Racially Diverse Congregations: Organizational Identity and the Accommodation of Differences



Racial integration in religious congregations is a topic of keen interest to researchers and religious leaders. Although not common, there are congregations that successfully reach across cultural lines to attract adherents. Prior studies tend to dichotomize congregations into categories of multiracial and nonmultiracial and, thereby, miss a wider range of racial variation. Using nationally representative congregational data, this article paints a more representative picture of racial diversity in U.S. congregations and puts forward a theory of congregational identity to account for why some congregations succeed at accommodating multiple racial groups in a society where religious life remains overwhelmingly segregated. The analysis capitalizes on a numeric scale of diversity, which measures the evenness of racial group representation in a congregation. While the external environment creates opportunity for racial diversification in congregations, findings demonstrate racially diverse leadership, charismatic worship, and small groups as internal congregational features also relevant to diversity.