SEPT 16, 2021: It is about a year since a research institute was set up and in that one year a lot has happened. Its first Ecclesiastical Patron passed away in May but the research institute is resolved to keep his mission going.
The Board of Governors of the Christian Institute for Theological Engagement (CHRISTE) officially announced on Sept 5 that The Cornelius Cardinal Sim Professorial Chair in Theology and Dialogue would be established as a result of an endowment received for this purpose from a community of benefactors. This announcement was made on the 100th day of the passing of their inaugural Ecclesiastical Patron, Cardinal Cornelius Sim.
Today, on what would have been the late Cardinal’s 70th birthday, the Board officially launched the Professorial Chair and simultaneously installed The Rev Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek OFS as the Cornelius Cardinal Sim Professor of Theology and Dialogue. Deacon Sherman had established CHRISTE with the support of Cardinal Sim.
“CHRISTE is basically a powerhouse of academicians (from the Catholic and other Christian communions), and our goal is to teach and help Christians to read culture, world events, and life more critically from the perspective of the Christian faith,” he told Journey With Us – Asia.
“The Professorial Chair or simply put, the professorship, basically comes with funds to give impetus to more research being done over the next many years to come. And as the professor, I will be coordinating these research projects. Part of my responsibility as the professor will also be to teach Theology and Dialogue which I’m already actively doing.”
The 45-year-old permanent deacon is a Johor-born Presbyterian who subsequently joined the Anglican communion, and was a Lecturer in Theology at a Protestant seminary. He then was received into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2008 and went on to serve as a parish pastoral assistant and later that year he was professed into the Secular Franciscan Order (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis).
The following year, he was appointed by the Right Reverend Paul Tan SJ, then Bishop of Melaka Johor, as Director of the Melaka Johor Diocesan Pastoral Institute, a position he held till mid-2014. On his 34th birthday in 2010, he was ordained as a permanent deacon and incardinated in the Diocese of Melaka Johor.
Since then, Deacon Sherman has spent much of his time communicating the Christian faith through prolific speaking, writing, and media production. This includes teaching at academic institutions and also in non-academic contexts. He is also the Convenor of the Splendour Project (www.splendourproject.com), a Catholic apostolate for formation, evangelisation, and discipleship.
Since the establishment of CHRISTE last August, he has been the leading Research Fellow in Catholic and Ecumenical Thought. Deacon Sherman’s own primary areas of research interest are ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, modern Catholic thought, the interface of theology and social theory, and the New Evangelisation.
It is a common practice in the academic world for a newly appointed professor to deliver an inaugural lecture. In his inaugural lecture delivered through a video recording, Deacon Sherman explains why dialogue among various religions is necessary but, at the same time, dangerous. It is necessary because different cultures and religions are increasingly encountering one another in this modern day, and they need to learn to understand one another for the sake of peace. But efforts to dialogue are also dangerous because they pose the possibility of compromising our own religious convictions when we are exposed to unfamiliar religious ideas.
CHRISTE is a global academic initiative that comes under the intergovernmental charter of the United Nations Treaty Series 49006/49007 (comprising twelve governments spread out over four continents). This places the Research Institute under the legal jurisdiction of international law.