Mainline Pastors More Likely Than Evangelical Pastors to Preach on Race: LifeWay

Hundreds turned out at the Christian Cultural Center, a nondenominational multiethnic megachurch in Brooklyn, NY.

Mainline Protestant pastors are more likely to have preached on the issue of racial reconciliation than evangelical Protestant pastors have, according to a recently released LifeWay Research study.

In a study titled "Pastor Views on Racial Reconciliation" that was released last week, LifeWay found that 53 percent of Mainline pastors, versus 40 percent of evangelicals, said they preached a sermon on racial reconciliation within the past three months.

Furthermore, LifeWay found that Mainline pastors were more likely to be urged by church leadership to address the topic of racial reconciliation, with 38 percent saying they had been urged to do so, contrasted with 22 percent of evangelical pastors.

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, said in a statement that overall, the majority of Protestant pastors "appear to be taking a leadership role in encouraging racial reconciliation."

(Photo: Nathan Alber)Ronnie Floyd (L), president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Jerry Young (R), president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, at a summit on racial unity in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday, November, 4, 2015.

"Nine in 10 pastors say they recently have done something to encourage racial reconciliation," stated McConnell.

"A majority has been socializing with other races and ethnicities and have led prayer on racial reconciliation, but less than a third have addressed economic inequity or publicly lamented injustice."

In a press release, LifeWay noted that past research has found that "questions of racial reconciliation and diversity take a back burner at many Protestant churches."

"A 2015 report among churchgoers found ... evangelicals (71 percent) are most likely to say their church is diverse enough, compared to non-evangelicals. And white churchgoers (37 percent) are least likely to say their church should become more diverse, compared to other ethnicities," noted LifeWay.

"A 2014 study found most Protestant pastors believe every church should strive for racial diversity (85 percent) and that 'churches should reflect the racial diversity in their community' (91 percent). Yet most (86 percent) also said their congregation is predominantly one racial or ethnic group."

LifeWay's recently released study on racial reconciliation was drawn from a survey conducted from Aug. 22 to Sept. 16 of last year among a sample space of 1,000 Protestant pastors.

Over the past few years, increased racial tensions in America have led many churches to increasingly focus on the issue of racial reconciliation.

A few congregations have established "Racists Anonymous" programs while prominent church leaders have held events centered on interracial and multiethnic dialogue.

In 2015, then Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd joined National Baptist Convention, USA President Jerry Young for a summit on racial unity held in Jackson, Mississippi.

The event was significant in that it brought together the head of a denomination founded by slave owners and the head of a predominantly African-American denomination. 

Other findings from the LifeWay report include 57 percent of Protestant senior pastors reported spending time socializing with neighbors of other ethnicities, 40 percent reported meeting regularly with pastors of other ethnicities, and 31 percent invested church funds in changing local economic inequalities.

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