Challenges of Intergrated Churches

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					Contemporary Sociology: A
   Journal of Reviews
                                     http://csx.sagepub.com/




Book Review: The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches
                                      Shayne Lee
                Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews 2009 38: 544
                          DOI: 10.1177/009430610903800620

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544–Ethnicity

                                                            senior pastor, to organize a special dinner to
                                                            discuss delimiting suitable worship practices
         ETHNICITY                                          and squelching black members’ craving for
                                                            more animated services.
                                                                Another manifestation of white hege-
The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in                     mony in Crosstown involves the church’s
Interracial Churches, by Korie L. Edwards.                  leadership. While Barnes, the senior pastor, is
New York, NY: Oxford University Press,                      black, the rest of the leaders and staff are
2008.     227pp.    $29.95   cloth. ISBN:                   white despite the predominantly African
9780195314243.                                              American membership. Similarly, Pastor
SHAYNE LEE                                                  Barnes’ religious, theological, and cultural
Tulane University                                           orientation were consistent with those
slee5@tulane.edu                                            Edwards classifies as common to white evan-
                                                            gelicalism, so he posed no threat to the reli-
Korie Edwards’ The Elusive Dream: The Power                 gious and cultural predilection of white
of Race in Interracial Churches explores the                attendees. More poignantly, when the church
mechanisms that sustain viability in racially               needed to hire two new clerics, qualified
integrated churches. Supported by analysis                  black candidates received unwarranted resis-
of data from the National Congregations                     tance, while the white candidates who even-
Study (NCS), Edwards’ ethnography demon-                    tually filled the positions engendered no con-
strates that white hegemony is a prevalent                  flict. Part of the members’ protest against
force in racially integrated American                       hiring the qualified black candidates came
churches. Edwards reveals how an interra-                   out of the desire to mitigate “white flight,” as
cial congregation called Crosstown Commu-                   Edwards explained:
nity Church coddles the fears and insecuri-
                                                                 Recognizing the effect that a loss in white
ties of the minority white membership,
                                                                 pastoral leadership had on white atten-
usually at the expense of the preferences and
                                                                 dance, some Crosstown members,
proclivities of its majority black population.
                                                                 African Americans included, acquiesced
Edwards compares her observations with
                                                                 to concerned whites’ desires in order to
NCS findings on black, white, and interracial
                                                                 maintain the church’s racial diversity.|.|.
churches, thus presenting Crosstown as a
                                                                 Their concerns about white flight are
microcosm of a national phenomenon in
                                                                 supported by research, but this perspec-
which most integrated churches are cali-
                                                                 tive reinforced dominant understand-
brated toward the worship styles more
                                                                 ings of white social advantage and ulti-
prevalent in white congregations.
                                                                 mately reestablished whites’ structural
    Crosstown, once predominantly white,
                                                                 dominance in the church (p.81).
transformed into a church with two-thirds
African American members due to demo-                          Rather than confronting the inherent
graphic changes in the surrounding neigh-                   racism involved with white flight, members
borhoods. Consistent with NCS findings on a                 made the pragmatic choice to seek white cler-
national level, white and black members of                  ics to fill the new positions to stave off the
Crosstown often had different presupposi-                   loss of more white members.
tions about worship, music, preaching, and                     Crosstown conformed to white evangeli-
so on. Crosstown’s white leaders and mem-                   cal norms in other ways. According to NCS
bers shunned expressive forms of worship                    data, black churches are most inclined to
such as dancing, swaying, waving hands                      draw upon religious resources for political
high about the head, and shouting even                      endeavors, address structural forces behind
though a large proportion of the black popu-                racism, and hold race-related discussion
lation were amenable to such demonstrative                  meetings. In contrast, Crosstown’s extra-reli-
worship practices prevalent in many black                   gious social and civic activities resembled the
churches nationwide. For example, after an                  social-political proclivities more common to
African American woman engaged in                           the NCS data portraial of white evangelical
demonstrative worship, white members                        churches. Crosstown’s community efforts
complained enough for Pastor Barnes, the                    were primarily evangelistic, rather than
Contemporary Sociology 38, 6

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                                                                                                     Ethnicity–545

prophetic, and the church was disinclined to
                                                               Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters,
function as a resource for racially salient
                                                               edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn. Stanford,
social or civic activism. Similarly, when Pas-
                                                               CA: Stanford University Press, 2009. 299pp.
tor Barnes decided to hold a seminar on race,                  $29.95 paper. ISBN: 9780804759991.
none of the white leaders and a small portion
of white members attended and the topic of                     TANYA GOLASH-BOZA
race remained a subtext to Crosstown’s con-                    University of Kansas
gregational discourse.                                         tgb@ku.edu
   Since much of Edwards’s findings rely on
a demarcation of black and white evangeli-                     Evelyn Nakano Glenn has skillfully brought
calism, her study could have benefited from                    together fourteen essays that explore the
                                                               salience of colorism around the world. These
a discussion of how divergent evangelical
                                                               multidisciplinary and transnational works
predispositions emerge, and how seminaries,
                                                               provide an intersectional analysis of the
magazines, para-church organizations, and
                                                               political economy of skin shade. Read
television ministries perpetuate these dis-
                                                               together, these treatises inform the reader not
tinctions by serving as cultural-conduits that                 only of the significance of skin color in a vari-
transmit tropes and predilections to local                     ety of settings, but also how these locales
congregations. Similarly, a chapter explain-                   relate to one another, and the material con-
ing how American Protestantism became a                        sequences of these relationships. Moreover,
plurality of racially segregated denomina-                     these contributions make clear the concep-
tions would have provided an excellent con-                    tual distinction between race and color and
text for exploring the divergent moods, pref-                  between whiteness and lightness, two often
erences, and nuances that distinguish                          under-theorized distinctions.
worship practices between white and black                         Several chapters make a convincing case
Protestants. Additionally, Edwards could                       for the need for more extensive national-level
have done more to demonstrate the diversity                    survey data on color in the United States.
and complexity prevalent among histori-                        Edward Telles shows that, in the United
cally black churches (and denominations) to                    States, whites earn, on average, the most, fol-
avoid a hint of racial essentialism. Many                      lowed by lighter-skinned blacks, with very
black mainline churches engage in heated                       dark-skinned blacks earning the least. Simi-
battles over demonstrative worship, racial                     larly, Verna Keith found that lighter-skinned
discourse, and political activism, suggesting                  African Americans have advantages over
that those attributes do not necessarily reflect               their darker-skinned counterparts in earn-
a binary relationship between black and                        ings, education and occupations. Eduardo
white church cultures.                                         Bonilla-Silva and David R. Dietrich contend
   These minor quibbles aside, Edwards’                        that a pigmentocracy is emerging in the
ethnography and proficient use of NCS data                     United States, where people are accorded dif-
                                                               ferent social statuses, according to their skin
expands our understanding of how white
                                                               color. These authors point out that many of
hegemony controls interracial churches.
                                                               their claims are tentative because of the need
From this thoughtful study we learn that
                                                               for more data. They stress the importance of
interracial churches with a substantial pro-
                                                               more recent data on skin shade as well as a
portion of white members remain integrated                     nationally representative sample large
to the extent that non-whites acculturate                      enough to account for variation in terms of
themselves toward the dominant white cul-                      gender, race, and socio-economic status.
tural norms, and accept whites’ privileged                        These essays also complicate notions of
status in those churches. Accordingly,                         whiteness by shedding light on the concep-
Edwards predicts slim chances for an                           tual distinction between whiteness and light-
increase of interracial churches, because this                 ness. In her chapter, Joanne Rondilla argues
would depend on African Americans negoti-                      that Asian women do not use skin lighteners
ating power and control in that rare segment                   in an attempt to become white; instead, they
of American society where they already                         wish to become a better version of them-
wield clout and authority: religion.                           selves. Aisha Khan posits that, although
                                                                                          Contemporary Sociology 38, 6

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Description: Excerpt from Contemporary Sociology article about the challenges of intergrated churches and how that plays out in discussions about demonstrative worship.