About four out of five Protestant pastors have said that their congregations are primarily made up of one racial or ethnic group, according to a newly released report by LifeWay Research.
Eighty-one percent of surveyed pastors said they either "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree" with the statement "My church is predominantly one racial or ethnic group."
The findings were drawn from a survey of 1,000 pastors from Protestant churches conducted over the phone from Aug. 30 to Sept. 18, 2017.
While still a large percentage, 81 percent is a decline from 2013, when 86 percent of surveyed pastors reported having a church that was "predominantly one racial or ethnic group."
"Protestant churches are still mostly divided by race," said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. "But they're heading in the right direction."
The report also found that 93 percent of pastors believed churches should strive to become more diverse, an increase from the 85 percent reported in 2013.
The percentage of pastors who reported that their congregation was primarily made up of one racial or ethnic group varied among size and denomination.
"Pastors of larger churches — those with 250 or more attenders — were least likely (74 percent) to say their church is made up mostly of one ethnicity. That jumps to 81 percent for churches with 249 or fewer attenders," noted LifeWay.
"Based on denominational affiliation, Lutheran pastors (89 percent) are most likely to say their church is made up of predominantly one ethnic group. Baptist (81 percent), Presbyterian/Reformed (77 percent) and Pentecostal pastors (68 percent) are less likely."
Over the past several decades, many have pointed out that oftentimes individual congregations have been de facto racially segregated, affirming Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous lament that "the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning."