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Against All Odds

The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations

Brad Christerson, Michael Emerson, Korie Edwards

Publication Year: 2005

Religious institutions are among the most segregated organizations in American society. This segregation has long been a troubling issue among scholars and religious leaders alike.

Despite attempts to address this racial divide, integrated churches are very difficult to maintain over time. Why is this so? How can organizations incorporate separate racial, ethnic, and cultural groups? Should they? And what are the costs and rewards for people and groups in such organizations?

Following up on Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith's award-winning Divided by Faith, Against All Odds breaks new ground by exploring the beliefs, practices, and structures which allow integrated religious organizations to survive and thrive despite their difficulties. Based on six in-depth ethnographies of churches and other Christian organizations, this engaging work draws on numerous interviews, so that readers can hear first-hand the joys and frustrations which arise from actually experiencing racial integration. The book gives an inside, visceral sense of what it is like to be part of a multiracial religious organization as well as a theoretical understanding of these experiences.

Published by: NYU Press

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

This volume has been a collaborative work in every sense; all authors have contributed equally. Many other people have contributed as well. We would like to thank the organizations and the many people who allowed us to enter their lives in our efforts to learn about their experiences. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their time and honest sharing. We...

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1. Against All Odds

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pp. 1-8

The leaders of a small multiracial congregation in Los Angeles County have called a special meeting on Sunday afternoon. The purpose of the meeting is to have an open dialogue among members about how the racial and ethnic diversity of the church affects the congregation. A Filipina woman begins by stating that she feels the church, while...

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2. The Need for Belonging

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pp. 9-35

Forty or so members of Messiah Fellowship are packed into a suburban home in Los Angeles County, milling around, laughing, and joking. A group of eight young men are scattered around the floor in front of the TV watching the end of a basketball game, periodically yelling in happiness or disgust at the events unfolding on the screen. Folks mingle...

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3. A Place to Call Home

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pp. 36-57

Like Messiah Fellowship, Wilcrest is an evangelical church. And like Messiah, Wilcrest is an interracial congregation. But Wilcrest diverges from Messiah on many points. While Messiah is nondenominational, Wilcrest is solidly Southern Baptist, both in theology and—by virtue of its location in Houston, Texas—geographically. There are more...

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4. White Flight or Flux?

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pp. 58-79

It is Sunday morning worship service. Pastor Barnes, a middleaged African American man, asks the Holbert family to join him up front at the pulpit. Bill, Jane, and their three boys walk to the front of the church and join Pastor Barnes. Pastor Barnes asks Jane and Bill to share with the congregation their future plans. Bill approaches the microphone...

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5. Embrace and Division

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pp. 80-103

As I enter the sanctuary of Brookside Community Church in suburban Los Angeles, sounds of a traditional hymn played on an organ fill the air. A friendly middle-aged white man greets me with an outstretched hand and a warm smile. The pews are filled mostly with middle-aged white people, quiet and focused on the front of the church. The service begins...

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6. Together and Separate

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pp. 104-125

As I enter the sanctuary of Brookside Community Church in suburban Los Angeles, sounds of a traditional hymn played on an organ fill the air. A friendly middle-aged white man greets me with an outstretched hand and a warm smile. The pews are filled mostly with middle-aged white people, quiet and focused on the front of the church. The service begins...

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7. Jesus Is Color-Blind

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pp. 126-150

A visit to the campus of Emmanuel Bible College (EBC) on the West Coast is a pleasant experience. Large trees and immaculately manicured lawns wrap the campus in a feeling of calm serenity. Smiling young clean-cut students say “hi” as they walk past you, and groups of friends sit and laugh or pray together on the grassy lawns in the courtyard. Also noticeable...

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8. What We Learned

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pp. 151-186

We have covered a great deal of ground in our case studies, and we have visited a variety of places and religious organizations. For each case, we conducted around thirty in-depth face-to-face interviews with affiliates of religious organizations, including current members, former members, and leadership. We also observed religious meetings and...

Notes

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pp. 187-188

References

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pp. 189-192

Index

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pp. 193-196

About the Authors

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p. 197-197


E-ISBN-13: 9780814772737
E-ISBN-10: 0814772730
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814722237
Print-ISBN-10: 0814722237

Page Count: 207
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Race relations -- Case studies.
  • Religious institutions -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Race relations -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- Case studies.
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