Urban work in the Church today is marked by baffling contradictions. One difficulty with the Church’s perspectives on urban work is perhaps inherent. The Gospel itself has been said to be agrarian, filled with rural imagery and ostensibly addressed to those unaccustomed to city ways and city situations. The complexities of our present-day cities, with their increasingly mobile populations, their detached dormitory communities, and their massive construction and renewal booms, present the Church with problems hitherto unknown. Urban work thus cannot be looked upon strategically from old blueprints. The world of a century and a half ago differed less from that of Christ’s time than does our world from that of our nation’s founding fathers.

What is needed in the Church today, if its urban work is to be accomplished in a way consistent with its presumed master-plan, is a recognition and recovery of essentials. The unhappy fact is, however, that we are not clear concerning essentials and not agreed upon a master-plan. Is the Church basically to seek for numerical growth, and this in areas of easy access? the extension of its influence in public life, and this primarily among the supposedly influential? the establishment of a solid business-like base of financial support, resting most comfortably upon the charity of the affluent? If the answers to these questions are given in positive terms, then our current course in urban work—involving, as it does, a holding of the line or patchwork here, and spasmodic, daring efforts elsewhere—is realistic and should be continued.

Further, and more fundamentally, if the direction of what we are doing is right, then the theology of identification, stemming from a currently fashionable approach ...

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