United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race

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Press: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 23, 2004)
Publication Date:2004-9
Author Name:Deyoung, Curtiss Paul/ Emerson, Michael O./ Yancey, George/ Kim, Karen Chai


In the last four decades, desegregation has revolutionized almost every aspect of life in the United States: schools, businesses, government offices, even entertainment. 
But there is one area that remains largely untouched, and that is the church.
Now comes a major new call for multiracial congregations in every possible setting--a call that is surprisingly controversial, even in the twenty-first century.
In United By Faith, a multiracial team of sociologists and a minister of the Church of God argue that multiracial Christian congregations offer a key to opening the still-locked door between the races in the United States.
They note, however, that a belief persists--even in African-American and Latino churches--that racial segregation is an acceptable, even useful practice.
The authors examine this question from biblical, historical, and theological perspectives to make their case.
They explore the long history of interracialism in the church, with specific examples of multiracial congregations in the United States.
They cite examples ranging from the abolitionist movement to an astonishing 1897 camp meeting in Alabama that brought together hundreds of whites and blacks literally into the same tent.
Here, too, is a critical account of the theological arguments in favor of racial separation, as voiced in the African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Native-American, and white contexts.
The authors respond in detail, closing with a foundation for a theology suited to sustaining multiracial congregations over time.
Faith can be the basis for healing, but too often Christian faith has been a field for injury and division.
In this important new book, readers will glimpse a way forward, a path toward once again making the church the basis for racial reconciliation in our still-splintered nation.


"Groundbreaking in establishing the moral and ethical basis for multiracial churches. 
It is truly prophetic in asserting that to be the church of Jesus Christ, the American church needs a multiracial movement." --Religious Studies Review

About the Author

Curtiss Paul DeYoung is an Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel College, St. 
Paul, M.N., and an ordained minister in the Church of God (Anderson, In).
Michael O.
Emerson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and is the co-author of Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America.
George Yancey is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas.
Karen Chai Kim is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Houston.


Religion & Spirituality,Religious Studies,Sociology,Politics & Social Sciences,Social Sciences,Specific Demographics,Minority Studies,History,Americas,United States,African Americans,Discrimination & Racism

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Comment List (Total:12)

  •     This should be a must read for all who profess to follow Jesus Christ. And every American Christ follower should evaluate their faith practices by those who started the Christian...
  •     Whereas Divided by Faith was researched in great detail and did not draw any judgments, this book is predominantly judgment without objective detail. It notes that Paul frequently implored Jews and Gentiles to get along in churches and it then concludes that congregations today should be multiracial. It never really discusses *why* they should be multiracial. This is a crucial oversight because one can develop different ideas of *how* to be multiracial depending on what concept of multiracial is being sought. (Designers say, "Form fits function.")The book only touched upon different approaches to multiracial congregations. For example, one approach would be assimilation in which the strengths of the different ethnicities would be submerged into a common culture, probably overwhelmed by the dominant culture. A second approach would be diversity in which the congregation would be more of a mosaic of different ethnicities; this presents the challenge of insufficient interaction among those different components. (Personal note: I strongly prefer the latter.)The book cites some positive examples of multiracial congregations. Most of them are liberal Christian churches, which evangelicals are likely to reject as models.On a personal note, sometimes I got the impression that the authors were more interested in achieving a multiracial congregation than in who or what that congregation worshiped. Put another way, sometimes I got the impression that multiracial constitution *was* their god. Again, this is just an impression that I got and other readers could disagree.Overall, this is like some movies. The sequel was not nearly as good as the original.
  •     This material was excellent
  •     Pros: The first few chapters give a bit of history that is very helpful. First, there is biblical historical context – the NT church is described as mutli-racial from the...
  •     Emerson has convened a multicultural team of co-authors to follow-up his earlier work "Divided by Faith."
  •     The four co-authors examine the history of the various Christian church congregational models. They document why they think that the interracial congregation is the best...
  •     A multiethnic group of authors (white, black, asian) tackle the topic of multiethnic Christian congregations (defined as congregations where no race makes up more the 80% of the congregation). These churches are rare today, and the authors lay out the argument for the need and benefit of multiracial congregations. From the sound theological basis the authors lay out to vignettes about successful multiethnic churches to debasing contemporary arguments in support of segregation, this book has it all. You will come away with a better understanding of the multiethnic church and the need for more such churches today, as well as an excitement for the task ahead.
  •     received as promised
  •     Book was in great condition... It's an easy read. It was for a class so had to buy the book.
  •     I would like to be more positive about this book than I feel able to be. It asks some good questions and it does tell some great stories. The cause of desegration in church and society, and the need for credible multicultural Christian witness certainly requires a combination of theology, history and sociology such as this book attempts. However in my view the overall treatment is unnecessarily disappointing.Difficulties relate to taking Christian support for desegration as the exegetical key to the authors' historical and biblical understanding, a naive hermeneutic between New Testament past and contemporary present, a somewhat populist and slightly moralistic tone, and an inability to come to terms with the size of the multicultural issue. In addition some overaching difficulties derive from the authors' apparent assumption that the congregation is the fundamental unit of church, the one in which the cultural diversity of the church always needs to be represented. A wider view of what constitutes church and a less simplistic linkage between past and present would have greatly improved the quality and application of their research.The North American historical experience at the heart of the their concern is, however tragic, neither universal in the problems it created nor of global relevance in the solutions it has tried. The reading of history through the lens of this experience has not only affected the reading of biblical and historical sources, it has also led to a new paradigm of what the authors believe to be a Christian imperative. How quickly we have moved from justification of "homogeneous unit principles" to the equally inadequate idea that all congregations must be multiracial! There seems to be a lack of understanding about what is involved in applying examples from the New Testament era into patterns of church life today. Can't we do better than this?The development of governance and worship cultures for multicultural congregations is more difficult than seems to be acknowledged. I agree many more congregations and denominations need to face that challenge. However there also need to be times and places where the other things that have to be addressed in Christian life can be dealt with without a constant stretch to accommodate a different way of doing things. Both multicultural and monocultural are important, and at different times each has their place. Denominations in particular need help at working with multiple cultures which do not just make assumptions that one dominant culture knows what is best for the rest. Power easily lies in the hands of just one cultural group. I do not get a sense of the authors coming to terms with these dimensions too much. Something is needed beyond toleration and compromise to actually finding a way through it all. A bit less prophetic imperative for a new model church and bit more sophistication about what realising Christian values actually entails would help the credibility of their passionate concern.While there are moving stories of courageous efforts and symbolic actions in support of racial desegration, the long haul remains complex. Sometimes it is the needs of minority cultures not just the prejudice of dominant cultures which lead to different groups having their own churches.This may be a book which should not be ignored, and it will hopefully inspire work which is more sophisticated in its hermeneutics. We need to look to global as well as USA experience to delve more deeply into what is actually involved in making Christian multiculturalism work. The authors are right about one thing. Our churches do not find it easy to embody at one place and at the same time the diversity of cultures that are part of the Body of Christ.
  •     United by Faith provides an excellent summary of the history of racial segregation in the Church, case studies of churches that have successfully created multiracial congregations, and practical advice for endeavoring to create multiracial congregations.
  •     This book stands as a profound appeal to North American Christians to accept the Church's unique challenge to offer a Biblical social vision to the larger culture. The authors' hermeneutic argues for an often overlooked understanding of the true multicultural people of God. The Church in its diversity can present a new cultural alternative by visibly demonstrating that the "wall of separation" has indeed been removed by Christ. Not claiming to have all the answers, the authors seek to help develop new sensibilities in Christians that will recognize and confront the pervasive influence of cultures of origin.The book's outline of the problem, its biblical exposition, and its narratives of possibility lay a strong foundational argument for greater, wider reflection from Christians in North America, and elsewhere for that matter. Further consideration of diverse forms of congregational tradition and cultural context could enhance a continuing discussion, but the authors have already succeeded in their inspiring call for a greater engagement and faithfulness by the Church. This book should be read and discussed in real-life congregations.

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