Multiracial Congregations [are] “a more realistic picture of what the world looks like”

Multiracial Congregations in America: Looking for "a more realistic picture of what the world looks like"

Elfriede Wedam, University of Illinois at Chicago

Multiracial congregations in the U.S. are rare. In a recent national study, Michael Emerson and his colleagues found that mixed race congregations, those having no more than 80 percent of any one racial group in their membership, represent 8 percent of American congregations. One important explanation for this common feature of congregations, as with American voluntary associations generally, is that people are recruited to become members through social networks that are themselves homogeneous. Furthermore, when diverse people are recruited, their diversity acts to keep them on the periphery of the organization rather than among the core members. As a result, they are more easily recruited to join organizations in which they are not different from the majority of other members, making multiracial congregations frequently unstable in their composition. These principles have been confirmed by empirical research conducted by network theorists Pamela Popielarz and John McPherson (1995). In order to hold together racially diverse people in a single voluntary group and overcome the disadvantage of instability, such organizations need to overcome several powerful social forces that include the culture of organizational life, religious predispositions, and the push toward spatial segregation in our major urban centers.

Full article at

Also, see this summary of the 1998 Multiracial Congregations Project at

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