New Frontiers for the Urban Ministry

Agony and anxiety over the destiny of our nation's cities have become a posture of every institution in American life today. Universities and colleges are holding symposia on "The Urban Crisis," business, industry and labor have joined ranks to form the Urban Coalition, and a Presidential Commission has issued a mammoth and penetrating report on the problem of urban violence.

Where in all this massive outpour of national concern will the church take its stand? Shall the church recoil in horror from the uphevals of urban society and label its agonies as the work of Communists? Shall the church rush in with an abundance of breast beating and thrash around aimlessly in attempts to be the most radical institution in an age of revolution? Shall the church merely transfer evangelistic techniques and social programs that emerged from and reflect a rural, agrarian, nineteenth century society on the fond hope or arrogant insistence that they will or should work equally well in an industrial, technological, automated, twentieth century urban setting? or shall the church, taking its clue from the ministry of Paul, sense that "new occasions teach new duties," as James Russell Lowell once observed, and set itself to the challenge of finding new ways to win the hearts and minds of urban men and women who must live, work, love, laugh, make decisions, experience failures, plan their destiny--in what is distinctly an urban culture?

This issue of MISSION opts for the last alternative. It admittedly reflects a bias, one that stems from the conviction that we no longer have time to debate the matter, for the hour is already late if the church hopes to do or say anything meaningful or significant about one of the great crises of our generation.