United By Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race

United By Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race

C. P. DeYoung,
M. O. Emerson,
G. Yancey, and
K. C. Kim
222 pp., $27

In 2001 Michael Emerson and Christian Smith showed in Divided by Faith how theology, history, and the structure of religious organizations divide U.S. Christians along racial lines. In this follow-up, Emerson collaborates with two other sociologists and a reconciliation theologian to spur the church to become multiracial. This, they believe, could "provide a healing salve for the wounds of racial division."

After looking at the biblical history of multiracial congregations, they provide a fascinating—and often disturbing—review of past attempts in the United States to integrate churches. They vividly remind us that "racial reconciliation and multiracial congregations often come at a cost and with sacrifice."

The authors evenhandedly address pragmatic, theological, cultural, activist, and sociological arguments made for uniracial congregations and carefully refute them. They also present a theology for multiracial congregations, provide short profiles of four successful multiracial churches, and offer practical insights and advice, while acknowledging the challenges.

"Just imagine for a moment what would happen in communities across the United States—and in the nation as a whole—if multiracial congregations began emerging in cities, suburbs, and small towns," the authors write. Christians should find this book a compelling argument for change.

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