Barna Study Finds Less Than 30 Percent of American Churches Are Actively Addressing Racism

A person attends the MLK50 Conference, hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Gospel Coalition in Memphis, Tennessee, in April 2018. | (Photo: ERLC)

Less than 30% of American churches are actively engaged in addressing racism or racial inequality even though most pastors agree that churches should oppose the social ills, according to recent research from Barna.

Despite the ongoing social unrest over racial inequality and police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers in May, only 29% of Protestant pastors from Barna’s pastor panel said their churches were either completely or mostly actively involved in addressing racism or racial inequality. Another 30% of the 2,350 Protestant senior pastors on the panel polled in online surveys from March 20 – June 15, said they were somewhat involved in addressing the issues at their church.

“I was surprised that many people said that they were somewhat engaged in [addressing racism],” Pastor Albert Tate of Fellowship Monrovia in California said in response to the data during a recent ChurchPulse Weekly podcast with hosts Carey Nieuwhof, a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church in Ontario, Canada, and David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. Also in the discussion was the Rev. Nicole Martin, executive director of healing and trauma at the American Bible Society.

“There’s a whole propaganda [surrounding this] and people are comforted by voices that convince them that this issue isn’t even real, let alone someone empathizing in this moment,” Tate added.

Nearly all pastors, 94%, agree the Church has a responsibility to publicly denounce racial discrimination and 89% say it’s important for church leaders to publicly show support for people of color, Barna also found.

And while 62% of pastors said their church made a statement on the recent protests happening across the nation, having conversations about issues of racism in church has been difficult because of the different perspectives people hold.

The majority of white practicing Christians, 61%, believes issues of racism are the result of an individual’s own beliefs and prejudices against people of other races while two-thirds of black practicing Christians, 66%, argue that racial discrimination is historically built into American society and institutions, Barna found in 2019. This situation has made it challenging for many white pastors to discuss the issue from their pulpits.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair