Something else is needed: a tenacious pastor who goads his or her church to reach across racial lines, interracial church scholars say. Rodney Woo, senior pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, may be such a person.He leads a congregation of blacks, whites and Latinos.The nervous parishioners were African-American, and the church's newcomers were white.

They argue that churches should be interracial whenever possible because their success could ultimately reduce racial friction in America.

American churches haven't traditionally done a good job at being racially inclusive, scholars say.

Some blacks as well as whites prefer segregated Sundays, religious scholars and members of interracial churches say. Only about 5 percent of the nation's churches are racially integrated, and half of them are in the process of becoming all-black or all-white, says Curtiss Paul De Young, co-author of "United by Faith," a book that examines interracial churches in the United States.

Americans may be poised to nominate a black man to run for president, but it's segregation as usual in U. De Young's numbers are backed by other scholars who've done similar research.

What was he was going to do if more of "them" tried to join their church?

"One man asked me if I was prepared for a hostile takeover," says Sheppard, pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, California.

"People said that if Jews, Greeks, Africans, slaves, men and women - the huge divides of that time period -- could come together successfully, there must be something to this religion," De Young says.

Biblical precedents, though, may not be enough to make someone attend church with a person of another race.

Slavery and Jim Crow kept blacks and whites apart in the pews in the nation's early history.