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Racial Diversity In Churches

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A study conducted on 11,000 Evangelical Lutheran Church congregations between 1993 and 2012 claims that racial diversity in churches leads to decline in average attendance.

The research titled “Congregational Diversity and Attendance in a Mainline Protestant Denomination” was carried out by Baylor University and is published in Journal for Scientific Study of Religion.

Associate professor of sociology at Baylor and the lead author of study, Kevin Dougherty, said that the findings do not imply that racial diversity is detrimental to church growth or sustenance, but that congregations that started off as single-race communities will have problems accommodating different ethnicities later on.

“Racial diversity itself is not a detriment to
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Also, the study said that predominantly white communities were more likely to experience growth over time.

The authors of the study tried to test the notion which was held by people of older generations that homogenous churches have more chances to grow, as against the growing trend among the white churches to diversify congregations.

“That philosophy for a long time discouraged church leaders from striving for diversity,” said study co-author Gerardo Martí. “But in coming to terms with the historic racial segregation of American congregations, white pastors in the 1990s aggressively committed to overcoming discrimination, urging members to bring in those from ancestral backgrounds and reaffirm the Gospel as rooted in relationships, unity and love. Racial diversity has become a central, and sometimes dominating ambition for many white churches.

“Our research implicitly evaluates the effectiveness of denominational initiatives to ‘become diverse,’ revealing the extent to which such grand administrative calls for diversification lead to measurable success at the local level,” Martí
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