“Only about 5 percent of the nation’s churches are racially integrated [20% or more of membership from non-majority race], and half of them are in the process of becoming all-black or all-white, says Curtiss Paul DeYoung, co-author of United by Faith, a book that examines interracial churches in the United States. DeYoung’s numbers are backed by other scholars who’ve done similar research. They say integrated churches are rare because attending one is like tiptoeing through a racial minefield. Just like in society, racial tensions in the church can erupt over everything from sharing power to interracial dating.”
“‘I left after five years,’ DeYoung says. ‘I was worn out from the battles.’
“The men and women who remain and lead interracial churches often operate like presidential candidates. They say they live with the constant anxiety of knowing that an innocuous comment or gesture can easily mushroom into a crisis that threatens their support.”
Most racially intergrated churches are led by white pastors; “a congregation typically becomes all-black if a black pastor is hired“:
“‘As long as the top person, the senior pastor, is white, power sort of resides with whites,’ DeYoung says. ‘But when that shifts, it does something psychologically to people. People usually leave.
“Black pastors who do gain the acceptance of interracial congregations still have to watch themselves. Some white parishioners, even progressive ones, get uneasy when a black pastor gets too fiery in the pulpit.
“‘A black church sermon that could be understood as impassioned might be interpreted as angry and defensive by a white congregation,’ [Theodore] Brelsford [author of We Are the Church Together] says. ‘It could kick into fear of black men.'”
More at CNN: “Why many Americans prefer their Sundays segregated”