Study: Black Americans Want Religious Services to Deal with Racial Equality


    27 February 2021

    A recent public opinion study finds that most Black Americans who attend religious services go to ones that are mostly Black. However, the same study suggests those who answered the opinion study would like their religious centers to become more racially diverse and to seek racial equality.

    The Pew Research Center organized the opinion study that included 8,660 Black adults across the United States. The study found that Black Americans attend religious centers more regularly and pray more often than Americans do as a whole.

    The study also found that among Black adults who attend religious services: 60 percent attended ones in which the top religious leader and most of the congregation are Black. Twenty-five percent are part of congregations made up of many racial groups while 13 percent are part of congregations that are mostly white or another ethnic group.

    When asked whether religion is very important in their lives, 59 percent of Black Americans said yes. In comparison, 40 percent of all U.S. adults answered yes. Asked if they prayed every day, 63 percent of Black respondents said yes, compared with 44 percent overall.

    The Pew study also spoke to 30 Black religious workers. Some of them predict that attendance at Black religious centers will decrease while multiracial congregations will increase. Dr. Clyde Posley Jr. is a pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He explained, "I don't think there should be a Black Church. There isn't a Black heaven and a white heaven." About 61 percent of the people who were asked in the study said that congregations should be more racially diverse.

    Black Americans attend church more regularly than Americans overall and pray more often. Most of them attend churches that are predominantly Black, but would like their churches to become racially diverse. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
    Black Americans attend church more regularly than Americans overall and pray more often. Most of them attend churches that are predominantly Black, but would like their churches to become racially diverse. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

    Historically, Black religious centers have influenced efforts toward racial equality. However, the Pew study found that nearly half of respondents said Black religious centers are less influential today than 50 years ago.

    The religious workers said too few felt Black pastors have been influential in recent struggles against racism. Reverend Harvey L. Vaughn III is the pastor of Bethel AME Church in San Diego, California. He said, "When you look at Black Lives Matter, this is the first time that there has been any political uprising and the church isn't spearheading it."

    The Black Lives Matter movement says it protests against racism and police violence toward Black people.

    Reverend Sandra Reed is the pastor at St. Mark AME Zion Church in Newtown, Pennsylvania. She said, "...The AME Zion Church is known as the Freedom Church." She said it was influential in dealing with social issues in America; "...we sort of lost that," she added.

    Reverend Mario Powell is a Black priest, in charge of a Jesuit middle school in Brooklyn, New York. He said Catholic religious leaders need to speak more about racial issues.

    Tia Noelle Pratt is a sociologist studying racism in the U.S. Catholic Church. She advised the Pew study. She told the Associated Press in an email: "We still don't have the church taking a necessary stand against systemic racism."

    I'm Armen Kassabian.

    David Crary from The Associated Press reported this story. Armen Kassabian adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    diverse – adj. made up of people or things that are different from each other

    congregation – n. the people who regularly attend religious services

    pastor – n. a minister or priest in charge of a church or parish

    respondent –n. a person who gives an answer to a question, especially as part of a public opinion study

    spearheading – v. a person, thing, or group that organizes or leads something

    posting – n. a public announcement of something

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