From Publishers Weekly
As America grows ever more ethnically diverse, Christian churches remain racially homogeneous. This state of affairs must end, argues this earnest blend of religious moralizing and social science; indeed, church integration is so central both to the Christian mission and to racial equality at large that "the twenty-first century must be the century of multi-racial congregations." The authors, professors either of sociology or "reconciliation studies," base their claims on theology, church history and sociology. They look back to the diversity and cosmopolitanism of the early Church as a model for contemporary Christians, and trace the legacy of racism and segregation in American churches and attempts to overcome them. Drawing on questionnaires, interviews with church members and leaders, and on-site studies of four racially mixed congregations, they probe both the promise and pitfalls of church integration. The authors respond to minority critics who value uniracial churches as hothouses for distinctive worship styles, rallying points for activism and refuges from white social hegemony, and stress that integrated churches can and should guard against assimilationist pressures, preserve the unique cultures of all racial groups and cultivate a racially diverse church leadership. They never quite demonstrate the world-historical centrality of racially mixed congregations, and they concede the aura of awkward dutifulness that accompanies self-conscious attempts at church integration, observing that congregations are not truly integrated until all the racial groups feel somewhat uncomfortable in the resulting milieu. Still, the authors make a good case that this is a cross that Christian churches should take up.
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"Groundbreaking in establishing the moral and ethical basis for multiracial churches. It is truly prophetic in asserting that to be the church of Jesus Christ, the American church needs a multiracial movement." --Religious Studies Review