"It was invaluable, but I didn't know it at the time." When he became pastor of Wilcrest in 1992, he was determined to shield his church members from such an experience.

But an exodus of whites, commonly referred to as "white flight" was already taking place in the neighborhood and the church. At least one church member suggested that Woo could change the church's fortunes by adding a "d" to his last name.

"The fear there was people would think I was Chinese," he says.

"There would be a flood of all these Asians coming in, and what would we do then? He made racial diversity part of the church's mission statement.

Theodore Brelsford, co-author of "We Are the Church Together,'' another book that looks at interracial churches, says whites often say that church should transcend race.

"They'd say, 'Can't we just get along without talking about race all the time? '" Not really, say advocates for interracial churches.

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.

They say integrated churches are rare because attending one is like tiptoeing through a racial minefield.

Just like in society, racial tensions in the church can erupt over everything from sharing power to interracial dating.

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