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Intersectionality in Intentional Communities

The Struggle for Inclusivity in Multicultural U.S. Protestant Congregations

Assata Zerai

Over a decade of qualitative research, Assata Zerai has observed both incremental moves toward inclusiveness and strategies employed to accomplish long-term changes while conducting case studies of five multicultural Protestant churches in sites across the United States. With an interpretive approach, she explores these centers of worship and theorizes the conditions under which progressive social change occurs in some U.S. Protestant congregations. Understanding the daily practices of change and entrenchment in Protestant congregations and the intentional work to replace dominating structures with liberating ones may provide keys to creating multicultural, antiracist, feminist, and sexually inclusive volitional communities more broadly. Intersectionality in Intentional Communities argues that making a significant advance toward inclusion requires change in the underlying social structures of racism, sexism, heteronormativity, class, and other marginalizing influences. In order to isolate this phenomenon, Zerai conducted fieldwork and archival research among an African American and four multiracial U.S. churches. Different from a university or other public institution in which members are legally required to support diversity and related values, Zerai believes that volitional communities may provide a best-case scenario for how, motivated by higher ideals, members may find ways to create inclusive communities. Zerai’s research has a broad empirical base, encompassing five sites: a largely African American urban megachurch in the Midwest; a large Midwestern multiracial/multicultural church; a large urban multiracial/multicultural church in the eastern United States; a small, suburban Midwestern multiracial church; and an inclusive Midwestern college town church. In this book, Zerai further explores important connections between U.S. Protestant Christian congregations and political activism. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 180Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-2641-8 • Hardback • May 2016 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-4985-2642-5 • eBook • May 2016 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
Assata Zerai is associate dean for Educational Equity programs in the Graduate College, director of African studies, and associate professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Introduction: The Struggle for Inclusive Multicultural U.S. Protestant Congregations
Chapter 1: Intersectionality: A Feminist Interpretive Methodology

Part I. Developing a Theory of Intersectionality in Inclusive Churches
Chapter 2: Afrocentricism, Color-Blind Ideology, and Intersectionality: Three Models of Internal Christian Congregational Cohesion
Chapter 3: Christian Evangelical Internal Discussions of the 2008 Presidential Election
Chapter 4: An Africana Feminist Critique of American Christian Antiwar (Dis)engagements

Part II. The Struggle for Inclusivity in a Presbyterian Church: 1940 to 1980
Chapter 5: A Presbyterian Campus Church: 1940 to 1953
Chapter 6: McKinley, PCUSA, and Civil Rights: 1953 to 1967
Chapter 7: Growing Pains of a Social Justice Ministry: 1968 to 1973
Chapter 8: The Dawning of More Light Presbyterianism at McKinley
Conclusion: New Definitions of the Multicultural/Social Justice Church and a Theory of Intentional Institutional Social Change
Appendix: PC (USA) Precursors, and McKinley Memorial Presbyterian Church Timeline 1789–1983 (with sources indicated)
With a keen sense of social justice, Professor Zerai addresses the pervasive issue of inclusion in American Christian congregations, considering not only race, but also the intersecting dimensions of gender, sexuality, and social class. Her critical yet hopeful approach offers both analytical insights and practical tools for any intentional group that aims to promote diversity and serve the identities and interests of all members.
Marjorie DeVault, Professor Emerita, Syracuse University

Zerai’s book is an impeccable scholarly research that deals head-on with a ‘controversial’ global concern that churches in the global north and south are currently seized with. Indeed, intersectionality is ‘the issue’ for the 21st century. This book is a veritable game-changer in our understanding of diversity among intentional communities. Thus the book is of immense value not only to churches but to Faith Based Organization (FBOs), Community Based organizations (CBOs), and to a myriad of voluntary organizations. Zerai not only makes an incisive analysis of current theories of intersectionality, she builds on them and comes up with innovative sociological insights based on a well-executed empirical research.
Paul H. Gundani, University of South Africa