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United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race Paperback – September 23, 2004
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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.
"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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"United by Faith," then argues that the biblical and effective approach is the multi-cultural congregation in which no one race makes up more than 80% of the congregation. The authors explain the biblical and social need for such congregations. They then follow with hope-giving success stories which provide the philosophy, principles, and practices necessary to obtain the biblical social vision of the multicultural people of God.
Implied, but not highlighted or extracted in detail, is the truth that such congregations can and should then do two things: 1.) Be a visible testimony exhorting the world to "go and do likewise." 2.) Take a stand against societal racism and promote racial reconciliation and justice.
The strength of the book is the theological/biblical development of the argument that God's purpose in history is united multi-cultural worship. From the first church in Jerusalem in Acts 2 to the eternal worship of the Lamb in Revelation 7:9-10, the authors highlight this eschatological goal of God.
Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Soul Physicians, and Spiritual Friends.
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.