Story by Hope McPherson
Photos by Jerry Gay


"We're trying to develop a mature Christian aesthetic — that is, a deeper understanding of the role art and imagination play in the spiritual life," says Image Editor and Publisher Gregory Wolfe, pictured with Executive Editor Suzanne Wolfe (left) and Managing Editor Mary Kenagy (right).

One of the top 10 quarterlies of its kind in the nation, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, is now housed at Seattle Pacific University. A glossy journal with cutting-edge art and words, Image regularly features leading writers and artists such as novelist Walter Wangerin Jr., poet and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and painter Makoto Fujimura.

"It brings together in one publication things that have gotten pretty secularized: art, literature and music," says Eugene Peterson '54, longtime Image reader and best-selling author of The Message. "This is a major effort to bring the arts and literature back into a Christian context, respect them and give them dignity."

Image has received notice from the secular community too. "I think the language of art is the way a lot of people try to reconnect with the church," says Gregory Wolfe, Image editor and publisher. "I think it actually presents Christians with a unique cultural opportunity."

That was one reason Seattle Pacific invited Image to campus. "We believe its coming will enhance our work with students and the wider constituency of the University," says Provost Bruce Murphy. "The mission of Image is congruent with President Eaton's call for engaging the culture with Christian truth and grace."

Since it was founded in 1989, Image has grown to 6,000 subscribers and newsstand readers. In each issue, readers meet contributors who, like them, seek God and wrestle with issues of faith. "There are other journals published by Christians who also want to publish excellent literature and artwork, but none of them have succeeded to the degree that Image has," says Mark Walhout, professor of English and chair of the SPU English Department. "It includes work by Christians and non-Christians who, for one reason or another, want to explore Christian themes in their work."

By exploring such themes, the journal and its contributors have landed in nearly all of the "best-of" year-end anthologies, including The Best American Essays, The Best Spiritual Writing and The Best American Movie Writing. "We always planned for Image to be on the same bookshelf as The New Yorker, The Paris Review and journals of that kind, so that art and literature informed by faith are present in the midst of the culture," says Wolfe. "I'm happy to say that 11 years after we started, that's exactly where we are."

And now Seattle Pacific students and faculty will benefit. "Having the opportunity to dialogue with Christian artists who seriously study the underpinnings of their faith will be of immeasurable value," says Del Wisdom '63, Image subscriber, SPU trustee and former Alumni Board president.

This October that dialogue began at Seattle Pacific with the Eighth Annual Image Conference. Open to the public and co-sponsored by the Conference on Christianity and Literature, "Habitations of the Word: Art and the Spiritual Ecology of Place" brought together 60 scholars, artists and writers over four days. Exploring how "place" can make sacred connections for humans, participants included Eugene Peterson, award-winning writer Hwee Hwee Tan, acclaimed novelist David James Duncan and nationally renowned sculptor Roger Feldman.

Yet Image's influence on campus stretches even further. "The fact that Image is here means that more prominent writers and artists will come to SPU to speak," says Walhout, adding that speakers will provide students with unique learning opportunities. A number of students will also participate in internships under the supervision of Image's managing editor, Mary Kenagy. And Gregory Wolfe and Suzanne Wolfe, his wife and executive editor, will teach in the Seattle Pacific English Department.

Roger Feldman says he noted Image's move to SPU when he chose to leave Biola University to join the Seattle Pacific art faculty this year. "It was the icing on the cake," he says. "Image is known as the leader in serious art criticism from a Christian world view."

The journal may also help with the possible formation of a master of fine arts degree program at SPU, says Walhout. "SPU wants to be one of the leading Christian universities in the country," he explains. "Part of being a leading university is sponsoring and hosting cutting-edge endeavors in the arts and sciences."

Eugene Peterson agrees: "I'm delighted that Seattle Pacific is making a home for Image. I think it says a lot about the school. The evangelical community has not been particularly embracing of artists, so I'm really pleased that my alma mater is doing this."

Editor's Note: For a one-year subscription of Image sent anywhere in North America, call 866-481-0688 to order by credit card. Or visit Image at to order online.

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