(RNS) — More than 4 in 5 Protestant pastors say their congregations are predominantly made up of one racial or ethnic group.
That 81 percent figure is high, but it’s not as high as it was four years ago, according to a study published Tuesday (March 20) by LifeWay Research.
It was 86 percent in a similar survey of both mainline and evangelical churches by LifeWay in 2013.
“Protestant churches are still mostly divided by race, but they’re heading in the right direction,” LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a written statement.
Pastors of churches with 250 or more congregants were less likely (74 percent) to say their churches are mostly one racial or ethnic group.
Denominationally, Pentecostal pastors were least likely (68 percent) to say their churches are made up of predominantly one race or ethnicity. Lutheran pastors were most likely (89 percent) to report a lack of diversity.
The LifeWay data does not include the actual racial and ethnic makeup of churches — only how pastors responded to the statement, “My church is predominantly one racial or ethnic group.”
Its publication comes just over a week after a report in The New York Times described a “scattered exodus” of black churchgoers from predominantly white evangelical churches after their white pastors failed to address police brutality and their white congregants overwhelmingly voted for President Trump. Earlier reporting by Deborah Jian Lee in Religion Dispatches said Trump’s election “forced a reckoning” for evangelicals of color.
LifeWay’s survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted by phone from Aug. 30 to Sept. 18, 2017. It had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.