University Study Finds Small Progress in Racial Integration of Church Congregations

churchDr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that Sunday was the most segregated day of the week in America because Blacks and Whites tended to worship God in congregations that were rigidly segregated along racial lines. But a new study, led by Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, finds racial diversity in church congregations is slowly improving.

The new research shows that in 1998, 20 percent of all churchgoers were members of all-White congregations. The latest data shows that only 11 percent of all church goers belong to all-White congregations. It’s “driven by important social changes like upward mobility among Blacks and increasing racial intermarriage,” Dr. Chaves reports. However the authors of the report warn that despite a reduction in all-White congregations, “86 percent of American congregations (containing 80 percent of religious service attendees) remain overwhelmingly White or Black or Hispanic or Asian or whatever.” The study found that there has been no increase in ethnic diversity in predominantly Black congregations.

The research, “Changing American Congregations: Findings from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study,” is scheduled for publication in the December 2014 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

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