In April 2020, Carey received news that it had been awarded US$14,986 (which at the time of writing is just under NZ$25,000) through Fuller Theological Seminary’s TheoPsych project. This initiative seeks to bring theology and psychology into conversation, especially on the question of what it means to be human. 

While theology has wrestled for centuries with what it means to be human, the behavioural sciences are yielding more and more explanatory data that enhances how this works in daily life. Put differently, theology can provide a metanarrative for human flourishing, but psychology offers mechanisms at work within the human person, surrounding the person, and in broader cultures that contribute to this flourishing. 

For instance, one strong theological story is that God made humans to need relationships: relationship with Godself, with other humans, with non-human creatures and with the rest of creation. However, these relationships form developmentally. Psychology can help unpack that development and how relationships can be robustly formed, as well as what can sidetrack their development.  

Beyond the academic content of the award, Carey was chosen as an institution that desires to embody doing integrative theology. Clear evidence of Carey’s commitment to integration can be found in our ‘Towards 2030’ strategic plan. The fourth of our five priorities is “Strengthening our commitment to integrative theology. In recent years we have been developing a distinctive and compelling approach to theological study, one which is responsive to our students’ context. In the years to come we want our curriculum and pedagogy to demonstrate much deeper engagement with the needs of our church and society.” This award contributes to that priority, helping to lay groundwork for even more avenues for integration.

While the content of the application and the institutional priorities were important for receiving this award, the third critical key was distinctive to Carey’s commitment to biculturalism in all that we do. Given how new the integration of theology and psychology has been, and given that it has primarily engaged Western ways of doing theology (and likely, Western ways of doing psychology), there is a wealth of new knowledge yet to be discovered in a culturally‑integrative, integrative theology. We are fortunate at Carey to have Dr Sandy Kerr, the kaiārahi-rangahau Māori, or Māori research associate, as our guide to thinking biculturally about our research and methods. Dr Kerr is an invaluable resource to dialogue about the methods and approaches that will be undertaken in this project as we seek to do this in culturally embedded ways.

The funding from Fuller Theological Seminary’s TheoPsych project will help us develop webinars and course content examining culturally-integrative, integrative theology and its implications. We hope you will stay tuned for these developments and join us in this exploration together.

Contributor: Christa McKirland, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Carey