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Benefits of Multiracial Congregations

A few of my colleagues found this article from Yale Divinity School's magazine by Michael Emerson, co-author of Divided By Faith, a book in our Resources page. There are so many good points in this article (statistics, wisdom, etc.), and I found it difficult to choose a favorite excerpt to display below. It also highlights the work of the Mosaix Network, whose conference is also found on our Resources page.

Involvement in multiracial congregations, over time, leads to fundamental differences. Friendships patterns change. Through national surveys we find that people in multiracial congregations have significantly more friendships across race than do other Americans. For example, for those attending racially homogenous congregations, 83 percent said most or all of their friends were the same race as them. For those not attending any congregation, 70 percent said most or all of their friends were the same race as them.

But for those attending multiracial congregations, there is a dramatic difference. Only 36 percent of people attending racially mixed congregation said most or all of their friends were the same race as them. And we found that those 36 percent were relatively recent arrivals to their racially mixed congregations.

We found this same pattern for every question we asked about relationships with other people. People not attending congregations are more likely to be interracially married, have best friends who are of a different race, and have more diverse social networks (acquaintances beyond one’s circle of friends) than are other Americans.

Interestingly, over 80 percent of the people in racially mixed congregations said that most of the racial diversity in their friendships came because of their involvement in their racially mixed congregation. Indeed, when we did a statistical analysis called logistic regression, we found that by far the most important factor in people having racially diverse relationships is whether they attend a racially mixed congregation.

Representative of this finding, a Salvadorian immigrant living in Los Angeles and attending a racially mixed congregation said that perhaps 10 percent of the people she knew before she started attending her church were of different races, but now, “since I have been at this church the majority of my friends are of different races.”

Partly due to the greater relationships across race, involvement in multiracial congregations leads to attitudinal change – change toward closing the racial gap in racial attitudes.


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