Editorial: Joining the integrative conversation

Author: Dr Janet E. Penny

Publish date: October 2, 2021
Reading Time: 5 minutes


It is a pleasure to introduce this inaugural issue of the Waverley Abbey College Journal. I hope that you will find the articles interesting, serve you and prompt conversation, whether you are a student, practitioner, academic, pastoral worker, or curious reader. Its aim is to provide a space for developing scholarly knowledge for practice that is mindful of a Christian perspective.

All the articles in this issue give an insight into how the authors have reflected on their faith, seeking to live out their beliefs in practice, whether in a professional or personal context. Heather Churchill and Gill Harvey’s articles from a therapy perspective are explicit about the process of ‘reflexivity’, exploring some of their experiences in early life, leading to personal transformation and enriching their practice. Owen Ashley’s article on the Waverley integrative framework (Hughes, 2006; Kallmier, 2011) shows some of his working out of how to apply the framework in practice as a trainer and practitioner, and reveals his passion for the integration of his Christian faith with secular knowledge. In a profound and moving article on his mother’s dementia, Ian Stackhouse raises the question of what it means to be human by drawing on a relational understanding of God. Though differing in their emphases, the articles explore the integration of faith with areas such as psychotherapy, medicine and research methodology. In each article, there is a weaving together of the personal, professional and academic. It seems to me their endeavours are deeply integrative by nature.

Integration is a key process underlying the various courses at Waverley Abbey College. The Waverley integrative framework (WIF), which was originally developed by Selwyn Hughes (Hughes, 2006; Kallmier, 2011), seeks to thoughtfully integrate secular knowledge with a biblical perspective in order to provide a framework for helping relationships through counselling and pastoral care. Since the inception of the WIF, much has been written on the process of integration between the two fields of study: Christian theology and psychology/counselling; for example, Johnson (2010) discusses five main views on the nature of the relationship between the two disciplines, adding to his earlier book outlining four views (Johnson and Jones, 2000). Naturally, these kinds of debates are rarely static, and a more recent argument has been put forward for thinking of integration as ‘embodied’ (Neff and McMinn, 2020), that is, integration as ‘conversation’. Neff and McMinn write, ‘As we bring our messy, embodied lives into conversation with one another, we engage in integration’ (2020,  p5). In their book, there is an emphasis on how integration works in practice, with all the complexities that different contexts and people bring, and on conversation as the process and product of integration. Rather than neatly outlining the theoretical relationships between the two disciplines, they do not shy away from the difficult questions that integration can raise in practice, some of which the authors touch on in this journal.

There has been a ‘relational turn’ over the last couple of decades or so in which a relational perspective on what it means to be human has permeated many academic disciplines from psychoanalysis and psychology to theology, sociology, political science, even archaeology (Dépelteau, 2018). This view recognises that humans are primarily relational with core needs for relationship, developing, and sense-making in relationship. From a therapeutic perspective, the genesis of problems that bring people to therapy is often rooted in relationship, and it is in (therapeutic) relationship that healing takes place. Theologically, humans are viewed as imaging the divine in their capacity for relationship. It is no wonder that those writing on integration have brought this relational paradigm to bear on the task of integrating a Christian perspective with the psychological. Neff and McMinn’s (2020) work is suggestive of a relational epistemology. How do we know what we know? We know it together, in conversation, in relationship, as I suggest in the article with Owen Ashley. We cannot go too far down the scholarly road without considering the relational dimension, whether that be in terms of our relationships to other writers and theorists, our professional peers or our more immediate relational contexts. These all shape, in multi-layered and complex ways, the academic discourse, and there is evidence of this in each of the articles in this issue.

Integration brings together not just the professional and the academic, but the personal and the relational, more fully reflecting the origin of the word ‘integration’ as ‘wholeness’ (Ayto, 2005). I am highlighting the value of academic work that includes the heart, agreeing with Palmer and Zajonc in their argument for an integrative approach to education. They write, ‘using heart in its original sense, not just as the seat of the emotions, but as that core place in the human self where all our capacities converge: intellect, senses, emotions, imagination, intuition, will, spirit and soul’ (2010, p20). As evidenced in the articles in this issue, this integrative approach can be complicated and demanding at times. It is undoubtedly simpler to segregate the various dimensions, insulating oneself from the difficult questions that arise in the integrative space. Moving away from Descartes’ dualistic legacy (Tucker, 2010), an integrative stance engenders wholeness and transformation, potentially enabling people of faith to being able to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37). It is my hope that you will join the integrative conversation, in all its complexities, whether as a reader or potential author in this journal.


Ayto, J. (2005) Word Origins: The Hidden Histories of English Words from A to Z, 2nd Edn., London: A & C Black Publishers, Ltd.

Dépelteau, F. (Ed.) (2018) The Palgrave Handbook of Relational Sociology, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hughes, S. (2006) Christ Empowered Living, Farnham: CWR.

Johnson, E. L. (Ed.) (2010) Psychology and Christianity: Five Views, 2nd Edn., Illinois: IVP Academic.

Johnson, E. L. & Jones, S. (Eds.) (2000) Psychology and Christianity: Four Views, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Kallmier, R. (2011) Caring and Counselling, Farnham: CWR.

Matthew 22:37, Holy Bible: New International Version.

Neff, M. A. & McMinn, M. R. (2020) Embodying Integration: A Fresh Look at Christianity in the Therapy Room, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Palmer, P. J. & Zajonc, A. (2010) Introduction, In, Palmer, P. J. & Zajonc, A. with Scribner, W. The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal: San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tucker, L. M. (2010) Quest for wholeness: Spirituality in teacher education, ENCOUNTER: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, 23 (2), 1-10. References at end

About the author

Dr Janet Penny BA (Hons), MSc, PGPDip, C. Psychol., AFBPsS; HCPC Registered Psychologist, Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society

Janet is Deputy Head of Counselling Training at Waverley Abbey College. As well as having a private clinical practice, Janet is a research supervisor for doctoral candidates at the Metanoia Institute and London School of Theology. Her own doctoral research was on power dynamics and the development of intra-cultural competence within Christian counselling. She has many years’ experience teaching in higher education, focusing on the integration of faith and psychology in Christian counselling, and research methodology.

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