We are living in an era of rapid global urbanization. According to the United Nations, over the next twenty years the world’s population living in urban environments will grow from approximately 50% to 75%. As this demographic shift occurs it has become increasingly clear that Christianity, which has a longstanding theological concern, in-depth involvement, and comprehensive understanding of urban contexts, needs to broaden and deepen its understanding of modern urban trends and redouble its engagement with how cities are developed so it can contribute to meeting the challenges of our global urban future as instruments of God’s common grace, and bearers of the Gospel.
A growing global conversation is focusing on cities, as evidenced in 2016 when 45,000 people from all over the world convened in Quito, Ecuador at the United Nation’s Habitat III conference to ratify and put in place strategies to implement an agenda for how to develop sustainable, inclusive, safe, healthy, productive, and thriving cities over the next 20-30 years. This New Urban Agenda (NUA), which is setting the tone for the development of cities all over the world, provides people of faith a unique opportunity to be part of, and contribute to, the conversation. Simply put, that is the mission of this project–to be agents of God’s shalom though active participation in the global thrust to design and create (and in some care re-create) cities, towns, and neighborhoods that are conducive to human thriving and care of God’s creation.
The project began with the Gospel and The Future of Cities summit prior to Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, October 13-14, 2016. Representatives at the summit as well as subsequent partners are from places as diverse as:
- World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)
- Lausanne/WEA Creation Care Network (LWCCN)
- Micah Global
- Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)
- Newbigin School for Urban Leadership
The conveners of the Urban Shalom Project are Dr. Chris Elisara, director of the World Evangelical Alliance Creation Care Task Force; Dr. Ash Barker, director of Micah Global’s International Society for Urban Mission (ISUM); Andre Van Eymeren, Dr. Bryan McCabe, professor of urban missiology at Bakke Graduate University, and Michael Mata, director of Azusa Pacific Seminary’s Transformational Urban Leadership Program. For more information read their bios below.
Dr. Chris Elisara
Dr. Chris Elisara is an Christian educational pioneer, entrepreneur, award-winning filmmaker, and an urbanist. After growing up in New Zealand Dr. Elisara moved to the United States to undertake graduate studies at Eastern University and Biola University. In 1995 he founded the first Christian undergraduate environmental study abroad program entitled the Creation Care Study Program (CCSP), and in 2010 he founded the Center for Environmental Leadership before being invited to found the World Evangelical Alliance’s Creation Care Task Force. In his WEA role Dr. Elisara works with UN-Habitat and other international agencies. Dr. Elisara served on the board of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) from 2013-2016 and has produced several award-winning films on urban topics.
Dr. Ash Barker
Immersed Jesus activist, trainer, writer, speaker. Husband to a force of nature and dad to two amazing kids. After 25 years of urban mission in Melbourne and Bangkok, Ash with his wife Anji and son Aiden moved to Winson Green, Birmingham, UK, to live in residential community. He founded Newbigin House, Newbigin Community Trust and the Newbigin School for Urban Leadership. Ash is from Melbourne where he helped start and led Urban Neighbours of Hope and the Surrender Conference. For 12 years he and his family lived and served in Bangkok’s largest slum. Ash also works on preventing urban poverty through his leadership roles with Micah Global’s International Society for Urban Mission. Ash speaks widely, is the author of 8 books, and has a passion for raising up more resilient, urban Christian leaders.
Andre Van Eymeren
For the past two decades Andre has been involved in grassroots community development. Engaged in everything from caring for at risk young people, to working closely with local leaders, to running community wide celebrations. He’s even facilitated a house church or two. Most recently merging church and community development. Post this experiment he formed an organization aimed at training and equipping the Church to be part of building a better world. He is now reflecting and building upon that practical experience in his writing, teaching and consulting. He aims to provide images and stories that empower others to strengthen their own communities. Andre is also a researcher at Swinburne University, Australia, focusing on the biblical concept of Shalom as a model for building social infrastructure in cities. His first book Building Communities of the Kingdom is available through Wipf and Stock. He is also the editor of the New Urban World Journal. He lives in the inner-city district of Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia with his wife Amy and son Josh.
Dr. Bryan McCabe
Dr. Bryan McCabe serves as a pastor and urban church planter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the founder and director of the Transformational Urban Leadership Institute, empowering followers of Jesus to transform global cities through teaching, training, and research. He is a co-founder and leader with a faith-based, youth mentoring initiative called the Learning and Mentoring Partnership, or LAMP. Bryan is a professor of urban missiology at Bakke Graduate University, strengthening leaders who steward resources with and for vulnerable people and places, by means of contextual, Christian-based education innovatively delivered throughout the urban world. He is associate editor of the New Urban World Journal, and a member of Micah Global and the Christian Community Development Association. Bryan lives in the urban neighborhood of Homewood in Pittsburgh with his wife, Julie, and their two daughters, Kyra and Sierra.
Michael A. Mata
Michael A. Mata has engaged community-based programs for over 30 years, particularly in regards to community development, organizational and leadership development and community youth development. Recently appointed to direct Azusa Pacific Seminary’s Transformational Urban Leadership Program in Los Angeles, he is also the Community Transformation Specialist with Compassion Creates Change, Inc. and an affiliated faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary. Prior to his current assignments he was the Urban Development Director for World Vision U.S. Program where he was responsible for guiding the department’s implementation of its Signature Program (community transformation focused on community youth development). Mata held the Mildred M. Hutchinson chair in Urban Ministry and was Director of the Urban Leadership Institute at the Claremont School of Theology. He holds the degree of Master in City Planning from the University of California at Berkeley as well as has completed doctoral studies in Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California.