When Tamelyn Tucker-Worgs moved to Maryland in the '90s, she went church hopping. Having grown up in the Houston area, her home sanctuary was a mid-size,intimate, family church. As an adult, she found herself drawn to a megachurch.
"It was a church that was easy to get into," said Tucker-Worgs, co-director of African-American studies at Hood College. "It was kind of like I could be anonymous when I wanted to be, but if I didn't want to be I didn't have to be."
As a graduate student at the University of Maryland, Tucker-Worgs studied
megachurches across the country.
Her research continued over nearly a decade and was released in mid-August as the book "The Black Megachurch: Theology, Gender, and the Politics of Public Engagement," considered to be the first empirical study of the rise of black megachurches in the country.
In her book, she examines how theology impacts the community engagement of the church, how gender hierarchy impacts public engagement activities, and why churches form community development corporations and how they differ from similar initiatives from non-religious
Some megachurches have been accused of being more of money generators rather than really engaging in the community.
"I don't think all of them deserve that criticism," she said. "They vary in the way that they
participate and try to give back."
She estimated that about 25 percent of the 149 megachurches she contacted preach the prosperity gospel -- that significant financial contributions are the will of God -- which Tucker-Worgs
blamed as the main culprit for those criticisms.
Black megachurches were one of the fruits of the Civil Rights movements in the 1960s but had a spike in popularity in the 1980s and '90s, which continues today, Tucker-Worgs said.
"I call them a fruit of the Civil Rights movement because they were only possible after the opening of
She attributes that spike to African-Americans moving into the suburbs from the cities; these churches are formed to make African-Americans feel more at home and help them acclimate to new rroundings.
She attributes the success of megachurches to both their fulfilling a need in the black community and to the pastors themselves, who "have this charismatic something that allows them to attract people to grow these churches."
A professor at Hood since 2002, teaching courses in African-American studies, political science and religion, Tucker-Worgs said the book is a continuation of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Maryland, in which she wrote about megachurches participating in community development. Her book goes into more detail, examining the political and public life influences of megachurches.
Tucker-Worgs will discuss her book, "The Black Megachurch: Theology,Gender, and the Politics of Public Engagement" and her research at OUR COMMON GROUND, Saturday October 29, 2011 at 10 pm ET. You are invited to join us in our discussion, we will take your calls LIVE. You may also join with other listeners in our open discussion board during the broadcast.