As religious leaders help in Ferguson, US churches remain mostly segregated

Global Post: For the vast majority of American Christians, attending church is a racially segregated experience.

Just 7 percent of all US congregations were racially mixed in 1998. By 2012that number had climbed to 13 percent, according to Michael Emerson, professor of sociology at Rice University and author of three books on religion and race in America.

Yet Christian clergy of all backgrounds and denominations have been prominent voices within the public furor around race and police brutality sweeping the country, touched off by a St. Louis County grand jury decision not to indict the white officer who killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — then further ignited this week by a Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict the white officer who was videotaped choking to death Eric Garner, an unarmed black man.

Around the US, church leaders across denominations have been organizing prayer vigils, writing op-eds, speaking on radio, and reaching out to neighboring congregations. From Ferguson to New York City, clergy of different races have defined their roles in the present moment along similar lines: Seek to provide healing, comfort and support to those in need. Those same clergy are crossing racial lines, often entering challenging emotional terrain, to do so.

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