In the past decade, significant social movements emerged in South Africa, in response to
specific urban challenges of injustice or exclusion. This article will interrogate the meaning of
such urban social movements for theological education and the church. Departing from a firm
conviction that such movements are irruptions of the poor, in the way described by Gustavo
Gutierrez and others, and that movements of liberation residing with, or in a commitment to,
the poor, should be the locus of our theological reflection, this article suggests that there is
much to be gained from the praxis of urban social movements, in disrupting, informing and
shaping the praxis of both theological education and the church. I will give special consideration
to Ndifuna Ukwazi and the Reclaim the City campaign in Cape Town, the Social Justice
Coalition in Cape Town, and Abahlali baseMjondolo based in Durban, considering these as
some of the most important and exciting examples of liberatory praxes in South Africa today.
I argue that theological education and educators, and a church committed to the Jesus who
came ‘to liberate the oppressed’, ignore these irruptions of the Spirit at our own peril.
The collection entitled ‘Spirit rising: tracing movements of justice’, forms part of the ‘Faith in the City’ research project, hosted by
the Centre for Contextual Ministry in the Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. Some of the articles were papers presented at the
Biennial Consultation on Urban Ministry, hosted by the Institute for Urban Ministry, in collaboration with other organizations, from 17-20
August 2016. The theme of this Consultation was ‘#We must rise: healers - dreamers – jesters’.