22 experts on religion and race

A Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy Yash Mori via Creative Commons)

George Floyd’s death in police custody on May 25, 2020, sparked protests around the world and reenergized efforts to reform policing, the prison system and even religious communities. Houses of worship across the country are now hosting listening sessions on racial injustice and grappling with their own failures to address racism in the past.  

Some people of faith are skeptical that meaningful adjustments are coming. Black pastors have spoken out in interviews and columns questioning whether their white colleagues are really ready to make a change. Sociologists have shared data showing that racially mixed churches remain rare, despite a 20-year-old push to desegregate sacred spaces. 

This edition of ReligionLink features experts on a variety of issues related to religion and race. Some lead multiracial congregations; others study racism in religious contexts; and still others promote racial reconciliation in their faith communities. All may be able to help you find a way to cover recent protests and debates.

Background information

Related research

  • Read “Black practicing Christians are twice as likely as their white peers to see a race problem” from Barna on June 17, 2020. 
    • Only 2-in-5 white practicing Christians (38%) believe the U.S. has a race problem, compared with 78% of Black practicing Christians. 
    • The survey also showed that white practicing Christians are much more likely than Black Christians to believe racism is an individual, rather than societal, problem. 
  • Read “Before protests, black Americans said religious sermons should address race relations” from the Pew Research Center on June 15, 2020. 
    • More than 6-in-10 Black Protestants (62%) believe it’s important for sermons to address political topics like race relations, compared with 39% of white evangelical Protestants and 35% of white mainline Protestants, Pew reported. 
  • Read “New stats on multiracial churches” from the December 2019 edition of the Mosaix newsletter. 
    • In 1998, just 6% of congregations fit researchers’ definition of “multiracial.” By 2019, that figure had increased to 16%, researchers found. 
  • Read “Black Lives Matter and racial tension in America” from Barna on May 5, 2016. 
    • In 2015, just 13% of evangelicals supported the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, compared with 27% of all U.S. adults, according to the survey.

Potential sources

  • Rick Armstrong

    The Rev. Rick Armstrong is pastor of Great Redeemer Church in Arlington, Texas. In June 2020, he published an open letter to fellow Southern Baptist leaders calling on them to acknowledge and work to address systemic racism.

  • Glenn Bracey

    Glenn Bracey is an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Villanova University. He is the author or co-author of several research studies on race and religion.

  • Anthea Butler

    Anthea Butler is an associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies and graduate chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She specializes in the history of Pentecostalism and is working on a book about evangelicals, politics and race.

  • Josh Clemons

    Josh Clemons is co-executive director of the One Race Movement, an Atlanta-based effort to heal racial divides in churches and in society. He is also an adjunct professor at Oral Roberts University. Arrange an interview with Clemons using the contact form on One Race’s website.

  • Don Coleman

    The Rev. Don Coleman is the lead pastor of East End Fellowship, a multiracial congregation in Richmond, Virginia.

    Contact: 804-420-8601.
  • Michael Curry

    The Most Rev. Michael Curry is presiding bishop and chief executive officer of the Episcopal Church. He is the first African American pastor to serve in the role. Arrange an interview through the Episcopal Church’s communication office.

    Contact: 212-716-6080.
  • Mark DeYmaz

    The Rev. Mark DeYmaz is the founding pastor of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, which is acclaimed  for being ethnically and economically diverse. He serves as an adviser to faith leaders hoping to build multiethnic communities.

  • Kevin Dougherty

    Kevin Dougherty is an associate professor of sociology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His research focuses on the sociology of religious congregations, including racial diversity in churches.

  • Korie Little Edwards

    Korie Little Edwards is an associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. She researches interracial churches and African American churches and is the author of The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches.

  • Michael O. Emerson

    Michael O. Emerson is a professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has written several books on race and religion, including People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States and Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America.

  • Malcolm Foley

    Malcolm Foley is special adviser to the president for equity and campus engagement at Baylor University, where he is also a Ph.D. student studying religious responses to lynching in the 19th and 20th centuries. Foley also serves as director of discipleship at Mosaic Waco.

  • Walter Kim

    The Rev. Walter Kim is president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.

  • Nicole Martin

    Nicole Martin is the executive director of trauma healing for the American Bible Society. She has spoken and written about white churches’ shortcomings on race-related issues. Martin also serves as an assistant professor of ministry and leadership development at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

  • Sam McGlothlin

    The Rev. Sam McGlothlin is the associate pastor of Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the author of the United Methodist Church’s liturgy on the deaths of black men and women in police custody.

  • Trillia Newbell

    Trillia Newbell is the director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. She is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. Contact Elizabeth Bristow to arrange an interview.

  • Philip Pinckney

    The Rev. Philip Pinckney is the lead pastor of Radiant Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also a church planting associate with the Charleston Baptist Association. In July 2020, Pinckney shared his experiences leading discussions on race in white churches with The Atlantic.

  • Taylor Rutland

    Taylor Rutland is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dothan, Alabama. He has spoken about the importance of addressing racism as a white pastor.

  • Hazen Stevens

    Hazen Stevens is co-executive director of the One Race Movement, an Atlanta-based effort to heal racial divides in churches and in society. He also serves as domestic missions director and training pillar at the International House of Prayer in Atlanta. Contact Stevens with the form on One Race’s website.

  • Dante Stewart

    Dante Stewart is a Christian writer and speaker who often addresses racism in religious spaces. He is pursuing a master’s degree in religion at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

  • Albert Tate

    The Rev. Albert Tate is co-founder and lead pastor of Fellowship Church, a multiethnic house of worship in Monrovia, California.

  • Jemar Tisby

    Jemar Tisby is a historian who studies, writes and speaks on racism in the church. He is the author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism.

  • Jim Wallis

    The Rev. Jim Wallis is a Christian author and commentator and the founder of Sojourners magazine, a periodical that tries to promote social change through Christian values. He has served on the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and can comment on policies related to race, immigration and other religion-related issues. Arrange an interview through Meredith Brasher.