The renal mononuclear phagocytic system, conventionally composed of macrophages (Mø) and dendritic cells (DCs), plays a central role in health and disease of the kidney. Overlapping definitions of renal DCs and Mø, stemming from historically separate research tracks and the lack of experimental tools to specifically study the roles of these cells in vivo, have generated confusion and controversy, however, regarding their immunologic function in the kidney. This brief review provides an appraisal of the current state of knowledge of the renal mononuclear phagocytic system interpreted from the perspective of immunologic function. Physical characteristics, ontogeny, and known functions of the main subsets of renal mononuclear phagocytes as they relate to homeostasis, surveillance against injury and infection, and immune-mediated inflammatory injury and repair within the kidney are described. Gaps and inconsistencies in current knowledge are used to create a roadmap of key questions to be answered in future research.