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The Church in the African City.

"The whole Christian enterprise in Africa is threatened by urbanization," (p. 1) declares Aylward Shorter, an anthropologist and theologian with a quarter century of personal experience on the continent. Shorter traces the "anti-urban" bias of many Christian missionaries, setting a pattern of urban neglect. He shows that the rural strength of Christianity tends to dissipate under the impact of urban secularization. As African cities and their vices burgeon, they in turn exert an anti-Christian influence on the nation.

However, the author sees beyond the dismal prospects of urban corruption, violence, child abuse, AIDS, and dehumanization. The very conditions that spawn these evils provide a great opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the relevance of the Gospel. To illustrate, Shorter describes Roman Catholic "base communities" in East Africa. These small groups, he claims, meet the needs of urbanized Africans, who are often antihierarchical in worldview and yet long for a sense of community. The communities also enable Christians to incarnate biblical values in their local context.

Dr. Shorter's valuable insights should be carefully studied by Christian leaders. The author points out, however, that he writes primarily from a Roman Catholic point of view (p. 4). This may explain why he does not examine reasons for the rapid growth of evangelical "local churches," which have usually been antihierarchical and provide a strong sense of community.

Although the book well underlines the sociological application of the Gospel, it would be easy for the reader to miss the implication that personal "new birth" is a prior necessity for any Christian to be "salt and light" in the African city. All over the continent, true disciples of Jesus Christ are giving "the African town a soul" (p. 148).

W. Harold Fuller lived in African cities for twenty-six years, at first as a missionary journalist and later as an executive of SIM, an interdenominational mission. A Canadian, he is currently consultant to SIM's Media Department.
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Author:Fuller, W. Harold
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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