Are Evangelicals Doing a Good Job at Racial Integration?
"Evangelicals over the past couple of decades have been the most purposeful when it comes to racial integration. We see this from the 1990s with the racial reconciliation movement, and after that you began to hear a lot about wanting to move toward racial integration in religious organizations. There's a movement out there. Evangelical churches are hearing about it, and some are committing to it."
Korie Edwards, professor of sociology, The Ohio State University
"If you look at straight numbers, evangelicals and all churches are not doing well. On the other hand, when you see that evangelicals emphasize that one's religious identity should be more important than anything else, they have a very interesting capacity for creating a new identity that rallies people of different races and ethnicities. Individuals are willing to accentuate religious identities over ethnic identities within some local churches."
Gerardo Marti, professor of sociology, Davidson College
"Something is really changing in evangelicalism, and it's this social movement towards being diverse congregations. The large churches are at the forefront; we're seeing that. But this is just going to grow over time. Churches have been the most segregated by far, so in one sense it's catching up to that. But I think it's way beyond that; because this has theological grounding, it will go way beyond society, and eventually the church will be the place that's the most integrated."
Michael Emerson, professor of sociology, Rice University
"It is in a pioneer stage. Ten years ago it was on the fringe; it's now becoming a topic of conversation. People are just beginning to understand this is more than a good idea, it is New Testament Christianity, and it's about the gospel in the 21st century. They've embraced the conversation but haven't committed to the idea as a critical component of the Church."
Mark DeYmaz, directional leader, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas
"We have the best potential, in that Christians have the capacity to think transcendentally, beyond ourselves. That should lead us to an understanding of how cross-cultural multiethnic relationships can work. We have theological language that should move us in that direction. We have in recent history done a relatively poor job of integration, so in that sense we're starting behind compared to the rest of society. But … the Church is becoming more diverse at a faster rate than American society."
Soong-Chan Rah, associate professor, North Park Theological Seminary
"The church is good at coming together in spurts and giving a temporary picture of integration and diversity, but if you dig deeper it raises questions about how authentic that unity is. Integration can look like diversity and wonderful racial harmony, but that doesn't necessarily mean there is true, authentic, substantive unity or diversity or reconciliation happening. There's a tendency to settle on looking diverse, but things required to really make it a part of the DNA of those churches are lacking, because it's a little uncomfortable for the leadership and congregation."
Edward Gilbreath, editor, Urbanfaith.com
"Good is not enough. We have to go beyond good and be courageous and bold, risk-taking and edgy, willing to stand in opposition. We have to be stronger advocates for justice and righteousness and the issues of injustice. If we can master these things, then we will embrace the issues of racial reconciliation."
Alvin C. Bibbs Sr., executive director of multicultural church relations, Willow Creek Association