When Rodney Woo became pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston in 1992, the all-white congregation averaged 200 worshipers. Faced with a declining membership, and situated in a neigborhood that was changing its racial composition, the congregation set out to invite people of color to church.
It’s a painful irony: congregations in mainline churches—which have long made racial reconciliation one of their highest priorities—are no more racially integrated than other churches, and in fact tend to be somewhat less integrated than independent and theologically conservative churches (see John Dart’s "Hues in the pews").
In their 2001 book Divided By Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith developed a theory to explain why churches are racially exclusive enclaves despite Christians’ high ideals about being inclusive: Americans choose where and with whom to worship; race is one of the most important grounds on which the
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