Urban Church P̶l̶a̶n̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ Plantations by Christen Cleveland.
If you are preparing to do [urban ministry] and you’ve never had a non-white mentor, you are not an [urban minister], you are a colonialist. – adapted from Soong-chan Rah[i]
Last week I had the honor of meeting with a group of urban pastors who’ve devoted their lives to serving Buffalo, NY. While discussing the challenges they encountered while doing urban ministry in a predominantly non-white, socio-economically oppressed[ii] city, the black, Hispanic and Asian pastors with whom I met raised a familiar issue, one that I’ve heard and witnessed all over the country. Same story, different city.
Buffalo, like many other urban centers, has faced a shrinking population and declining business interest for decades[iii].
But things rapidly changed in December 2013, when NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan in which he pledged to invest $1 billion in Buffalo, with the goal of transforming the beleaguered city into a high-tech center. Not surprisingly, suburban folks who’ve long abandoned the city are suddenly eager to return and participate in (cash in on?) the urban renaissance.
This doesn’t surprise me one bit. This is how capitalism works in the U.S. empire.
WHEN THE CHURCH WORKS LIKE THE EMPIRE
The urban pastors reported that, in the wake of Governor Cuomo’s announcement, many predominantly white, wealthy suburban churches in the area have expressed renewed interest in Buffalo’s urban center. But rather than connecting with the urban pastors who have been doing ministry among the oppressed in Buffalo for years, and looking for ways to support the indigenous leaders who are already in place, they have simply begun making plans to expand their suburban ministry empires into the urban center. In other words, they’re venturing out into the world of urban church planting…