Racial diversity and religious groups

How racially diverse are various religious groups in the United States? The Pew Research Center recently investigated this question, and ranked various religious groups based on a racial diversity index they developed.

Out of 29 religious groups they looked at, the most racially diverse group was Seventh day Adventists, with a diversity index of 9.1. A higher number indicates greater diversity. Seventh Day Adventists are 37% white, 32% black, 15% Latino/a, 8% Asian, and 8% other. The study included only five racial categories, where the fifth category is “other.” Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses come close, with diversity indices of 8.7 and 8.6, respectively.

And where do Unitarian Universalists come in? No, not dead last; don’t be so cynical. With a diversity index of 2.7, Unitarian Universalists come in at 21st place. By way of reference, the racial diversity of all United States adults is 6.6. (Note that this study does not consider the racial diversity of individual congregations, but only of nationwide religious groups; individual congregations may be more or less diverse than the nationwide group.)

Given how white Unitarian Universalism is, I have a couple of thoughts about where we might put our efforts to change that. With congregational polity, no one can tell any congregation what to do; but we can offer incentives to help motivate congregations. So when the denomination and other funding bodies consider funding new congregations, first priority should go to ministers and leaders of color who intend to start non-white congregations; and ongoing funding should be tied to maintaining either a non-white majority and/or a high diversity index. And when existing congregations seek financial assistance of any kind, they can be asked to verify their racial mix, and priority should be given to more racially diverse congregations. In short, don’t belabor ’em with guilt, motivate ’em with money.