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Recommended Readings on the Intersection of Housing and Theology

Gone for Good?: Negotiating the Coming Wave of Church Property Transition (2024) 
Thousands of church properties worth billions of dollars are being sold or repurposed each year. Nothing can stop the currents of change. But congregations and cities can take steps now to ensure a legacy directed toward communal good rather than private interests. Gone for Good? will be an invaluable guide in navigating these radical shifts in church life and ministry. Essays explore spiritual, sociological, and practical aspects of church property transition, including: 
     • assessing the impacts of churches on their neighborhoods—and the gaps they will leave behind 
     • developing church property into affordable housing 
     • transforming ministry in rural churches 
     • partnering with Indigenous peoples to return land 
     • fostering cooperation between congregations, developers, and city planners 
     • navigating zoning laws 
     • working with foundations and funders
Our Congregational Land Committee contributed a chapter to this book.
Decent Home – Planning, Building, and Preserving Affordable Housing by Alan Mallach
The author nuanced analysis of housing issues critical to communities across the country will help planners evaluate the housing situation in their own communities and formulate specific plans to address a variety of housing problems. The book is both a practical step-by-step guide to developing affordable housing and a sophisticated introduction to housing policy. Chapters address design, site selection, project approval, financing, and the history of housing policy in the United States. Planners will find useful information about inclusionary and exclusionary zoning, affordable housing preservation, and the risks and rewards of affordable-home-ownership programs. The author also connects the dots among regional economic competitiveness, quality of life, community revitalization, and affordable housing.
A Theology as Big as the City by Ray Bakke

How does God see the city? What does Scripture have to say about urban ministry? These are the questions Ray Bakke has systematically addressed, beginning with Genesis and continuing through to Revelation. Here is a biblical theology that will constantly surprise and challenge you as you get a glimpse of how big God’s view of the city really is.


A Theology of the Built Environment – Justice, Empowerment, Redemption by T.J. Gorringe

Tim Gorringe’s is the first book to reflect theologically on the build environment as a whole. Drawing on a wide range of both theological and social-scientific sources. Professor Gorringe explores Christianity in its urban setting, focusing on the use of space, design, architecture and town planning to make a theological critique. After considering the divine grounding of constructed space, he looks at the ownership of land, the issues of housing, town and country and the city, and then considers the built environment in terms of community and art. The book concludes with two chapters that set the book's theme within the framework of the environmental crisis and asks what directions the Church should be looking for in building for the future. This unique book will challenge not only theologians, ethicists and sociologists of religion but also church teachers and professionals.

The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics by Ched Myers

Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics, by Ched Myers, offers seven studies of the scriptural views of Jubilee justice and God's Dream of enough for everyone. It "reads the Bible economically in order to read the economy biblically." Now in its eighth printing, this resource is ideal for adult education and study groups. 70 pages, paper. Tell the Word Press (Church of the Savior, Washington D.C.), 2001.


Building a People of Power – Equipping Churches to Transform Their Communities by Robert C. Linthicum


Jesus never intended the church to become an institution; he intended it to be a people of power, transforming the world.

Power is the capacity, ability, and the willingness to act. Most people and systems use power to dominate and control, but others have used it relationally to liberate, transform, and even save.

Build around a biblical exploration of shallow, Building a People of Power explains how local churches can use power to transform their communities and their cities. Detailed power strategies are presented enabling churches to build productive relationships, to address the primary issues of people they serve, and to develop strong leaders, faithful organizations, and redeemed neighborhoods that live out shalom.

Building the Dream – A Social History of Housing in America by Gwendolyn Wright

This book is concerned essentially with the model of domestic environment in this country, as it has evolved from colonial architecture through current urban projects. Beginning with Puritan townscape, topics include urban row housing, Big House and slave quarters, factory housing, rural cottages, Victorian suburbs, urban tenements, apartment life, bungalows, company towns, planned residential communities, public housing for the poor, suburban sprawl.

Defensible Space – Crime Prevention Through Urban Design by Oscar Newman

This book is about an alternative, about a means for restructuring the residential environments of our cities so they can again become livable and controlled, controlled not by police but by a community of people sharing a common terrain…. The time has come to go back to first principles, to reexamining human habitat as it has evolved, to become attuned to all the subtle devices invented over time and forgotten in our need and haste to house the many….

Density by Design – New Directions in Residential Development by Steven Fader

How can you create residential developments that meet the demands of the marketplace, that provide a high quality of life and sense of neighborhood? How can you build new housing that gains approval in today’s NIMBY environment? How can you build new neighborhoods that counter suburban sprawl and urban decay?

Density by Design provides innovative solutions to these issues and more in 14 case studies of projects that successfully implement the best new ideas in residential community planning. Chosen for a level of design sophistication that goes beyond the norm for producing housing, the developments range in density from single family subdivisions all the way to downtown high-rise apartments. Projects illustrate many up-to-the-minute concepts: low income and mixed-housing types, urban infill, and adaptive reuse.

Especially useful for architect, planners, builders, and developers, the case studies reveal trends and standards for developing projects that provide a sense of place, that use land efficiently without compromising livability, and that can pass the twin tests of governmental approvals and marketability.

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith

Through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people and an additional 200 face-to-face interviews, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probed the grassroots of white evangelical America. They found that despite recent efforts by the movement's leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America's racial chasm. In fact, most white evangelicals see no systematic discrimination against blacks. But the authors contend that it is not active racism that prevents evangelicals from recognizing ongoing problems in American society. Instead, it is the evangelical movement's emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships that makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates racial inequality. Most racial problems, the subjects told the authors, can be solved by the repentance and conversion of the sinful individuals at fault.

Combining a substantial body of evidence with sophisticated analysis and interpretation, the authors throw sharp light on the oldest American dilemma. In the end, they conclude that despite the best intentions of evangelical leaders and some positive trends, real racial reconciliation remains far over the horizon.


Evicted – Poverty and Profit in The American City by Matthew Desmond

In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they each struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of twenty-first century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible. This book won the Pulitzer Prize and  National Book Award for Non-Fiction.

From Oppression to Jubilee Justice by Lowell Noble

Without an understanding of the horror of oppression, it is difficult, if not impossible, to act wisely and passionately to incarnate Jubilee justice in one’s community. There is little in evangelical theology and preaching on oppression, even though oppression is a major biblical concept (more than 125 Scriptural references). To address this serious omission, this book is built upon four crucial concepts found in Luke 4:18-19 – the Spirit, the poor, the oppressed and Jubilee justice – and proposes that the package of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God and justice is the biblical way to release people from poverty and oppression.

Lowell Noble was professor of sociology and anthropology at Spring Arbor University for 25 years. Since 1994, he has been serving as a volunteer at the John Perkins Foundation ( in Jackson, Mississippi. His passion in retirement was to create a theology of society to undergird Christian Community Development.

How to Kill a City – Gentrification, Inequality, and The Fight for the Neighborhood by Peter Moskowitz


The term gentrification has become a buzzword to describe the changes in urban neighborhoods across the country, but we don’t realize just how threatening it is. It means more than the arrival of trendy shops, much-maligned hipsters, and expensive lattes. The very future of American cities as vibrant, equitable spaces hangs in the balance.

Peter Moskowitz’s How to Kill a City takes readers from the kitchen tables of hurting families who can no longer afford their homes to the corporate boardrooms and pollical backrooms where destructive housing policies are devised. Along the way, Moskowitz uncovers the massive, systematic forces behind gentrification in New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York. The deceptively simple question of who can and cannot afford to pay rent goes to the heart of America’s crisis of race and inequality. In the fight for economic opportunity and racial injustice, nothing could be more important than housing. A vigorous, hard-hitting expose, How to Kill a City reveals, who holds power in our cities – and how we can get it back.


Justicia Y Vivienda: Una Perspectiva Biblica, Authora y Editora: Jill Suzanne Shook

La Dra. Jill Shook, autora y editora de este libro bilingüe, es conocida a nivel nacional como defensora de vivienda con justicia social. Este libro presenta una teología sólida, clara y práctica que busca inspirar al pueblo de Dios a que participe en el proceso de obtener vivienda al alcance para sus comunidades. Compartiendo su propia experiencia de cómo ayudó a llevar a cabo cientos de unidades económicas en su ciudad, Shook ofrece muchos modelos distintos de cómo las iglesias en todos los Estados Unidos han proporcionado a la mismo. Autora del libro "Making Housing Happen: Faith Based Affordable Housing Models" (revisado en 2012), Shook presenta talleres en las conferencias nacionales de la Asociación del Desarrollo Cristiano de la Comunidad y por otras organizaciones. Es profesora y sus artículos han aparecido en Sojourners y otras revistas. Ed Mahoney, Bert Newton, y Lowell Noble también han colaborado en escribir este libro.



Making Housing Happen: Faith Based Affordable Housing Models, 2nd edition by Jill Suzanne Shook (Editor)


The growing housing crisis cries out for solutions that work. As many as 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, half of them women and children. One in four renters spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities (paying more than 30 percent is considered unaffordable). In 2008, with record foreclosures and 28 percent of homes ”underwater,” middle- and low-income homeowners are suffering.

Many congregations want to address this daunting problem yet feel powerless and uncertain about what to do. The good news is that churches are effectively addressing the housing crisis from Washington State to New York City – where an alliance of sixty churches has built five thousand homes for low-income homeowners, with virtually no government funding or foreclosures.

This book not only presents solid theological thinking about housing, but also offers workable solutions to the current crisis with true stories by those who have made housing happen. Each story features a different Christian denomination, geographic area, and model: adaptive reuse, cohousing, cooperative housing, mixed-income, mixed-use, inclusionary zoning, second units, community land trusts, sweat equity, and more.

Making Housing Happen is about vision and faith, relationships, and persistence. Its remarkable stories will inspire and challenge you to action. The 2012 edition includes significant new material, especially in light of the ongoing mortgage crisis.


Making Room – Housing for a Changing America by AARP



Just as the housing needs of individuals change over a lifetime of unprecedented shifts in both demographics and lifestyle have fundamentally transformed our nation’s housing requirements. Filled with infographics, ideas, solutions, photographs and floor plans from the National Building Museum exhibition of the same name, Making Room: Housing for a Changing America is a rallying cry for a wider menu of housing options. Like the exhibition, which was curated with the Citizens Housing & Planning Council and funded in part by AARP Foundation, the publication introduces readers — be they residential builders or designers, community leaders or the general public — to a future that can feature a menu of housing options that better serve people of all ages and the needs of a changing America. Organized into four parts, Making Room begins with a look at the nation's changing demographics and household types, followed by a collection of more than three-dozen housing solutions and then a "tour" of The Open House, an interactive, furnished demonstration home that was created for the exhibition (by Clei with Resource Furniture) and could seamlessly accommodate three entirely different household living arrangements.

To order a free paperback copy: 

Email with the subject line: Making Room

In the email body, include: 

  • Your Name

  • Street Address

  • Town/City, State, Zip Code

  • Publication number: D20459


Ownership: Early Christian Teaching by Charles Avila

Charles Avila began talking with the peasants caring for the expansive seminary grounds in the Philippines. They invited him to get to know their movement to provide land to peasants. He came to realize that what they were preaching about the theology of land was much more biblical than what he learned in seminary. His book provides an important recovery of the patristic teachings on wealth and poverty and has shown that a Christian theology of stewardship must be rooted in an ethic of economic justice.


Charles Avila studied theology and earned his master's in Social Philosophy at the Divine Word Seminary in the Philippines. He has written many essays and a number of books on philosophy, political economy, and sociological problems. His 'Peasant Theology' has been translated into eight languages. For more than ten years he was an organizer of peasant unions, producers' co-ops, community organizations, and industrial unions. He was President of the Kamayan Party, a pre-martial law democratic socialist party in the Philippines, and Vice President of the Federation of Free Farmers. Avila has also served as a writer for 'Philippine News' a San Francisco-based weekly, and for 'South' a Third World-oriented monthly magazine based in London.


Roots for Radicals – Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice by Edward T. Chambers

Roots for Radicals is a distillation of the IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation) philosophy and its unique approach to community organizing. It’s also the pungent, feisty memoir of one of America’s most successful and colorful organizers.


Sidewalks in the Kingdom – New Urbanism and the Christian Faith – The Christian Practice of Everyday Life Series by Eric O. Jacobsen


Christians often talk about claiming our cities for Christ and the need to address urban concerns. But according to Eric Jacobsen, this discussion has remained far too abstract. Sidewalks in the Kingdom challenges Christians to gain an informed vision for the physical layout and structure of the city. Jacobsen emphasizes the need to preserve the nourishing characteristics of traditional city life, including shared public spaces, thriving neighborhoods, and a well-supported local economy. He explains how urban settings create unexpected and natural opportunities to initiate friendship and share faith in Christ. Sidewalks in the Kingdom is a part of The Christian Practice of Everyday Life Series, dedicated to theological consideration of the concerns of everyday life.

Streets of Hope – The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood by Peter Medoff and Holly Skylar


"Using the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston's most impoverished neighborhood as a case study, the authors show how effective organizing reinforces neighborhood leadership, encourages grassroots power and leads to successful public-private partnerships and comprehensive community development."- Prof. Norman Krumholz. As a result of their organizing, the city of Boston gave the community full control through eminent domain of their neighborhood and they put their property into a community land trust. This is a shining example of grassroots community development. To learn more, click here.

The Land – Place a Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith, Second Edition by Walter Brueggemann

The land was one of the most vibrant symbols for the people of ancient Israel. In the land – gift, promise, and challenge – was found the physical source of Israel’s fertility and life, and a place for the gathering of the hopes of the covenant people. In this careful treatment, Walter Brueggemann follows the development of his theme through the major blocks of Israel’s traditions. The book provides a point of entrance both to the theology of the Old Testament and to aspects of the New Testament – even as it illuminates crucial issues of the contemporary scene. Recurring problems with border conflicts, soil and water pollution, and homelessness prompt the author’s reflections on the relation between the biblical traditions and contemporary dilemmas.

In this fully revised edition of a classic work, Brueggemann provides new insights in an additional chapter, as well as updating the discussion, notes, and bibliography.

The Promised Land – The Great Black Migration and How it Changed America by Nicholas Lemann

Between 1940 and 1970 five million African-Americans left the rural South for the promised land of the urban north in the greatest mass migration in our country’s history. This extraordinary book gives that movement faces and voices. With the passion and human observation of a great novelist, Nicholas Lemann tells the stories of the men and women who escaped sharecroppers’ shacks for the dubious shelter of ghetto housing projects and fled one kind of poverty only to encounter another just as bleak. With the same diligence, he traces the ideals, ambitions, and infighting of the politicians and bureaucrats who tried to channel the black migration toward their own ends. Rich in insight and indignation, uncanny in its empathy, The Promised Land is a major work of social history.

The Theology of the Hammer by Millard Fuller

By the age of thirty, Millard Fuller had come face-to-face with the reality of the American dream --he was a millionaire workaholic with a marriage on the skids. The cure was a radical one. The Fullers sold their business, donated all but a few thousand dollars to charity, and went in search of a new dream. Twenty years later, Fuller and his wife Linda shared that dream: Habitat for Humanity International. This exciting release continues the story of Habitat for Humanity, an organization that helps us make shelter a matter of conscience. Founder Millard Fuller describes the applied theology that directs and energizes this organization’s efforts.

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