Despite growing diversity in our country, people of different races and ethnicities still tend to live, socialize and worship with those like them. As a result, it has been frustrating for the ELCA to achieve its goal of growing into a multicultural church.
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U.S. congregations have become more ethnically diverse in the last eight years, according to the National Congregations Study. Predominantly white congregations reported greater racial and ethnic diversity between the first and second surveys of U.S. houses of worship.
When the study was first conducted in 1998, 20 percent of churchgoers reported attending a church that was all white and non-Latino. In the second round, conducted in 2006-07, that figure dipped to 14 percent. The study also found that the percentage of congregations with no Asian members decreased in the same period from 59 to 50 percent, and the percentage of congregations with no Latino members dropped from 43 to 36 percent.
"We're far from a color-blind society, in religion or anything else, but there is some movement in churches as well as elsewhere," said Mark Chaves, professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University, Durham, N.C., and lead researcher on the project.
While researchers found that some previously all-white congregations now have a couple of minority families as members, Chaves said mostly black churches didn't report a comparable change. "If you look at predominantly black churches, we don't find more whites, Latinos or Asians in them," he said.
The study was based on reports from leaders of 1,506 congregations and doesn't reflect the observations of independent survey takers. "If there's any overreporting or underreporting, because [of] its leaders' reports, it ought to be the same in both times," Chaves said.
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