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Posted August 31, 2007

Book: Urban Ministry
Author: Ronald E. Peters
Abingdon Press. Nashville. 2007. Pp. 197

An Excerpt from the Preface:

This book is about urban ministry values and theological outlook. Nearly half of the people on the face of the globe live in urban areas. In highly developed countries, for example, the United States, approximately 80 percent of the people live in metropolitan areas. Although these types of statistical realities have been talked about as important for understanding the global-conscious world in which we live, as a lifelong city dweller, I have long appreciated how human relationships are interconnected in ways beyond provincial characteristics of particular communities. Just as families, clans, and tribes reveal behavioral similarities, cities also bear the stamp of their human connections beyond cultural differences.

. . .There is a two-pronged conceptual framework of which the reader should be aware. First, this book is not about sociology of religion , congregational studies, or urban strategy. It is about clarifying and promoting an urban theological attitude that affirms God’s love of the city behaviorally. God loves the city, and those who perceive themselves called by God into any type of Christian relationship with God should love those whom God loves: people. This is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, this book is about a theological attitude that characterizes the proclamation of the gospel in the city behaviorally and seeks to promote the twin goals of the gospel: love and justice.

Second, my approach to urban ministry is profoundly informed by my experience as an African American pastor who served churches in core-city African American communities for eighteen years prior to joining the faculty at a theological seminary.

An Excerpt from the Book:

It is important to understand that the oppression experienced by Africans during legalized enslavement in this period of United States history as well as by the sons and daughters of former slaves after political emancipation came from a warped perspective of humanity. This perspective did not view the interrelatedness and equality of all people as something of divine origin. Such a perspective inevitably gives rise to behavioral realities of alienation, fear, and violence. As such, African slavery in the United States grew out of the same factors then that oppress people today, people who have never been politically enslaved, but are experientially enslaved, nonetheless, by economic, ethnic, cultural, religious, or political oppression.

Factors that motivate oppression today manifest themselves in the debilitating behaviors that characterize Middle Eastern politics, Pakistani-India border tensions, or conflicts in places as varied as Ireland, Indonesia, Sudan, or Venezuela. These are the oppressive factors of alienation, fear, and violence. Howard Thurman, in his classic work Jesus and the Disinherited, expressed well the theological challenge that Christianity has of defining “what the teachings and the life of Jesus have to say to those who stand, at a moment in human history, with their backs against the wall.” It is the response to this question that gives substance to urban theology as holistic God-talk.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Challenges

1. An introduction: the informational gap and discerning the right questions

2. Pitfalls and potentials: the city as a paradigm of human relationships

3. Bridging the chasms in urban ministry

Part 2: Origins

4. Looking back: ancient and modern urban ministry

5. Urban theology: a bottom-up-perspective

6. Antecedents of a top-down theological perspective

7. Antecedents of a bottom-up theological perspective

Part 3: Perspectives

8. Core values in urban ministry

9. Two spheres of urban ministry: parish and public

10. Seeing with a divine lens: issues an networks in the city

11. The egalitarian metropolis