The Black Church, Explained by Pew’s Biggest Survey of African Americans

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In-depth study of the faith of 8,660 black Americans offers an unprecedented snapshot of their congregations and beliefs before COVID-19 and George Floyd.

Black Americans remain more religious than other Americans, according to a massive new survey. Yet fewer are attending or seeking out predominantly black churches.

Among black worshipers:

  • 4 in 10 now attend a non-black congregation—including half of millennials and Gen Z.
  • About half say it’s essential for churches to offer “racial affirmation or pride,” while only a quarter say sermons on political topics are essential.
  • 6 in 10 say black congregations should diversify.
  • 6 in 10 say when church shopping, finding a congregation where most attendees share their race is unimportant.

Two-thirds of black Americans identify as Protestants, but only 1 in 4 of these identify with historic black denominations.

Yet retention is strong: 3 in 4 black adults have the same religious affiliation as when they were raised (significantly higher than the rate for Americans at large), while 1 in 4 black Americans who were raised as unaffiliated or as Catholic now identify as Protestant.

These are among the findings of “Faith Among Black Americans,” released today by the Pew Research Center. The study is Pew’s “most comprehensive, in-depth attempt to explore religion among Black Americans” ever, comprising both a national survey of 8,660 adults who identify as black or African American as well as guided small-group discussions and interviews with clergy.

“Many findings in this survey highlight the distinctiveness and vibrancy of Black congregations, demonstrating that the collective entity some observers and participants have called ‘the Black Church’ is alive and well in America today,” stated Pew researchers.

“But there also are some signs of decline, such as the gap between …

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