We’ve been talking about integration a lot at Wesley Seminary @ IWU. The local pastor is by nature a generalist and not a specialist, and so it seems that a seminary ought to not merely stack specialized studies on top of each other. Hence the rallying cry for integration.
But I will readily admit that integration is not easy, precisely because academic institutions and cultures invariably press towards greater and greater specialization. Although not a sufficient reason to avoid trying, the difficulty is real. For it is not that academic folk are merely recalcitrant, paranoid and self-serving. We have genuine concerns that something of the depth and insight of specialized teaching and research will be lost in the integrative process.
However, there are good reasons to think that integration does not necessarily undermine depth. A number of events this weekend brought home this point to me. Let me just mention one. Wesley Seminary co-sponsored an event commemorating the publication of Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Many special guests were there, including pastors from multi-ethnic churches, academics from various fields, and one of the original authors. There was significant interaction between and among academics in various fields and practitioners in various contexts, which is exactly the sort of dialogue that leads to integration.
What struck me was that this integrative dialogue was made possible by a deep investigation of a singular issue. In addition to its challenging substance, I took away from this conference the lesson than integration doesn’t have to come by way of simplification and generalization. We can come together across disciplinary divides and across the academic-practitioner divide by bringing our deepest insights to bear on specific, concrete issues.
Wesley’s Dean calls this the “deep calls unto deep” approach of integration. Although I always liked the sound of that, I think I know a little more about what that means. I think I caught a glimpse of it Friday. I sincerely hope our students will catch a glimpse of it in our courses. Speaking of courses, it’s time for me to stop talking about the possibility of integration, and get back to actually doing it!
-John L. Drury