Dear Pastor, Can I Come to Your Church? Inside a new experiment on evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and race.
by Bradley Wright (Christianity Today, July 21, 2015)
In a multiethnic church in Columbus, Ohio, white members addressed their minister by his first name. Black members viewed that as disrespectful, believing he should be addressed as “Pastor.” Conflict also broke out over disciplining children during worship services. Black parents tended to discipline their children when they were being disruptive, while white parents tended to let their kids move around.
… integrating a church is rarely easy, and often leads to a litany of unintended slights and unrecognized biases. And this can happen at the earliest and most basic level: welcoming visitors. Do Christian churches in the United States actually welcome people from different racial and ethnic groups?
To answer this question, another sociological researcher and I conducted a nationwide field experiment to see how churches respond to emails from potential newcomers. More than 3,000 congregations received an email ostensibly from someone moving to their community and looking for a new church. We measured whether the churches replied to this email and, if so, what they said. But there was a catch: We varied the names attached to the emails so that they conveyed different racial and ethnic identities. Would the names alone change how churches replied?
Yes, they did—but not for the churches that we expected.