In Divided by Faith: Evangelicals and the Problem of Race in America (2000), sociologists Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith argued that much of the racial dysfunction in the American church today is the result of an individualized theological worldview that blinds white evangelicals to certain societal injustices. The book's shocking assertion stirred debate and became a paradigm-shifting read for many evangelical leaders.
Three years later, Emerson teamed with fellow sociologists Karen Chai Kim and George Yancey and with theologian Curtiss Paul DeYoung to write a sequel, United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race (Oxford, 2003). The teamwho define a multiracial church as "a congregation in which no one racial group accounts for 80 percent or more of the membership"did an intensive, three-year study that included 2,500 phone interviews, written surveys taken by 500 congregations, and firsthand observations of churches in four diverse metropolitan areas.
Again, the authors provide a compelling challenge, and intensify their call, which they argue is a biblical one, for more churches to become multiracial.
In this issue, we condense and excerpt their biblical argument, listen to four pastors respond to their thesis, and tell how one Arkansas congregation lives out its multicultural calling.
The nation's racial landscape is vividly changing. According to the 2000 Census, people of color as a percentage of the United States population have more than doubled to 31 percent since 1960, and the growth of non-Europeans is expected to continue at an accelerated rate. In just the last 20 years (1980 to 2000), the African American population grew by nearly 30 percent, the Native ...1