spiritually speaking. Though naturally, it can be a great benefit to building at least the foundations of a bridge between Christians from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

  • Lol, perhaps a voluntary busing plan needs to be started between congregations to mix things up. Or a monthly exchange of pastors.

  • Geography and ethnic origins of churches have a lot to do with the make up even within the non-Roman Catholic churches. Lutherans have deep roots in northern Europe and was seen as an ethnic immigrant church found in rural and smaller towns of the Midwest up to the mid 20th century while other churches were much more of a home grown or Anglo/American base and scattered around the country with a concentration of Baptists and Methodist in the South. These historical roots along with defacto segregation need to be reminded.

  • With how “diversity” is now viewed as a good thing, at least some folks are defining their concept or comprehension of it based on their circumstances—I’ve seen this—so I’m dubious that the survey is reflecting objective reality at all. All it shows is how folks are perceiving their churches.

    And with ethnicity being part of the question, that just widens the net for perception. “Oh, X family’s South African, Y’s Dutch, Z’s black, and…”

    Due to how normalization and redefinition work, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual diversity is objectively lower than it used to be—and that’s before I consider some articles I’ve been seeing around claiming that folks of African descent are leaving churches of Caucasian descent and such.

  • “More than 4 in 5 Protestant pastors say their congregations are predominantly made up of one racial or ethnic group.”
    Oh the HORROR. God forbid people who look like one another should desire to fellowship with one another. God forbid!

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses in the US are the most racially/ethnically diverse Christian group. They are almost equally represented as white, black and Hispanic (according to Pew).

  • Puffer! You’re back! Windy Edward Cooper BS Boswell, your absence has not made your beard grow longer and you’re still a windbag.

    You know the drill: chin DOWN, beans IN! Your husband Jimmy Shortbeard won’t be happy with you, so get that scruff combed and growing!

  • God forbid that skin color becomes the determinant of looking like each other.
    When did racism become a virtue?

  • “Oh the HORROR”? I don’t think that’s how the so-called Horror Monologue by Marlon Brando goes in Apocalypse Now. If memory serves (it’s amazing what this head of mine can recall on demand), what he said was, and I quote: “I’ve seen horrors, horrors that you’ve seen. … It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. … Horror. Horror has a face … And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends.” No “Oh the HORROR” there, see?

  • I must be experiencing Stockholm Syndrome or something, because I’m actually LOL reading your comment. You got me LOL at “Puffer! You’re back!”

    And then of course my bowels shrivelled up when after this I read Roy Hobs above, going, “Voluntary? How about by Bayonet.” And his “Oh the HORROR” remark too.

    Thanks you 2. Something to be said when this lousy screen monitor can actually make me LOL.

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