How Christian Leaders Navigate Race After George Floyd's Murder: A Study of Unsettled Times

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 and subsequent calls for a reckoning with systematic racism forced many religious leaders to confront the question of how to talk about race in their congregations to an extent not seen in the 21st century. We argue that this period reflects an “unsettled time” and prompted several types of leadership responses, which we have identified through interviews with Christian religious leaders. Among leaders of non-Black congregations, we find three common responses: feeling called to openly take a stand against racial injustice, cautiously engaging the issue but experiencing tensions in one's congregation, and avoidance by claiming that racial justice is primarily a political issue that should only be addressed in religious contexts as far as it relates to biblical teachings. Finally, we find a more consistent assumption of the need to address racial injustice among the leaders of majority Black congregations.