Carl Livingston sees the troubles facing African American churches in Seattle as a test.
Livingston told KUOW’s Kim Malcolm that as the city has grown more expensive, congregations are surviving in part by cutting costs and seeking innovative ways to find income.
“They’re also having to open up to diversity,” he said. “It’s a test to see if we really believe in the diversity that we’ve advocated on behalf of the larger community.”
Livingston teaches political science at Seattle Central College. He also has preached at churches in Seattle’s Central Area and is pastor at Kingdom Christian Center in Federal Way.
That’s one of the cities where African-Americans who used to live in Seattle have moved, forced out by rising housing costs.
Livingston said that’s a far cry from 30 years ago, when pews in African-American churches in the Central District and elsewhere filled up every Sunday.
He said some churches that have survived have seen a drop in members of more than 50 percent since those days.
“That membership difference has a big impact on the role of the church in the schools, because we’ve been remedial sites, on the role of the church in the arts community, because we’ve done concerts and plays,” he said.
“And especially the difference of the African-American church in politics because they know that these were larger churches with a higher percentage of voters. They know we could go to the streets.”
He says black congregants would like to be back in Seattle. But that will depend on economic drivers, he said.
“I hope that the city of Seattle, its governmental leaders and others, will see the beauty and importance of reaching out to groups like African Americans,” he said.