Over the last twenty-five years, the rural U.S. Midwest has undergone dramatic demographic changes as the population of white people decreased in many areas and the number of Latinos surged. These shifts are especially noteworthy in areas that had stable, relatively homogeneous populations over at least the last half-century. Many Christian churches, both Protestant and Catholic, are responding by reaching out to new residents. Such efforts have sometimes led to tension as Anglo Christians seek to reconcile the moral claims of their faith communities with the prejudices and fears they have of Latino immigrants. This article describes how Anglo-majority mainline Protestant congregations and Catholic parishes are responding to these demographic changes, notes key differences between the two groups’ responses, and then sketches several possible explanations for the differences, including the underlying theology of their efforts, the prior religious affiliation of Latino newcomers, the organizational structure of church bodies, and varying impetuses for action. The paper concludes with observations about the future of Christian communities in the rural Midwest.
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