Faculty/Alumni Collaborations

The bridging activity of multiracial congregations

In Religions by Dr. Edward C. Polson and Rachel Gillespie 

Abstract: The growing diversity of U.S. communities has led scholars to explore how racial/ethnic diversity effects social capital, civic engagement, and social trust. Less is known about the relationship between diversity and the work of community-based organizations (CBOs). In this study, we examine how the racial/ethnic composition of one ubiquitous type of CBO, religious congregations, is related to measures of organizational bridging social capital. Analyzing data collected through a census of congregations in one Midwestern county, we explore the relationship between racial/ethnic diversity and the bridging activity of religious congregations. We find that multiracial congregations are more likely to be involved with externally focused service programs, tend to support a larger number of programs, and report more interorganizational collaborators than other congregations. Our findings suggest that multiracial congregations can provide a valuable resource for increasingly diverse communities and civil society.

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Exploring the social justice beliefs of Baptist Christians

In Journal of Religion & Spirituality by Kelsey Miller and Dr. Edward C. Polson

Abstract: Social justice is a core value of the social work profession; in recent years it has also has become a topic of debate in many Christian denominations. Yet, researchers know little about how Christian laypersons conceptualize and engage the topic of social justice. In this qualitative study, we explore the beliefs of Baptist Christians in one Texas community in order to better understand how people of faith conceptualize and engage issues of social justice. Drawing on data from nine in-depth interviews with a diverse group of Baptist laypersons, we find that Baptist Christians’ conceptualizations of social justice may be shaped by several factors: race/ethnicity and the experience of racism, Biblical texts or stories including the life of Jesus, family experiences, and congregational leadership. Importantly, we also find that there tends to be a relatively low degree of resonance with the concept of social justice in abstract terms.

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