Integration: not easy, but worth it

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

  • B. Whitesel

    Well said John. And I too like our dean’s “deep calls unto deep” approach.

    I am reminded by your post that such synergy requires effort and time. Thus, I know that while fulfilling, our integrated approach may initially cause our students some additional time and effort for acclimation. Still, most students find they can adapt to this new rhythm of research and application, and that it will make their ministry more effective and holistic.

    I am proud of my colleagues (and students) who are giving extra effort to create something extraordinary.

    I believe in the long run it will foster better world changers.

  • “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”

    Psalm 42:7 NIV

  • Dr. Drury,

    As a student in the Seminary’s “new” model, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. Integration is not easy. It demands a rigor and level of drive that I haven’t felt since my first master’s work. That said, having spent a couple of years in a traditional seminary model, I feel Wesley is preparing me very, very well for the very types of issues I have and will face in pastoral ministry: integrated problems. Issues of counseling, Biblical Interpretation, Mission, Vision, Leadership Development, etc. within the church bring about holistic issues that the seminary is teaching us to grapple with. I, for one, am excited at what I am learning, even as it stretches me to the max.