Mainline pastors more likely to preach on race than evangelical counterparts

Some Protestant pastors preach on topic, but many leave it to others

by Adelle M. Banks | Religion News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Close to half of all Protestant senior pastors have recently preached on racial reconciliation and more have publicly prayed about it, but few find that their congregations are urging them to address the topic.

A 2016 LifeWay Research survey also finds that most pastors have not addressed economic inequities in their communities or joined a public lament about racial injustice.

“It seems like most congregations are eager for somebody else to do the work of reconciliation,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “rather than embrace it for themselves.”

Ninety percent of pastors said their churches would welcome a sermon about racial reconciliation. But 73 percent said they have not been encouraged by church leaders to preach about reconciliation. Twenty-six percent said they have been urged to address the issue from the pulpit.

Interest in discussing matters of race varies across denominations, researchers found.

Pentecostal (93 percent) and Baptist (92 percent) pastors are more likely to say that their congregations would be open to a reconciliation sermon. But they’re less likely to have been asked by church leaders to preach one. Just 17 percent of Baptist ministers and one-fifth of Pentecostal pastors said they’ve been urged to preach on the subject.

Similar numbers of Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (92 percent) are likely to say that their churches would welcome sermons on reconciliation, but 37 percent have been urged to give one.

Mainline pastors are more likely than their evangelical counterparts to have been encouraged to preach a sermon on racial reconciliation (38 percent vs. 22 percent).

Other findings about Protestant senior pastors:

  • 57 percent spent time at social activities with neighbors of other ethnicities.
  • 53 percent led corporate prayer for racial reconciliation.
  • 51 percent talked about reconciliation with church leaders.
  • 45 percent preached a sermon on racial reconciliation.
  • 40 percent met regularly with clergy of other ethnicities.
  • 31 percent invested church funds to help change local economic inequalities.
  • 20 percent led a public lament over racial injustice or unrest.

The phone survey by the Nashville, Tennessee-based evangelical firm was conducted Aug. 22–Sept. 16, 2016, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.


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