This article serves as the introductory, first contribution to a special collection of articles on the theme, ‘Doing urban public theology in South Africa: Visions, approaches, themes and practices towards a new agenda’. The aim of the article is to set the conceptual and hermeneutical framework for undertaking urban public theology as a very intentional, new agenda in South African theological scholarship. The authors assert that public theology in South Africa has, despite its established position today, not embedded itself in, or intentionally engaged itself with, the contextual challenges of South African cities and urban environments by and large. This assertion leads them to pay attention to the urban as a distinctive but contested development concern in present-day South Africa, to the way in which current public theological practice is lacking behind in engaging itself with this development concern, and to the important hermeneutical question of what it would entail to make an authentic, theological contribution towards meeting the challenges of the urban in South Africa in response to the current neglect. Although by no means intended as exhaustive and all-encompassing in terms of the subject matter, the authors end by appreciating the rest of the articles in the special collection as a first offer to the anticipated urban public theological agenda that they have started to identify in this article.