Journal Article

The Costs of Diversity in Religious Organizations: An In-depth Case Study

Brad Christerson and Michael Emerson

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 64, issue 2, pages 163-181
Published in print January 2003 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2003 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
The Costs of Diversity in Religious Organizations: An In-depth Case Study

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A significant body of literature has documented and explained the racial and ethnic homogeneity of volunteer organizations, including religious ones. This paper seeks to break new ground by beginning to examine ethnically diverse religious organizations. In this study we ask: What are the personal costs of being in a multiethnic religious organization, and are these costs borne disproportionately by any specific groups of people? Drawing on macrostructural theories of intergroup relations and social psychological principles, we hypothesize that minority groups (in size and power) within ethnically mixed congregations will disproportionately bear costs compared to the majority group. We test our hypotheses using a case study congregation, conducting in-depth interviews with 22 members and 4 former members of the congregation. We also conduct a network analysis with 38 members of the congregation. We conclude that the same social dynamics that tend to produce internal homogeneity in volunteer organizations also produce high personal costs of belonging to multiethnic religious organizations. This is an important finding because it leads to the larger question of how multiethnic religious organizations survive despite these costs.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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