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International Society for Urban Mission – ISUM

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14 August 2012

The “International Society for Urban Mission” (ISUM) was formed in Klong Toey slum, Bangkok on January 12-13, 2012. God brought together 30 urban Christian thinkers, activists and leaders who longed for God’s people to take seriously the rise of urban slums and to ‘seek the peace of the city’ (Jeremiah 29:7). We came from the Philippines, Thailand, America, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Australia to form a fellowship of urban Christians committed to seeking God’s Shalom for our cities, especially those in 10/40 Window Majority World. The focus of ISUM, therefore, is on active reflection, personal solidarity and leadership development in cities. Dr. Ash Barker was named the first Convener of ISUM and commissioned to help launch ISUM in its first year.

ISUM’s Vision and Aims

Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you, for in it’s peace you will find your own.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

God’s world is increasingly urban, resulting in urban poverty as a significant repercussion and injustice. Today, more than half of all humans live in urban areas, with over one billion in urban slums. Around 100,000 new slum residents are added each day and by 2050 half the world’s population could live in these morphing and moving slum neighbourhoods. Two out of three slum residents live geographically in the 10/40 Window (i.e. North Africa, Middle-East and Asia) where Christians are least present. Modern mission and development, highly dependent on large, stable institutions rarely works here. Thus, urgent collective, thoughtful and committed Christ-actions are required if God’s shalom is to come in these hard to reach places. All Christians are needed and benefit from God’s Kingdom come, the Shalom and justice of God, bubbling up into cities. Therefore, purpose of the International Society For Urban Mission is to be a fellowship of urban Christians committed to seeking God’s Shalom in cities, especially Majority World cities, though active reflection, solidarity and leadership development.

Aims include:

  1. To support missiological reflection, research and praxis with emerging urban Christian leaders in cities with urban slums.
  2. To build bridges of solidarity, fellowship and insight between urban Christian leaders in Western and Majority Worlds.
  3. To help raise-up a new generation of urban Christian leaders theologically enabled, informed and empowered to respond creatively to Christ in the world’s cities.

ISUM’s Commitment to Shalom

Our guiding values are:

  1. “Bottom up”, grass roots perspectives; rather than “top down”, distanced perspectives
  2. Local theology revealing new insights and perspectives about God’s activity
  3. Sharing through narratives embedded within urban poor communities and cities
  4. Ongoing, practical and personal solidarity with the world’s urban poor
  5. Networks, relationships & partnerships as the primary method of serving together
  6. Listening to and amplifying the voices of the urban poor, especially those from within the Majority World and in particular the 10/40 Window cities
  7. Postures of attentiveness for signs of the Kingdom of God and a willingness to reflect and respond with active, sometimes sacrificial commitment
  8. Commitment to share and extend the life of the body of Christ amongst the urban poor

ISUM Activities

A. New Urban World Journal and Blog

New Urban Worldis the official journal of the International Society for Urban Mission. This magazine-style journal aims to amplify voices for urban Christian discipleship and transformation in cities with the broader Church and society. It especially seeks to engage and inspire emerging urban Christian leaders and highlight the new challenges urban slums pose Christian faith and mission. New Urban World includes scholarly articles, in addition to accessible news, stories, opportunities for involvement, reviews, poetry and pictures from diverse urban Christians. Stephen Burris and Kendi Howells Douglas are the first editors with two editions a year, the first due November 1st, 2012. Contact editors for more details: Keep in contact by joining the Facebook page and New Urban World blog

  1. ISUM Annual Summit for Urban Mission

ISUM values personal relationships and so we offer opportunities to meet together to build trust, wisdom and be inspired in an annual Summit. Key practitioner themes, best practices, reflective prayer, active bible studies, case studies/story telling calls for collective action and will be a feature. Some of the addresses will be used in the New Urban World journal and we aim for varied mix of Western and Majority World urban Christian thinkers, activists and leaders. During the Summit, ISUM will also have our annual general meeting to evaluate our work. There will be opportunity for members to volunteer and vote for jobs, such as editorial panel, journal editor, convener and address any policy challenges required of ISUM.  The upcoming first Summit will be hosted in Bangkok, January 26-29, 2013. In partnership with the Micah Network, the focus will be on the theme of “Integral Urban Mission”. Future Summits will also be based in other 10/40 World cities. To keep informed contact or see

C. ‘Urban Learning Exchanges (ULE): Urban Educators Without Borders’

ISUM members can offer themselves to serve as educators in 10/40 Window cities. ISUM aims to be a kind of broker/hub for volunteer placements for urban Christian educators with colleges and ministries in cities with slums. This can include personal visits for seminars, leadership coaching and teaching and with increased technology can include Skype video interviews.  We will also encourage sister-school relationships between colleges in and outside 10/40 Window cities. ISUM members can make themselves available to volunteer by submitting details at the following website address: Opportunities to teach in colleges and seminars come from ISUM member contacts will be offered on the website and journal too. The college/ministry will contact the volunteer.  For enquiries contact Andrew Menzies and George Wieland

  1. Seminars and Immersion Experiences

ISUM members can provide seminars and learning experiences with emerging urban slum Christian leaders in context. This includes immersion courses and slum leader’s seminars, but also will seek to find ways for slum leaders and practitioners to share their insights with those in other slums.  For example, past seminars in 2012 included those run in Klong Toey by UNOH, such as “Following Fire: Signs and Wonders Where They Are Most Needed” with the Barkers and Bob Ekblad (May 18-19, 2012) and “When Helping Hurts” with Andy and Jenn Flannigan (July 7, 2012). Other examples include immersion courses for emerging leaders in Klong Toey run in December and June by invitation (Please contact for details). Other ISUM members offering courses can post in the facebook group or send updates to Stephen Burris ( to be advertised in the journal and website.  

In the future, we may have the exciting opportunity to form a kind of “ISUM Urban Education Consortium” to help colleges and slum ministries come together to provide seminars and immersion experiences for credit in slums.  

  1. Research and Resources

We aim to make available and support research about current happenings in urban mission. This can include commissioning and publishing research around Christian responses to slums. We especially want to regularly make accessible books from ISUM members. We hope this will include ISUM publishing books in vernacular languages and English. E-books are cheaper to produce and distribute, but this won’t stop hard copy books working in the future too if there is a need. ISUM also ‘endorses’ books going out to support those books and publicize ISUM, especially from its members. Two books in 2012 that came from current ISUM members are Ash Barker’s Slum Life Rising: How To Enflesh Hope In A New Urban World” (UNOH Pubs, released June 2012) and Stephen Burris, Doug Priest, and Kendi Douglas’ (Eds) Rivers of God (release, October 2012)

We hope will also make several resources available, such as downloads, PDFs, and other materials from members.  

ISUM’s Membership - Structure

Around 30 urban Christian thinker-activists met as a forming group in Klong Toey, Bangkok, on January 12-13, 2012. Ash Barker was voted by this forming group to be the ISUM’s first Convener and empowered to make first year appointments including editorial board, leadership team and setting up infrastructure. You can sign up to be a member of ISUM at the first ISUM Annual General Meeting to be held at the annual Summit. This will create opportunities for a say in ISUM’s future with shared responsibilities

Getting Involved with ISUM

- To simply stay in touch with ISUM sign up here and you will receive a quarterly e-mail letting you know upcoming events

- Subscribe here for the New Urban World journal with the cost of $40 for Western Christians and $20 a year for Majority World Christians for two editions a year, postage paid.

- To enquire click here about opportunities to serve with Urban Learning Exchanges.

- Book here for the first annual ISUM Summit in Bangkok, with Western Christians charged $125 and Majority World Christians charged $50. This price includes the four days of gatherings, three lunches and one celebration dinner (Additional meals, accommodation and travel are not included in this price).

- Become an ISUM Member here with an annual subscription for Western World Christians of $150 and this includes registration to the ISUM Summit and two editions of New Urban World. ISUM Membership for Majority World Christians is $70 annually and includes registration to the ISUM Summit and two editions of New Urban World.

- Organizations, missions and training institutions that engage in urban mission are invited to become official partners of ISUM. We have two options are partnership:

- ISUM Partners: cost is free if the partner organization/college has at least one ISUM member apart of their group. This gives access to all the oganisations wanting to be involved

-  ISUM Sponsors: For organization/universities/ministries who feel particularly committed to helping ISUM reach sustainability, for an annual $1000 subscription fee, an ISUM Sponsor will receive: their logo and web address added to the “ISUM Partners” page in theNew Urban World journal and website; registration for two participants to the ISUM Summit; two copies of each bi-annual edition of New Urban World journal; ability to advertise opportunities for readers and members to engage in their activities; two ISUM memberships for staff of the institution.

To enquire about becoming an official ISUM Partner/Sponsor, please email:

A scholarship program is available to fund members or institutions who have a desire to be apart of ISUM, but who are unable to afford the fees. Individuals and institutions can apply for this scholarship fund. We gladly accept donations to go towards funding the scholarship program