Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918), Baptist minister and theologian, was born in Rochester, New York. Educated at the University of Rochester and then Rochester Theological Seminary where his father was a teacher, Rauschenbusch served as a pastor for eleven years at a church near the poverty-stricken area known as “Hell’s Kitchen.” It was during this time that he became involved in social-reform work and sought further study in Germany to develop a theology which addressed the many social problems arising from industrial exploitation in America. Upon his return he accepted a professorship in church history at Rochester Seminary. He subsequently published several theological works on social Christianity which aided the Social Gospel movement in their efforts to help the poor and reform society.
Rauschenbusch very much stood in the evangelical-pietist tradition, exhorting his fellow colleagues to make time “to be in the Master’s presence.” He was primarily concerned with building the kingdom of God through Christ, and later generations, such as that of Martin Luther King Jr., were inspired by his views concerning social Christianity.
For further reading see Charles Evans, The Kingdom is Always But Coming (Eerdmans, 2004).