Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice

The Alliance of Baptists in collaboration with 26 congregational partners, sociologists of race and religion and the Lilly Endowment are engaged in a five-year project to actively confront structures of racism in order to remove a crucial obstacle to congregational thriving. We believe that the church will thrive as it commits to working to the thriving of all—no exceptions.

Five-Year Project Design

Year 1: Observation—Includes a survey of the Alliance and the cohort congregations in order to develop a more complete understanding of racialized structures and how they operate in the local ministry context.
Year 2: Evaluation and Reflection—Drawing on survey findings, the cohort churches develop a more complete ideation of structural racism in their context and are challenged to creatively and strategically draw from the Baptist theological tradition to address whiteness and enact anti-racism.
Year 3: Revision—A broad implementation of congregational initiatives is enacted in cohort congregations, among them is purposeful facilitation and implementation of programmatic dialogues, liturgy, messages and other ministry activities and groups focused on antiracism.
Year 4: Observation—Conduct a follow-up survey of cohort congregations carefully assessing impact of initiatives for addressing racialized structures from individual awareness to organizational operations.
Year 5: Reporting—Share findings with the cohort and larger constituency at both the local and denominational levels including a highlight of pastoral resources and concerns.

The THRIVE Cohort

Calvary Baptist Church, Denver, Colo.
Central Baptist Church, Lexington, Ky.
Circle of Faith, St. Petersburg, Fla.
College Park Baptist Church, Greensboro, N.C.
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Albany, N.Y.
First Austin, Austin, Texas
First Baptist Church, Columbia, Mo.
First Baptist Church, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
First Baptist Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
First Baptist Church, Madison, Wis.
First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City, Utah
First Baptist Church, Worcester, Mass.
First Baptist Church of Christ, Macon, Ga.
Glendale Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn.
Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.
Judson Memorial Church, New York, N.Y.
Lake Street Church of Evanston, Ill.
Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C.
Old Cambridge Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass.
Peace Community Church Oberlin, Ohio
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, N.C.
Ravensworth Baptist Church, Annandale, Va.
Royal Lane Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas
University Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Miss.
University Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minn.
Washington Plaza Baptist Church, Reston, Va.

The THRIVE Team of Directors

Paula Clayton Dempsey joined the staff of the Alliance as director of partnership relations in 2009. To that position she brought more than 25 years of ministry experience as a pastor, campus minister, hospice chaplain, and director of Advent Spirituality Center as well as degrees from Meredith College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She retired as co-director in 2021 and currently coordinates the THRIVE grant for the Alliance. Paula lives with her family in Western North Carolina where she enjoys watching wildlife from her back porch and cooking with fresh vegetables purchased at the local farmers’ market.

Kevin D. Dougherty is associate professor of sociology at Baylor University, Waco, Texas where he is an award-winning teacher and researcher. He has studied and written about religious affiliation, religious participation, racial diversity in religious organizations, as well as congregational growth and decline. His published research appears in leading academic journals and has been featured in major news outlets.

Gerardo Marti is William R. Kenan professor of sociology at Davidson College, Davidson, N.C., and the architect of the Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice project. He is also the author of several books including American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency (2020). He worships at congregational partner Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C.

Mark T. Mulder is professor of sociology at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Mich., and focuses his work on urban congregations and their changing racial-ethnic demographics. Among his most recent publications is his book The Glass Church: Robert H. Schuller, the Crystal Cathedral, and the Strain of Megachurch Ministry.

Give today to support the ongoing work for racial justice in the Alliance of Baptists and among our congregational partners.