Step into any Tulsa church and you'll most likely find a white male pastor who believes racism is one of the top issues facing the community. That's just one of the findings from a new survey of Tulsa religious groups. The survey is a product of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries, an interfaith service organization for congregations.
Tulsa is often called the "buckle of the Bible belt" and the title may be deserved. There are 700 congregations located in Tulsa and in the surrounding suburbs. Some are large churches backed by national denominations, but most are not. Independent Christian churches outnumber those of the largest denomination, Southern Baptist, though in actual membership Baptists have more people. Tulsa's faith community is diversifying. Christians are in the majority, but there are three Jewish congregations, two Muslim, two Hindu, one each of Buddhist and Baha'i.
James Robinson of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries conducted the survey.
"The diversity of the Tulsa religions is becoming much more apparent," Robinson said. The survey also found Tulsa congregations are mostly female. In the pews, women outnumber men three to two. In the pulpit, congregational leaders are overwhelmingly white and male. 86% of senior leaders are white, 10% are black; all other minorities compose only 4%. And they are 95% male, only 5% female.
Church leaders identify racism as the biggest problem facing the community. "You're talking about predominantly white religious leaders in Tulsa, saying racism is the number one issue that faces the community today," said Robinson. "And so for that issue to be a blazing concern among congregations in the Tulsa community just stood out among all the other data."
Racism tops the list, along with education and marriage issues. Sin was 20th, almost last on the list. As for the issues facing congregations as opposed to the community at large, evangelism topped the list. This is possibly due to the large number of evangelical and mostly independent Christian churches.