IUM focuses on research contributing to the urban ministry conversation in Africa and globally, providing a place for knowledge production from below (intradisciplinary), inclusive of knowledge that is created by marginalised peoples. Guided by the praxis cycle, we engage in liberative research focused on urban challenges that affect the lived realities of people, shaped by grassroots participation.



The Institute for Urban Ministry initiated the launch of the Society for Urban Theology in July 2004 (de Gruchy 2005) to begin capturing through action research what was innovative and emerging as focused theological discourse engaged urban contextual realities. The Society was to meet annually for serious academic scholarship, robust theological reflection and generative engagement with contemporary urban phenomena. A sampling of the topical themes from meetings are: ‘“Oikos”: Exploring God’s Household in the City’ (Meylahn 2009); ‘Celebrating beauty in the city’ (Kritzinger 2014); ‘Understanding Public Theology in the Cities of Africa: challenges, methods, visions’; ‘Innovative and prophetic local expressions of sustainable livelihoods and alternative economic activities’ (Mangayi 2014). 

For some years the Society for Urban Theology went dormant but plans are in place to relaunch the Society in June 2020. What was envisioned in 2004 to be an African society for urban theology began to actualise in 2019 when the Urban Africa 2050 research group was reimagining theological education and formation for flourishing African cities. The Urban Africa 2050 research group decided to identify with the Society for Urban Theology for the purpose of relationships, research, resources and resistance going forward to build a theological network of reflection and practice to engage African urban opportunities and challenges.

  • Relationships – virtual and face-to-face platforms for networking and collaboration, establish visibility in the community, reconceptualise sources of knowledges, and together create new narratives
  • Research – projects on themes that cut across cities in Africa, engaging emerging innovations and urbanisms and utilising praxis-based, trans-disciplinary and emancipatory methodologies
  • Resources – relevant, up-to-date information and access to trans-disciplinary journals, professional development opportunities
  • Resistance – influence government policy and urban planning processes, public conscientization, liberative theology to love our cities, seek peace and do justice

Upcoming Activities 

The Society will include practical offerings such as an urban think tank and annual meetings, providing space to present papers and workshops that stimulate urban dialogue. 

The next annual meeting will take place during the 4th Joint Conference of Academic Societies in the Fields of Religion and Theology taking place 29 June – 3 July 2020, hosted by the Department of Religion & Theology at the University of the Western Cape. 


Society for Urban Theology

Wednesday 1 July 2020 presents:

“Religion and Theology in URBAN AFRICA:
challenges, trends and trans-disciplinarity” 

The day will begin with a session with Edgar Pieterse, Director of the African Centre for Cities at UCT addressing, Urban Africa: challenges, trends and trans-disciplinarity – an invitation to theology

Imagining theological education formation for flourishing African cities

Urbanization in Africa is inevitable. By 2050 more than 1,2 billion people – 55% of the African population – will live in African cities. Currently, 62% of Africa’s urban population live in informal settlements. Will urban Africa explode in numbers and deepen in misery, or is it possible to imagine and accompany flourishing African urban futures.

Little research has been done on religion in African cities. Most theological curricula in Africa fail to prioritise urban realities. This trans-disciplinary research project will attempt to escalate the priority for robust, creative theological engagement with African urban challenges.

We gather researchers from across the continent to re-imagine theological education that is fostering urban leaders, enabled to animate flourishing African cities. We do this through retrieving African spiritualities and values, socio-spiritual capital and innovations, and justice-seeking practices of reconciliation and peace-building.


The Urban Studio is a partnership between the Centre for Contextual Ministry, based in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria, and the Tshwane Leadership Foundation, an ecumenical community organisation committed to urban transformation. Using the city as classroom for action, reflection, dialogue and research, the Urban Studio positions itself to be a leader in advancing a community‐based approach to urban transformation.


In the next few years, IUM intends to bolster our research efforts by

  • Exploring research as a methodological instrument for training
  • Grounding our research via our partnerships on the ground, becoming a university in the truest sense: “a university of the inner city”
  • Forming of a consulting research arm that helps academics participate in research in urban contexts in an emancipatory way

In particular, we intend to increase our focus on Urban Studios. Within Urban Studios, we will:

  • Identify the space and research themes by working on-site in communities, engaging residents, town planners, city officials, and other stakeholders around the contested issues in those spaces
  • Document new knowledge and research from the people, grounded in knowledge from below
  • Explore communities of practice as Urban Studios become connection spaces for our networks
  • Identify interns via our partners for research

For more information on research, please contact our Director, Nico Botha: nico [at]

For more information on Urban Studios, please contact our Partnerships Coordinator, Jude Nnorom: jude [at]