A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches

Charmaine Pruitt wrote the names of 12 churches on a sheet of paper, tore the paper into 12 strips, and dropped them into a Ziploc bag. It was Sunday morning and time to pick which church to attend.

This time of the week two years earlier, there would have been no question. Ms. Pruitt, 46, would have been getting ready for her regular Saturday afternoon worship service, at a former grocery store overhauled into a state-of-the-art, 760-seat sanctuary. In the darkened hall, where it would have been hard to tell she was one of the few black people in the room, she would have listened to the soaring anthems of the praise bands. She would have watched, on three giant screens, a sermon that over the course of a weekend would reach one of the largest congregations in the country.

But Ms. Pruitt has not been to that church since the fall of 2016. That was when she concluded that it was not, ultimately, meant for people like her. She has not been to any church regularly since.

Ms. Pruitt pulled one of the slips out of the Ziploc bag. Mount Olive Fort Worth. O.K. That was where she would go that day.

In the last couple of decades, there had been signs, however modest, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning might cease to be the most segregated hour in America. “Racial reconciliation” was the talk of conferences and the subject of formal resolutions. Large Christian ministries were dedicated to the aim of integration, and many black Christians decided to join white-majority congregations. Some went as missionaries, called by God to integrate. Others were simply drawn to a different worship style — short, conveniently timed services that emphasized a personal connection to God.

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