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United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race Paperback – September 23, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review


"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


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195177525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195177527
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.8 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Whereas Divided by Faith was researched in great detail and did not draw any judgments, this book is predominantly judgment without objective detail. It notes that Paul frequently implored Jews and Gentiles to get along in churches and it then concludes that congregations today should be multiracial. It never really discusses *why* they should be multiracial. This is a crucial oversight because one can develop different ideas of *how* to be multiracial depending on what concept of multiracial is being sought. (Designers say, "Form fits function.")

The book only touched upon different approaches to multiracial congregations. For example, one approach would be assimilation in which the strengths of the different ethnicities would be submerged into a common culture, probably overwhelmed by the dominant culture. A second approach would be diversity in which the congregation would be more of a mosaic of different ethnicities; this presents the challenge of insufficient interaction among those different components. (Personal note: I strongly prefer the latter.)

The book cites some positive examples of multiracial congregations. Most of them are liberal Christian churches, which evangelicals are likely to reject as models.

On a personal note, sometimes I got the impression that the authors were more interested in achieving a multiracial congregation than in who or what that congregation worshiped. Put another way, sometimes I got the impression that multiracial constitution *was* their god. Again, this is just an impression that I got and other readers could disagree.

Overall, this is like some movies. The sequel was not nearly as good as the original.
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By A Customer on December 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A multiethnic group of authors (white, black, asian) tackle the topic of multiethnic Christian congregations (defined as congregations where no race makes up more the 80% of the congregation). These churches are rare today, and the authors lay out the argument for the need and benefit of multiracial congregations. From the sound theological basis the authors lay out to vignettes about successful multiethnic churches to debasing contemporary arguments in support of segregation, this book has it all. You will come away with a better understanding of the multiethnic church and the need for more such churches today, as well as an excitement for the task ahead.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pros: The first few chapters give a bit of history that is very helpful. First, there is biblical historical context – the NT church is described as mutli-racial from the beginning, with numerous examples and explanation that brings a better understanding of the multicultural language of the NT. Also, there is early American history presented, explaining how some early congregations , even in the midst of slavery, intentionally were multi-racial. The book is clearly academic/scholarly in its approach. It tries to be fairly objective overall, though they are writing to prove their point that congregations should always be multiracial if at all possible.

Cons: In one section, there is a heavier leaning to discussion about the Church of God’s history in multicultural churches (one of the writers is a member of this denomination) than other denominations. They allow “congregations” to include very liberal Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism, both of which would not be considered orthodox at all. There is a heavy leaning toward pragmatic means to establish churches that are multicultural, and whites come off generally as demeaned as the bad guy, which seems to be the norm with this topic and which can actually lead to further division in doing so. It mentions a white, black, Asian, Latino style, etc….The book stops short in defining what the different “styles” actually are for varying racial groups. It leans heavily toward cultures being based primarily on skin color, which to me is not entirely accurate. As with a lot of the more pragmatic thinkers in this area, it sells itself short by thinking that a congregation is unified based on its elevation of mixed cultural practices in worship and percentages of different races…rather than by correct doctrine and practice of it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The four co-authors examine the history of the various Christian church congregational models. They document why they think that the interracial congregation is the best congregational mode. Warning: the reading level of this book is quite high. It is a scholarly work presented by scholars. But, well worth the read.
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Format: Hardcover
This book stands as a profound appeal to North American Christians to accept the Church's unique challenge to offer a Biblical social vision to the larger culture. The authors' hermeneutic argues for an often overlooked understanding of the true multicultural people of God. The Church in its diversity can present a new cultural alternative by visibly demonstrating that the "wall of separation" has indeed been removed by Christ. Not claiming to have all the answers, the authors seek to help develop new sensibilities in Christians that will recognize and confront the pervasive influence of cultures of origin.

The book's outline of the problem, its biblical exposition, and its narratives of possibility lay a strong foundational argument for greater, wider reflection from Christians in North America, and elsewhere for that matter. Further consideration of diverse forms of congregational tradition and cultural context could enhance a continuing discussion, but the authors have already succeeded in their inspiring call for a greater engagement and faithfulness by the Church. This book should be read and discussed in real-life congregations.
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