Correlation is described by Paul Tillich as:
Theology formulates the questions implied in human existence, and theology formulates the answers implied in divine self-manifestation under the guidance of the questions implied in human existence. This is a circle which drives man to a point where question and answer are not separated.Paul Tillich, “Systematic Theology,” 1951, pg. 61
In other words, Theology seeks to answer the questions brought up from human existence, and asks the questions that must be explored in that same existence. This is an iterative process with no end-point.
Pastoral Care serves as an activity in ministry of human existence that drives this sort of theological reflection or correlation. Howard Stone describes this process:
For authentic correlation to occur, the pastor must return over and over again to the primary texts that shape the faith. An ethics course back in seminary…. [for example] … may not sufficiently alert pastors to the dangers of an increasingly emotional involvement with and dependency on a counselee of the opposite sex. So, for correlation to occur, the pastor must repeatedly return to the sources of the faith, read widely in theology and ethics, and have a continuing dialogue with the competing value and belief systems present in our culture.
Besides a continual return to the sources, reflection on present experience also is required. The pastor must reflect not only on former learnings, but also on recent events, indeed upon the care that is currently being given. …. It is easy for one’s theological beliefs to become separated from the material world in which one works. A calm review of experience as it relates to the sources of faith, the people who are being cared for, and one’s day-to-day relationship with God is essential if there is to be any ongoing encounter between theology and pastoral care.Howard W. Stone, “The Word of God and Pastoral Care,” Abingdon Press, pp. 35-36
Correlation again goes back to two poles— experience and reflection. However, with Stone, there are actually three aspects. Experience is seen in serving and interacting in a pastoral care setting. Reflection, however, involves two aspects. One is readings (including Scripture and wisdom from one’s faith tradition in terms of theology and ethics). The other is one’s personal relationship with God.
Ultimately, pastoral theology cannot be divorced from ministerial experience. Neither can it be divorced from one’s personal relationship with God, nor from the wisdom of one’s faith.
But Stone goes on to add another factor to the reflection.
Reflection is insufficient, however, if it is done in isolation outside a communal context.
Ibid., pg. 36
Stone goes on to consider the different forms such communal context takes place. It can involve formal supervision, or a peer group setting or more. The point is, however, that theological reflection is never to be done in a vaccuum. Experience is in the community, and reflection is in a community as well.
Experience is tied to community. Reflection is tied to community, personal relationship with God, and one’s reading and reflection on God’s word, and works of theology and ethics of one’s faith.