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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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More diverse, not color blind

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.


Comments

Rik

Rik

Posted at 6:36 pm (U.S. Eastern) 6/24/2009

In appreciating diversity in the church (as well as in the world), it is helpful to not use the term "White" in representing European Americans.  In that catagory alone there is incredible diversity, which is missed when our focus is only on targeted groups such as Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian Americans.  It is exciting to see their inclusion too in the Lutheran church, but by resorting to using terms like "white", we miss the fact that the church is not all German-Americans, neither is it exclusively Scandanavian.  Their are Polish Lutherans, Irish Lutherans, Latvian Lutherans, and others with ancestry in Southern Europe.  To ignore the differences of their story and the richness of thier cultural background  is a poverty to the Lutheran church.  Rather than racially profiling people to be targets to become evangelization projects, let us reach out to ALL people, regardless of their unique ethnicity, with the saving, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ!



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